The man who challenged Soviet Supremacy in chess

After Vishwanathan Anand became the World Chess Champion for the fifth time, retaining his crown since 2007, there has been a burning question:  Is he the biggest sporting hero India ever had? And if so, why is he not getting the spotlight and the respect that a cricket player gets in our country?


Vishwanathan Anand became the champion of the 64 squares for the fifth time by defeating Boris Gelfand of Israel 2.5-1.5 in four rapid tie-breaking games at the World Championship played at Moscow in Russia. The overall score was 8.5-7.5, including 12 classical games which were drawn 6-6. Many of the chess legends are criticising Anand and Gelfand for their defensive style. Many former players have criticised Anand by saying that now Anand is only playing for championships. But no one can deny the fact that both the players went through all the qualifying matches and deserve all the respect.

Gary Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik have said that it is for the first time that the World Championship is played between players who are not the current best players. And it was for the first time the both the finalists are above 40 years of age. Anand replied to Kasparov’s comment by saying that the comments were
coming from someone who regrets leaving chess for politics.

‘I think he has some regret that he retired. This is about being at the centre of attraction of chess tournaments again. I think he is someone who gives an impression that he wants to play chess again. That is my take on it,’ he said.
But the one question that comes to one’s mind as a sports lover is whether Anand is the biggest sporting legend that India ever had? Leaving apart Mary Kom, we cannot remember any other Indian sportsperson who has been world champion five times, and has dominated the game for so many years. Anand has been the undisputed world chess champion since 2007; and though he is not at the top of the ratings, he has managed to defend the championship and show that he is a big match player.

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Recalling his preparations for the World Championship, Anand said the preparation was exhausting, and for him the World Championship started a year back.Anand was very disappointed with his performance in the seventh game that he lost to Gelfand, and described it as a disaster. But the way he came back next day in the eighth game shows that he is mentally very strong and never panics in a pressure game. This has been the main reason for Anand’s great
career. He was never a very attacking player, and always used to play patiently and make quick moves forcing his opponent to make silly mistakes.

Anand said that his continuing success is an indicator of Russia’s loosening grip over international chess. Anand was the first player to challenge the dominance of Russians in chess by his ability to adapt to the style of his opponents and playing with their mind to guess the next moves.Anand’s father, K. Viswanathan, is a retired General Manager of Southern Railway. His mother, Susheela Viswanathan, was the one who introduced him to the game of chess. In 1996 he married Aruna and they have a son, Akhil.

For Anand chess is the most important part of his life. He lives in Spain and Germany for most of the time to get proper training. But since the last few years he has been spending lots of time in Chennai, and also working to make the game popular in the city. Anand has received major national honours of the country and worldwide. The reason that he did not get the spotlight that a cricketer or a tennis player gets is because of the smaller number of followers of the game as compared to cricket, tennis or football. Indians are not very avid followers of chess, and we cannot expect to get the same fan following as outdoor sports like cricket and football get. Viswanathan Anand has always been a star for India, and whether we follow chess or not, he will always be applauded for his achievements.

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