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Vishy Anand reigns

'My incentive was sometimes a dosa'

April 2, 2007

Sunday, April 1, was a historic day for Indian chess. Viswanathan Anand took over the top ranking in the sport.

The Indian ace, who has won every prize in the sport, was crowned world number one on the International Chess Federation charts for the first time in his career following his triumph in the Morelia-Linares tournament in Spain last month.

There was drama initially as the rankings showed Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria still on top, 13 points ahead of Anand.

The game's governing body said the Morelia-Linares tournament was not taken into consideration while updating the rankings since it concluded on March 10, outside the cut-off date of February 28.

But following strong protests from the All India Chess Federation and widespread criticism, the FIDE corrected the list later in the day and Anand took pride of place.

  • Also see: Our son Anand, the world No 1
  • When Vishy started off playing chess, the game of Indian origin was played in little clubs or at the Soviet Culture Centres.

    He remembers being taken to one such club in Chennai by his sister.

    It was in this club that Anand's quick reflex and rapid fire chess came into being.

    "You know we had these boards and the winner stayed and the loser had to go back in line. I hated to wait so I kept thinking of how to win. My incentive was sometimes an ice cream or a dosa."

    The race to be India's first Grandmaster was heating up and Anand was by far the youngest contestant for the coveted title. Coming very close to it on many occasions Anand finally made it in 1987. In many ways it was a special year for him.

  • Congratulate Vishy Anand!
  • He became World Junior champion and Grandmaster and India had finally discovered its chess icon who would continue to dominate the game in the years to come.

    Coming back after his victory he remembered that something had changed. He could no longer bike to college or take a bus.

    "I always had someone point to me and say 'Are you that young chess genius?'. Actually once I was on this train in India. One elderly gentleman sat next to me and started talking to me.

    "He asked what I did. I said I am a chess player. The man was not convinced. He said 'yes but what do you do. Does your father own a business?' I said no, I play chess. After 10 minutes the man looked me straight in the face and said 'All this chess is very nice if you can be Viswanathan Anand but you, I am not sure'."

    "After that I couldn't get to tell the guy who I was but somehow I realised I was onto something."

    Text: Chess 64 magazine | Photographs: Aruna Anand


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