King of chessboard Viswanathan Anand turns 50 today

Vishwanathan Anand, Chess, Grandmaster, chessboard
Anand, the country’s first Grandmaster, gave chess a new dimension in India, which now has 64 grandmasters – one from each square of the chessboard! Photo: PTI

The sports landscape in India of the 90s was about two greats – Sachin Tendulkar and Viswanathan Anand – two stalwarts of their respective sports. While several of the former India batsman’s records now stand threatened by Virat Kohli, it will be difficult for the younger generation to push the chess superstar aside.

Anand, the country’s first Grandmaster, gave chess a new dimension in India, which now has 64 grandmasters – one from each square of the chessboard!

Two decades ago, no one would have envisaged Indian chess booming the way it is. Neither would have anyone imagined a chess player signaling the start of play in India’s most dominant sport – cricket. Anand was recently invited to ring the bell at the iconic Eden Gardens during the historic pink-ball Test match.

India, widely believed to have given the game of chess to the world, is producing quality chess players at such a rate that 10 years down the line, Russia might as well lose their bragging rights of being the world’s chess sovereign. If there is one man who brought about this metamorphosis in Indian chess, it is Anand.

To stress a bit more on the Chennai maestro’s influence in the game, it is important to mention that of the current 64 Grandmasters, 23 are from his home state of Tamil Nadu. Mrs. Aruna Anand, wife and manager of the icon, once hilariously revealed in an interview that her husband’s stardom has led Indians to nickname her ‘Mrs. Chess.’

While being an active player himself, the five-time grandmaster also organises training camps for budding chess players.

Anand has remained at peak of his game for more than 30 years now. The longevity of his remarkable career can be highlighted from the fact that he has played against two megastars from two different eras – Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen and his older Russian counterpart Garry Kasparov.

As India’s ‘Lightning Kid’ celebrates the golden jubilee of his birth today, here’s recalling some of the greatest feats from his career that made him the sharpest mind in the country and one of the sharpest in the world.

  • Having been taught chess by his mother at the age of only six, Anand went on to win the National Sub-Junior Chess Championship at the age of 14.
  • Four years later in 1987, he became the first Indian to win the World Junior Chess Championship.
  • The very next year, at only the age of 18, Anand became India’s first Grandmaster.
  • The second biggest moment of his career came in the year 2000 when he won his first World Chess Championship after beating Spain’s Alexei Shirov.
  • It took Anand some wait before winning his second World Championship title in 2007. He remained the only unbeaten player in that tournament, with which also began a five-year period in which Anand remained the undisputed chess champion of the world.
  • He defended his title in the 2008 World Championship by beating Russia’s Vladimir Borisovich Kramnik.
  • He defended the title in 2010 as well, beating Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov.
  • The winning spree continued in 2012 when he beat Israel’s Boris Gelfand in the World Chess Championship. This title win was more special than the previous ones because Anand won it in only 17 moves. It was in 2013 when the world No. 1’s supremacy came to an end. The then 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen beat Anand to become the new world champion.
  • Talking of his most recent feats, Anand, at 48, won the World rapid chess championship.
  • Among the many awards that he has received for his contribution to Indian sports, the most prestigious ones include the Arjuna Award in 1985, followed by the Padma Shree in 1988, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1991, the Padma Bhushan in 2001, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2008. In addition to these Indian awards, he also won the prestigious Chess Oscar six times.

The mind is your most powerful weapon, and no one better than Vishy has been able to prove that. On his 50th birthday today, the timeless Anand is all set to release his autobiography titled ‘Mind Masters: Winning Lessons From A Champion’s Life.’ An autobiography while he is still among the top 10 players – that is what a legend is all about.

Here’s wishing the King of the chessboard a very happy birthday.

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