The knight rider
Who better a knight in shining armour than Viswanathan Anand to rescue world chess mired in controversies for close to 15 years? By winning the World Chess Championship in Mexico City last weekend, Anand proved, once again, that he’s not the world’s top-ranked player for nothing. He seems to have dominated the 14-round event, winning four of them and drawing the rest to stay undefeated. What makes this victory even more remarkable is that Anand had earlier won the World Chess Federation’s championship held in Tehran and New Delhi in 2000. At that time, however, he wasn’t universally acknowledged as the champion because of a rival claim for the same title in the sharply divided chess world. Thankfully, the unification of the title last year has meant the best cerebral gladiators on the planet could finally fight it out to decide who’s the true champion.
In a sense, chess players are like wine, maturing with age, and their peak performance usually comes in the late 30s. The 38-year-old Anand proved this in Mexico, curbing his natural rapid playing style to wait out opponents. This helped him even save games that appeared irretrievable (as happened against Russia’s Alexander Grischuk on the last day of the championship). Anand’s humility, which keeps him a notch higher even in the league of champions, makes him an ideal role model for thousands of aspiring young chess players in India.
This is significant for a country where cricket and to a lesser extent hockey and tennis continue to attract the younger generation. The Indian Chess Federation should now ensure that Anand’s win gives a fillip to India’s reputation as the fastest-growing chess nation in the world. They should organise good tournaments with TV coverage and attract corporate sponsorship for the game so that India could realise its potential to become the world’s chess superpower.