Independent India's tryst with destiny was at midnight on August 14, 1947. The country's tryst with chess greatness, though, took longer. Unsurprisingly, there was a Russian connection — it all started in the mid-70s at the Tal Chess Club in Chennai where retired government officials, all amateur players, were dazzled by the rapid-fire moves and tactical acumen of a six-year-old. Many of them predicted greatness for the young Viswanathan Anand — he was hailed as a future world champion.
That may have sounded outrageous, considering the lack of support for chess in India then, but Anand, with his talent and hard work, proved all those amateur soothsayers right by becoming the world champion in 2000 at Tehran.
Seven years hence, the soft-spoken, ever-smiling 37-year-old removed the one anomaly that had plagued his career by winning the undisputed World Championship title in Mexico City late on Saturday night.
Born on December 11, 1969, Anand learned chess moves early from his mother Susheela. He mastered the game easily and was soon outplaying players double his age. His father's stint with the Philippines Railways proved a boon as Manila was an emerging chess centre.
Anand became the youngest national champion at 13 when he demolished Manuel Aaron, the undisputed king at the domestic level, in just half an hour.
Within five years, Anand, the ‘Lightning Kid’, was crowned the world junior champion and then the world's youngest GM.
Anand has since crossed milestone after milestone in an eventful journey that has taken him to the pinnacle, beating greats like Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Mikhail Tal, Boris Spassky and Vladimir Kramnik and winning every title the game has to offer. He came close to winning the World Championship in 1995 but lost to Kasparov in the PCA World Championship final on the 107th floor of the World Trade Centre. Three years later, he was thwarted by a system that was biased in favour of Karpov, who won the title by beating an exhausted Anand in a tiebreaker.
In 2000, Anand demolished Alexei Shirov at Tehran to win the FIDE World Championship. However, he failed to get the credit he deserved because of the split in the chess world — many considered Kramnik the world champion.
By winning the title in Mexico, Anand, settled in a village near Madrid for years, has silenced all critics, especially as he had taken over as the world No. 1 in April this year.
Respected by everyone in chess circles, Anand is a true ambassador of chess who, as world champion, will give the title the much-needed respectability that was lost during last year's Toiletgate scandal triggered by Veselin Topalov in Russia.