`Anand As I Know Him'
  By Manuel Aaron

 
   Manuel Aaron
 


 

A dream has  been fulfilled. Anand's victory  at the FIDE World Chess Championship is a realisation of my 1972 dream when Bobby Fischer won the World Championship.

I first came across Anand at the Tal Chess Club in Madras around 1975. He was only six and tiny, but one could easily spot him by the  crowd around him or his chirpy voice. When I saw his natural flair for the game I knew he was immensely talented. But then I  had seen so many promising talents appear, and then, unfortunately disappear.

Shortly after he made his appearance at the Tal Chess Club, his father, Mr K. Viswanathan, then a top official in the Railways, went on deputation to the Philippines. He  took  his  wife and  youngest son  Anand with him. Anand took advantage of chess boom in  the Philippines. He  won  prizes by solving chess problems aired in a daily half hour programme on TV.

He also played in school tournaments and in other Opens in the Philippines. When  he returned from the Philippines  after a  couple of  years, he  was  a  stronger   player. Straightaway he  plunged  into Chess tournaments in Madras city  and  everybody  sat up and took notice. Not only  did  he dazzle his opponents with brilliant combinations, but he also blitzed them off the board.

When he was not so  well known, in the early Eighties, I  had played two tournament games against him. In both, I was  winning. But I lost. He  had  the  ingenius  knack  of   getting  out  of  a jam and counter-attacking   with  deadly  effect. Apart  from  these  two  defeats  I  had  seen  an  incredibly beautiful game which he won  against a  Chinese IM  in an  Asian  Team Championship. These have made a deep impression on me.

Speed, became his  hallmark. He would take less  than 20  minutes of his alloted time of 120 minutes for his first 40 moves. Because he played so rapidly, opponents came under excruciating pressure. If they  did   not  lose  over  the  board,  they  came  under   immense  pressure  as   the  time  controls approached  at  the  40th  and  60th  moves. In  the 1986  Dubai  Olympiad,  Grandmaster  Yasser Seirewan of the USA had the mortification of having to scramble through  two time  controls  at  the 40th and 60th moves within just three hours of play against Anand.  Though  that  game ended  in  a draw, it was clear from Seirawan's face that he would  prefer not to go through such  an experience again!

Anand won the National Sub-junior (U-15) championships in Panaji 1983 and in  New  Delhi 1984. He took  the National Junior (U-19) title in 1984 at Vasco da Gama and in 1986 at Sangli. Side  by side he was also playing in the many strong open tournaments that abound in Tamil Nadu. He played and won  the  R. Gurusamy  Naidu Memorial   Open  in Palni,  the  Mariammal-Mahalingam  Rating Tournament at  Coimbatore, the  Indian  Bank Open  at Madras and many other. Though still  in  his early teens he was matching wits with players like International Masters Thipsay, Vaidya, Prasad, and all the IMs of Tamil Nadu in these Opens and gaining valuable experience.

In 1984 he played   in  the Asian Junior Championship held by Lakshmi Mills at  Coimbatore and finished first. But  he did  not  get the  IM (International Master) title  as  there  were  not  enough countries participating. But when he won the 1985 Asian Junior at Hong Kong he got the IM title
for good.

He won the senior National  Championships three years in a row in 1986, 1987 and 1988 - and played for India in the Chess Olympiads from 1984 to 1992.

Anand's first big International achievement was winning the World Junior Championship at Baguio, Philippines in 1987.

That got  him his  first GM (grandmaster) norm. He  made  two  more  norms  in GM tournaments in India, and in December 1987 became India's first GM. This is history. But Anand had already taken this new achievement as one which would come in normal course and  shifted  his  focus to Moscow and Europe where the world's best players lived and played chess.

After he  became  a GM  the  All  India  Chess  Federation  exempted  him  from playing in National Championships and  this allowed  Anand to plunge into the  business of  winning  the  absolute world championship which was dominated by Karpov first and then Kasparov.

He breezed  through  the  Zonals and Interzonals  in 1990 and entered the Candidates. Here, he lost 3.5-4.5 to Karpov in the Quarter Finals, by losing the last game of the match. This defeat did not set him back psychologically, because just  four months  later, in December 1991, he won the Category 18 Reggio Emilia Super Grandmaster Tournament in Italy. The  opposition  included  both Kasparov (whom he beat) and Karpov. All  the  nine  opponents  of Anand  at  Reggio Emilia were either from Russia or from the former Soviet Republics. In effect, Anand had won a super Soviet Championship!

When  the  next  world   championship cycle  came  around, there  were  two  world  championships because Kasparov had quit FIDE to organise his own World Championship under the banner of the Professional Chess Association (PCA). Players now had an opportunity to play in two cycles.

In the FIDE cycle, Anand surprisingly lost in the Candidates Quarter Finals to Gata Kamsky, a defector from the former USSR living in the USA. Anand had been leading by two points in the middle of the match.

But in the PCA cycle, after qualifying through the PCA Interzonals, he made no mistake, defeating a series of grandmasters to reach the Candidates Finals. Here  he was  once  again  up  against  Gata Kamsky. In a 12-game  match  in March 1995,  Anand defeated Kamsky by a convincing 6.5-4.5 margin to become the challenger to Garry Kasparov in the PCA World Championship Match.

Six months later, the PCA World Championship between Anand and Kasparov was played in New York. Kasparov won 10.5-7.5. Two years earlier, Kasparov had smashed Nigel  Short  of England in the PCA World Championship Match at London. After that match Short was a shadow of himself for a long time. The same thing had happened  to  Boris  Spaasky  after  he had been vanquished by Bobby Fischer in the 1972 World Championship Match. When  Anand lost  the match to Kasparov in New York there were fears that Anand would not be the same delightful player again.

But Anand was different. Immediately  after losing the match to  Kasparov  he cracked  jokes  at the prize distribution ceremony and admired "all the zeros in the cheque" he received. Certainly, that was not the demeanour of a demoralised player.

In the very first tournament  after  getting  married  to  Aruna in  June 1996, Anand  had spectacular success. His victory over Garry  Kasparov in the finals of the  Credit  Suisse  Masters Rapid Chess Tournament dispelled whatever doubts one might have had about Anand's  resilience  and ability to win against the best in the world. After drawing the main match 1-1, (one loss and one victory), the players had to break the tie in a 2-game 5-minute match. Here Anand drew the first game and beat Kasparov convincingly in the second to win a prestigious tournament ahead of the world champion.

The new Knock-out World Championship Match  was  introduced  by FIDE  at  Groningen during December 1997 under the same conditions as the present New Delhi - Tehran Match. But with the important difference that one player was seeded to the Final: Anatoly Karpov!  Anand played from Round Two and went through quite a few gruelling tie-breakers  before he  came  to the  Final. The Final was two days after Groningen ended at Lausanne, Switzerland where  Karpov  and  his large entourage  waited  for Anand. The six-game  match  ended 3:3. In the two-game tie-break  match Anand suffered a black-out. He lost. The world was outraged at the unfairness of one man waiting for his opponent who came through hell without rest. However, Anand took it well.

In the current world championship, Anand has played his games with remarkable assurance and he has demonstrated that he is much, much stronger. He did not hesitate to draw with the black pieces even against unfancied opponents in the early rounds. But with the white pieces he was deadly.

It is said that a championship goes to the player who saves lost games. That means, a player who is able to cope with adverse situations over the board will end up triumphantly. And in this Anand has now excelled. We know of the surprising brilliance with which Anand  attacks and goes for  the kill. But very little is said of his patient, skilful handling of weak or equal positions.

This series of  matches  has revealed to  us the  full power  of Anand. He excels in all phases of the game, not  just tactics. Where does  Anand  go from  here?  Tall, handsome,  witty and diplomatic, Vishy Anand, as he is known, is probably the most  loved grandmaster in the world. At New York, 1995 the Americans Swere rooting for him, not for Kasparov. At 31 he is now in his peak. His wife brings out the best in him. His prodigious chess talent has made him the 15th World Chess Champion. What happens to Kasparov And to Kramnik.

The current World  Championship  format  has  been improved  after Groningen/Lausanne three years ago. FIDE should ask those who left FIDE for their private matches to play from Round 2 in the 2001 Championship as Anand, Khalifman and Shirov did in Delhi.

Rating wise, Anand is second to Kasparov. Kasparov's defeat in his recent private "World Championship Match" against Kramnik has added a new dimension and support to the FIDE World Championship.

Anand is the first Asian to win the absolute World Chess Championship. For his talent, this was long overdue.
 

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