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
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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