Chess is derived from the game called Chaturanga which was the name of a battle fought in the epic Mahabharata. The game underwent many transformations and was called as Shatranjby the Persians. It was the British who brought the latest form of Chess to India. It never had great eminence though until the All India Chess Federation was formed in 1951. India’s calibre has come into the eyes of the world because of the unparalleled chess player Vishwanathan Anand as he became the undisputed World Chess Champion last year for the second time.
Born in December 1969, Anand started playing chess at a very young age and became the youngest Indian to win the International Master Title at the age of fifteen in 1984. He won the title two more times when he was sixteen. He became the first Indian to win the World Junior Chess Championship in 1987. In 1988, he became India’s first grandmaster and was awarded with the Padmashree at the same age.
He made several attempts between 1993 and 1995 to win against the then top players but failed by a narrow margin. After several such misses, he finally won the FIDE World championship in 2000 for the first time. He defeated Alexei Shirov in the final match held at Tehran. He lost the title to Ruslan Ponomariov in 2002 but regained it in 2007 by winning the FIDE World Championship in Mexico City. The 2007 title though was unique as this time Anand had become the first undisputed champion in tournament rather than matchplay after Bottvinik in 1948. In 2007, he was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan- the second highest civilian award in our country. The legacy went on further when he defended the title against Kramnik in the World Chess championship in 2008.
It was in 2007 when he was ranked first in the world for the first time by the FIDE Elo rating list. He came down to number five in the October 2008 list which was the first time where he was not amongst the top three players. Apart from this, Anand has also won the Chess Oscar in the years 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008. The Chess Oscar is an honour given to the year’s best chess player by a worldwide poll of leading chess experts. He has displayed commendable proficiency in both Rapid as well as classic chess. In the history of 69 years, Anand became the only player in chess to win the Corus Chess event five times.
A sportsperson who has reached the zenith of his career has on the other hand been extremely modest in nature. Known as the Gentleman Champion, Anand is a spokesperson for children with cerebral palsy (Vidyasagar) and has also worked towards the cause of AIDS through Avhaan (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). The NIIT Mind Champions Academy is his dream project which will bring chess into the knowledge of millions of children.
One may wonder though that how has the achievements of this prodigal personality not been brought into the limelight! The answer is certain- In India, commercialisation of sports is a common phenomenon and in case of cricket particularly. In this glare of publicity, Anand’s name remains concealed. Nevertheless, his accomplishments will always remain a source of inspiration and motivation to all prospective chess players of the country.
Prerita Vijay Chauthaiwale
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