Today in New Delhi, India
Nov 16, 2018-Friday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

Viswanathan Anand: The Lightning Kid

When Viswanathan Anand made his meteoric rise in the world of chess, in the '80s, he was nicknamed The Lightning Kid for the speed with which he calculated complex chess moves and executed them. B Shrikant writes.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2012 11:13 IST
B Shrikant
B Shrikant
Hindustan Times
news,hindustan times,B Shrikant

When Viswanathan Anand made his meteoric rise in chess world in the 1980s, he was nicknamed The Lightning Kid for the speed with which he calculated complex chess moves and executed them. He used to complete in just about an hour, classical games in which players could use up to three and half hours of time.

Though over the years he has slowed down a bit and nowadays plays at a more sedate pace, Anand is still one of the best players in the world when it comes to the shorter version of chess, in which players get about 30 minutes each to complete the game.

Anand’s proficiency in speed chess paid rich dividend on Wednesday as he defeated his challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel in a four-game rapid chess tiebreaker to win his fifth World Championship title and to remain the undisputed king of the chess world.

Wednesday’s action was like the king using his most potent weapon to vanquish a challenger who had blunted his other attacks with gusto in the 12 classical games that they ended with a 6-6 score line.

But in speed chess, the Indian maestro was in his elements and used his ability to play at a great pace to deadly effect, as he defeated Gelfand 2.5-1.5.

Anand had failed to capitalise on a casual move by Gelfand in the first tiebreak game, got into a poor position himself but managed to steer it to a draw.

In the second, he was in his elements as he reeled off the first few moves at lightning speed, repeating the 10th game of the match. He played a new move thereafter and Gelfand spent too much time to find the correct response. The Israeli extricated himself from a tough position but Anand had too much time at his disposal and used it to create pressure and Gelfand was forced to resign in a very difficult position.

Up 1.5-0.5 after two games, Anand landed into a very poor position in the third tiebreak game but the pace of his play and some mistakes by Gelfand, fighting with his back to the wall, helped him survive.

With just a draw needed in the final rapid game, Anand looked a bit nervous and though Gelfand got a slight advantage, it was not enough for him to press home as the Indian was clearly playing for a draw.

Gelfand finally accepted the draw offer, thus giving Anand his fifth title.

Anand first became World Champion in 2000 by defeating Latvia-born Spaniard Alexei Shirov in the final in Tehran, Iran. He crashed out of the FIDE Knockout the next year when he lost to Ukrain’s Vassily Ivanchuk in the second round.

Success continued to elude him in the next few years before he regained the World title in 2007 by finishing first in eight-player double round-robin tournament in Mexico. He has defended his title thrice since – against Vladimir Kramnik of Russia in Bonn in 2008, against Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria at Sofia in 2010 and versus Gelfand in Moscow on Wednesday.

"It was a very tense and difficult match as both of us were very well prepared. This definitely was the toughest match I have played because we went all the way to the tie-break and that hasn’t happened to me before. The main thing was I hung in there when things were very difficult," Anand said after the match.

“I always expected him (Boris Gelfand) to be well prepared. I knew he would spend months to see and neutralise the obvious problems (Anand’s vast repertoire of openings by switching from queen pawn to king pawn). Actually, I expected to face some difficulty with white pieces and that’s how it turned up. If you look at the match it was a clash between two players who were very well prepared, who anticipated each other’s moves and responded to them with precise moves.”

Dead end
To a casual onlooker the match in Moscow was not much exciting because a majority of the games ended in less than 40 moves. But serious chess fans would remember for long, the intricate patterns the two players wove on the board in some of the games (especially the third classical game), the way each anticipated the attack by the other and negated it by finding the precise solution and the manner in which Anand and Gelfand introduced new moves in known positions in a number of the classical games.

A lot of players were critical of the way the two players exchanged the major pieces and always tried to neutralise the position – they claimed the two players were employing safety-first approach and avoiding getting into complicated positions. Chess legend Garry Kasparov was one of the staunchest critics of the match and Anand and claimed that the Indian Grandmaster did not have the nerves to continue and press home his advantage from a possibly winning line in the third classical game and easily agreed to a draw. Kasparov, who ruled the chess world from 1985 till 2000 and is considered the game’s greatest exponent, alleged that Anand has lost his motivation and is on a downward slide.

"We did come up with some interesting positions like in game 12 for instance we had some interesting ideas but every time Boris would pull some move out and this showed his reaction was very good. And so again this equalising tendency just continued," Anand said.

Victory is all that matters

But by defeating Gelfand on Wednesday, Anand showed he has not lost his hunger. He showed nerves of steel and determination when it mattered most, in the tiebreaker to retain his crown for two more years.

After he had defeated Kramnik in Bonn, Germany, in 2008, Kasparov himself had claimed that it would be difficult to dislodge Anand considering the vast improvement in his game since the two had met in the 1992 PCA World Championship final at the World Trade Center in New York, his tremendous preparation and ability to outwit his opponents by coming up with brilliant tactics. “It would be difficult for the young generation to unseat Anand,” Kasparov had said in 2008.

Though he has drastically changed his views in four year’s time and aired them publicly at the same venue where Anand and Gelfand were playing, the Indian maestro did not respond in kind to those unkind words.

Just that like famous American Football coach Henry Russel Sanders said: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” what matters now is that Anand has won the title and there is no two things about it.

He just ignored the jibes by Kasparov and some other players and went about his job with single-minded determination.

Anand is one of the nicest guys in the chess world, humble and patient, non-controversial and friends with everyone. He is liked by everyone and considered a role model for impeccable behaviour in a sport in which players are known to be moody, aloof and lost in their own world.

Having come out unscathed from another tough match Anand has proved, once again, that nice guys do finish on the top. Anand has done that five times now.

All about VishyV Anand's parents celebrate his win in Chennai.

Name: Viswanathan Anand, known as Anand or Vishy

Age: 42 years (Born December 11, 1969, in Chennai)

Current rating: 2791

Best rating: 2817, in March 2011

Current world ranking: 4

Best world ranking: No 1 from March to September 2011 (he’s also the fourth player ever to touch 2800-mark in chess rating)

Became World Champion for the first time in 2000 by winning the FIDE Knock-out Championship.

Regained the title in 2007 by winning an 8-player tournament in 2007 in Mexico.

Is the only player to win the World Championship in knock-out, round-robin tournament and match-play formats, making him the most versatile player in the world.

Has retained the title since 2007, defending Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik at Bonn in 2008 and Bulgarian Veselin Topalov at Sofia in 2010.

Became the fourth player after Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) and Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) to cross the 2800 barrier in ELO ratings after claiming his 5th Corus title, another record. In chess, it is like crossing the 8.90 metres mark in long jump.

Anand is the first recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the highest award for sports in the country.

Is the only sportsperson to get the Padma Vibhushan award in 2007.

Is the first Indian to become a Grandmaster in 1987.

He is one of the few players in the World to defeat six computers simultaneously. Anand achieved that in 1997 at the Aegon Man vs Computers event.

Has won the Chess Oscar six times. The Oscar is the biggest award in chess given annually to the best player in the World.

2007 he won the Morelia/Linares tournament to become the World No.1. Finished joint second in the Sparkassen Chess meeting in 2007 at Dortmund in July. On July 8, beat Veselin Topalov to win his 7th title at the Magistral Ciudad de León.

2006 won the Mikhail Tal Memorial tournament, the strongest-ever blitz tournament.

2004 became the 2nd highest-ranked player in the World by winning his 4th Corus title.

2003 lived up to his reputation as the best rapid player in the world by winning the World Rapid Championship.

2001 he was awarded the Jameo de Oro, the highest honour given by the Government of Lanzarote in Spain.

2000 won the first FIDE World Cup in Shenyeng and retained the title two years later in Hyderabad.

1998 won the Torneo International De Ajedrez, Linares, the strongest tournament in the history of chess.

1997 lost to Anatoly Karpov in FIDE World Championship at Lausanne held within days of the Groningen event.

1995 lost to Garry Kasparov in the PCA World Championship final in New York after a seesaw battle.

Also read:

Grandmaster's grand show

'Blocked out criticism, focused on the match'

Anand won the title for his son, says Aruna

First Published: May 31, 2012 21:07 IST