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The black and white of winning
Irish singer, Van Morisson, famously said, “there is no black-and-white situation. It’s all part of life: highs, lows and middles.”

Perhaps Morisson hadn’t come across a man whose life was characterised by so many highs, unequivocally in ‘black and white’, Grandmaster, Viswanathan Anand.

Anand started playing chess when he was six with his mother as his first teacher!  Like every kid he too watched television; but with a difference. While others watched cartoon shows, Anand participated in chess puzzles.  His entries for the contests won him myriad books as prizes, so much so that the organisers requested him to take all the books he wanted, but refrain from sending in any more entries!

Anand’s breakthrough came very suddenly, when he was 12. He once said: “from a situation where I had been struggling to qualify for various state level events, I just cut a swath through everything and ended up in the men’s national team. That happened within a span of two months. I can’t explain it, but it was very, very sudden. It caught me completely off-guard.”


Lightning kid

When he began his career he was known as the Lightning Kid because he played the game at a frenetic pace. Over the years he slowed down, but still in most tournaments he is the one with maximum time left on his clock. Once India’s youngest grandmaster, he won the Asian Junior and the World Junior. The World Senior didn’t happen in a hurry. In 1994, at Hyderabad, he lost to Gata Kamsky from a completely won position. Kamsky, who had got his return tickets booked uttered, “I am sorry.”

In 1995, at the PCA World Chess Championship Anand played Garry Kasparov but the latter defeated him.  Finally success came in 2000. After that it poured: 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Interestingly, Anand has won the World Chess Championships in all formats of the game: it’s like being world number 1 simultaneously in Tests, in ODI and in T20.  

In a country where it’s tough to look beyond cricket Anand enjoys huge remarkable popularity. Okay, his game does not have a stadium of pounding fans, big bets and fancy cheerleaders in miniskirts. But that has not stolen Vishy’s fame., a site unveiled by NIIT, to enable every Indian cheer for Anand as he takes on Magnus Carlsen, at the World Chess Championship 2013 at Chennai. The site has over 20 lakh fans across the globe! There is even a Facebook page titled ‘Bharat Ratna For Viswanathan Anand.’

Anand was a child prodigy. He won the National Sub-Junior with a score of 9/9 in 1983 at the age of 14; he became an International Master at the age of 15; the national champion tag came a year later; in 1987, he became the first Indian to win the World Junior; in 1988  he became India’s first Grandmaster.


Head on his shoulders

Anand has held his head on his shoulders despite the success. GM Barua believes that Anand is too nice to be world champion. He says: “you will see top chess players getting surly after a defeat, they will refuse to meet the media and their fans. Anand is the opposite -- no matter what the result is, he is the same, he will be as polite and courteous to his fans after a defeat, as after a win, and that is what makes him such a universal favourite.”

Despite such glorious victories, the man who ruled the knights and pawns, kings and queens is modest almost to a fault.  He says: “for me, chess is not a profession. It is a way of life. People may feel that I have conquered the peak and will not have to struggle. Financially, perhaps that is true; but as far as chess goes, I’m still learning a lot!” The ability to tirelessly learn and race against oneself even after

several victories is a humbling quality that has characterised all great men. The Grandmaster, without a doubt, is no exception.



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