Vishy Remembers – Part I

by ChessBase
12/11/2012 – Viswanathan Anand has won or defended the World Chess Championship title five times (2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012), and he has been the undisputed World Champion since 2007. In 1987 he became India's first grandmaster and is widely considered the strongest rapid player of his generation. Anand turned 43 today and, to celebrate, we bring you a review of his DVD series 'My Career'.

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Vishy Remembers – Part I

By Prof. Nagesh Havanur

My Career: Volume 1 – ChessBase DVD 2008

Tal Chess Club 1976. A tiny tot has just entered the tournament hall and is eagerly looking around, eyes full of curiosity.

No, he has not come to watch, he has come to play. Now what are the seniors supposed to with the little fellow? They can hardly offer him a point when their own results are at stake. So game after game he ends up with a naught. But that does not matter. He just loves to play. Then comes the fourth round and his opponent does not turn up. After the mandatory wait he is awarded the point by the arbiter. Thrilled, he runs home and announces “I won!” – “Who was your opponent?” – “I don’t know. He ran away!” At home they smile even as they hear the story over and over again. He has won by default, but too young to know the difference. He doesn’t score many points in that tournament. But he is awarded a special prize for perseverance.

Thus begins the career of a prodigy whom we now know and recognise as Viswanathan Anand. In this DVD he tells the story of his remarkable career.

As is well-known, Anand learnt the moves of the game from his mother...

... and received all encouragement from his parents who sensed that he had an exceptional talent.

Volume one of Anand's chess career DVD begins with his first steps in chess and takes us right up to the year 2000 when he won the FIDE world title. It's hard to do justice to this remarkable product packed with so much material. So I shall confine myself to a few salient points. There are as many as 1424 games of which more than 450 are annotated, several by Anand himself. Besides, he also selects critical points from a number of games and explains what's going on. On occasion this is a bit fast. But you can always pause and follow his line of thought.

Anand-Kasparov, Tilburg 1991

Anand-Shirov, Dos Hermanas 1997

Kramnik-Anand, Belgrad 1997

The commentary itself is crystal clear, the variations short and to the point.

This brings me to a few limitations of the DVD. Anand does not say much about his early experience in India. Probably he thinks he was too young and the level of competition low. So he does not even mention the fact that he became the national champion at the age of 16, way back in 1986. As for competition abroad, he does not dwell too much on failures and tends to skip over unhappy results. On the other hand he can be very sporting and appreciate a fine effort by an opponent. So a number of fighting draws and even losses are included. This offers a balanced view of a great player who is no less human than the rest of us.

ChessBase has followed Anand's career from inception and captured some remarkable footage over the years. It’s a pity that it isn’t included here. You would find some of it in the Jubilee DVD of ChessBase Magazine, a rare collector’s item today.

The Anand that we see now is a wise and mellowed world champion. In his younger days he was much more lively and mischievous. Of course he knew how to carry himself in the company of greats.

Seated: Mikhail Tal, Joel Lautier, Anand; standing: Bent Larsen,Viktor Korchnoi,
Garry Kasparov, Bessel Kok, Jan Timman, Boris Spassky

Anand grew up in a new era... of computers and technology. He learnt and adapted himself quite fast. But he did not surrender his soul to the silicon monster.

Anand in 1988, working with an Atari, watched by a young fan, Thomas Friedel

Indeed, even today his is a voice of sanity in the tower of babel:

“… you know, it's like running against a car. There are some things we do much better than computers, but since most of chess is tactically based they do many things better than humans. And this imbalance remains. I no longer have any issues. It’s bit like asking an astronomer, does he mind that a telescope does all the work. He is used to it. It is just an incredible tool that you can use. I know my PC is stronger than me at any given time, and to have a chance against it I would spend a couple of weeks thinking about computer chess, how to play against machines. You stop doing anything imaginative, and you become very disciplined tactically. I can probably still compete against it, but what's the point? Now my main aim is to use it to find new ideas against Kramnik or someone else.”

In the remaining part of this review I intend to show games and positions from the DVD. This introduction should be seen as a curtain-raiser. I have taken a little liberty to recreate the scene when little Vishy arrived home to announce his first victory in a tournament. Otherwise the story is true to the last detail.

To be continued...

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