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Grandmaster's grand show

Viswanathan Anand is much more to chess than just being one of the greats. N Ananthanarayanan writes.

india Updated: Jun 11, 2012 02:10 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times
Viswanathan Anand,Boris Gelfand,Russia

The intense mind game that chess is, normally Super Grandmasters begin to lose the edge into their late 30s. As Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand probed each other tentatively with a series of draws in the classical series, Russian Grandmaster (GM) Garry Kasparov, regarded as perhaps the strongest chess player ever, suggested the old fire no longer burned within the Indian. After winning an unprecedented fifth world title, four of them in a row and almost each one of them decided in different formats, Anand can afford one of his charming smiles. "Too tense to be happy," was his initial comment after defending the world title against his Israeli opponent at Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery after the fourth game of the rapid series.

While the victory simply underlines the fact that Anand is perhaps the greatest sportsman India has produced, he is much more to the world of chess. Over two decades, he has played a significant role in changing the image of chess as a Soviet, and later Russian-dominated sport. Dubbed the 'Lightning Kid', the Chennai lad has gone from strength to strength since he became the country's first GM in 1988, around the time one curly-haired boy from Mumbai was showing clear signs he was an aspirant for future greatness in cricket.

His amiable nature has made Anand popular around the world, there is as much goodwill among chess fans in Spain — where he had a base for many years — as in India. At home, his genius on the board and gentle nature have inspired a legion of young boys and girls to take up chess seriously while the simple and articulate man has won over millions of lay sports fans. As a journalist, one can feel Anand's humility and warmth come across in the way he explains even the most complex chess move in layman's terms, without the listener ever feeling the distance between them.

Anand has won his five titles across a span of 12 years, a remarkably long period for a chess GM to stay at the top of the game. At 42, the latest triumph calls for the biggest celebration in the land which has a very special bond with the game.

First Published: May 30, 2012 23:31 IST