Viswanathan Anand: The ultimate champion

first_imgWe never get tired of telling each other that chess is a game which originated in India, and yet, most of the world champions came from the erstwhile Soviet Union.Sports View by S. Kannan.Even after the mid-80s perestroika, when the USSR broke away into smaller countries, chess still remained popular there. Modern-day Russia has become as expensive and modern as any Western world city, but chess remains a passion.If one were to make a comparison of sports, chess for the Russians is like table tennis for the Chinese – be it a teenager or a 70-year-old, they can be found playing it regularly.Against such a backdrop, if we have the world chess champion – for the fifth time – from India, you can well imagine the genius of Viswanathan Anand. Each time he sits down to defend his title, he has to climb a mountain, and in a highly intense, cerebral sport like chess, his acumen has made him the king.Here is a man who was described as ‘less motivated’ and ‘not that well prepared’ for the big fight against Belarus-born Boris Gelfand this time. From greats like Garry Kasparov to armchair critics who fancy themselves as champions of the 64 squares, the verdict was unanimous – that Anand was the underdog.The sad part is people seemed to have forgotten that while no one could dispute that the battle against Gelfand would indeed be a tough one, Anand has been the undisputed world champion since 2007.advertisementAs for the criticism of Anand being old, it was pure rubbish. This is not like a 100-metre burst where you need the perfect start of an Usain Bolt and then make a dash to the line. Neither is chess a power game where you have to show your physical might.Chess is a mind game and age is a mere number. Gelfand, in fact, is a year older than Anand, and this indeed was a battle between a winner and a true champion.Agreed, Anand took time to settle down and the loss in the seventh game did hit him. But once he bounced back in the very next game, it was clear Anand was not going to give it away.Sample some cold facts. To those who are not so well versed with chess, Gelfand was supposed to be the successor to Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov in the early nineties.That did not happen but Gelfand hung around for some time, and this was the time when he could have changed the script.But Anand has kept himself so motivated all along, despite not being the World No. 1, that it was just a matter of time before he clinched it in the tiebreaker where he had the psychological advantage.In India, you can count the world champions on your fingers. People campaigned really hard for getting Sachin Tendulkar the Bharat Ratna, but that fell through and he had to settle for a Rajya Sabha nomination.I guess it’s time we actually whip up a campaign for Anand to get the top honour. To be the champion in a sport for such a long period of time is a huge feat. If former champion Kasparov was critical of Anand, the Indian has given the most fitting reply he could.Chess today is not played just on the board. Even the average chess buff has unlimited access to a million games and variations on the internet, and matches played by past and present champions have been understood and analysed well.If people were expecting that Anand would come up with something innovative, that was asking for a bit too much. He was up against a hard competitor who, I think, only lacks the killer instinct.Chess as a competitive sport in India began after the rise of Anand in the eighties. Today in India, we have 26 Grandmasters, while Russia has 214 and Ukraine 76!It’s a tribute to Anand’s intensity and hunger that despite a drop in the Elo ratings, he still comes up with the goods when needed most – like a Pete Sampras or a Roger Federer.I have a serious problem with age being used as a factor to run down Anand. As one who has stayed ahead of the world since 2007 and will remain champion for another two years, his achievements are phenomenal.He is a true champion who has never courted controversies, and a role model – not just for those who play chess, but any competitive sport. His pleasant smile is a reflection of the man’s inner persona, where he is perhaps first competing against himself.advertisementSeveral adjectives have been used to describe Anand’s speed and how his brain calculates at the speed of the newest-generation computers. When we talk in gigabyte terms, what’s stored in Anand’s brain and how he computes while making moves cannot be explained even by the world’s biggest neurosurgeon.He is a natural genius who strives for perfection day in and dayout. And if doubts are raised each time, it’s not by the champion himself but the selfstyled analysts and those who play chess to pass the time!Anand deserves a good rest and the proud father of a one-year-old son will again slip into the quiet mode after the celebrations are over in Chennai and Kolkata. That’s the man and machine we all refer to as Vishy [email protected] mailtoday.inlast_img