Magnus Carlsen, the boy wonder from Norway, heralds a new era in chess after being crowned the new world champion. The World No 1, and the strongest player in rating history, entered the ‘battle of generations’ against defending champion Viswanathan Anand as a favourite.
However, his decimation of his rival has astonished the chess world. Though the powers of the man hailed as ‘Lightning Kid’ himself is waning at 43, many experts believed the defending champion would still have enough in his repertoire to give a tough fight to Carlsen, who turns 23 on November 30.
Anand, acknowledged as one of the most versatile players the game has seen — winning five world titles across three different formats alone testify to that — had the depth of experience and the psychological advantage of playing at home in Chennai, which his exploits turned into a chess hub in the country where the game was born.
Carlsen is the new age Garry Kasparov, and more. The Russian genius, also his one-time coach, had hailed Carlsen as the Harry Potter of chess and wanted the Norwegian to infuse fresh life into the game by weaving his magic. Carlsen’s status as a youth icon, and his refreshing playing style reflecting his genius, is seen as the booster dose that will spark a fresh chess boom globally.
However, particularly for India, the big debate will be Anand’s inability to crack the invincibility of Carlsen, who for all his strength was playing in his first world championship. The manner of defeat will have dealt a massive blow to Anand’s pride.
In a sense, this defeat can be compared to his caving in against Kasparov way back in 1995, in the title match under the parallel Professional Chess Association at New York’s World Trade Center. It then seemed as if the young challenger, a cherubic boy who left Chennai returned home a wiser man.
He bounced back from that low and went on to conquer the chess world repeatedly to show his resilience as well as enormous talent. Although, few would argue against Anand’s ability to come to terms with this devastating reverse, age not his ally and it has to be seen how longer Anand will have the motivation to keep going at the top.
Some experts felt Anand’s place in the pantheon of legends would be re-confirmed if they saw this incredibly tough challenger. However, this reverse is unlikely to cause any dent to the admiration and respect the chess world has for him.
As for India, be it the fan or the 33 Grandmasters who have emerged after him, there will be nothing but gratitude. Anand will always remain their own Viking.