I was 13 and suddenly winning everything – India Today

Chess Tournament

In any sport, competing to be a world champion would be a daunting challenge. It is even more so in the rarefied stratosphere of chess, and especially for an Indian to surface as the suzerain of the 64 squares and be crowned the ultimate chess champion. Vishwanathan Anand took to the board when he was barely six and progressed steadily on what has been a long journey with insightful inflections. When I was 13, I had a kind of breakthrough year after the school exams. During the summer holidays, I suddenly started winning everything playing chess, he recalls. I was playing well and winning tournaments, so 1983 was a classic year for me. All the work I had done patiently till then paid off. Dont know how and when, but it happens. Sometimes we have to wait for these moments.

Anand won the world junior championship in 1987 and the next year competed and got the coveted Grandmaster (GM) title. He was the first Indian to get it, back in 1988. That was a great time, in some ways the most innocent and nice years of my career, he says. It opened up opportunities in terms of competitions, and organisers offering good conditions. I could travel in some comfort and play in comfort too.

Aruna joined him after their marriage in 1996, which he explains as a crucial turning point, contributing to a paradigm shift both in his chess career and life. We got to separate our tasks and work as a team. It changed me, at a life level and definitely at the career level, emphasises Anand, who construes everything as a learning experience. My first really big failure at Dortmund in July 2001 (the Dortmunder Schachtage, Anand finished last) left a profound impact on me for many years. It started off badly and then just crashed towards the end, the worst result in my chess career. But it afforded me an opportunity to self-correct, he recalls.

Early bird: Anand started playing chess when he was just six

Anand went about rectifying his errors methodically. My takeaway from that was to work on problems before they spin out of control. After that I have tried to be more alert whenever worrying symptoms appear in my chess. I try to address and fix them quickly. I also started to think about how I should prepare and work for tournaments, not in terms of technical details but in approach and things like that. It was an important learning, even if it came from a negative outcome. At the time, it was the worst result in my chess career, he says. His quest to be the best continued with unflagging zeal.

To surpass all others and reach the top, that too with the mind games involved in chess, throws up extraordinary experiences. For Anand and several players of his generation, this also involved the impasse between the two international chess federations which dragged on for many years.

Amid the growing uncertainty, Anand had no option but to wait for the situation to solve itself to make a bid for the world championship. And just when you assumed the divergent paths would never meet, the chess world suddenly reunified (2006) and there was a match which (Vladimir) Kramnik won. The next year we were offered the prospect of playing a candidates tournament which was converted into a world championship in Mexico. It came suddenly not with much warning. We had some five or six months to get ready for it certainly. You may think you had five-odd years to get ready. In real terms, unless there is something on the horizon you cannot think about it. We knew it could be make or break. My results held up very well. But we were not measuring consistency anymore, says Anand, vividly recounting the mental challenges and preparedness they demanded.

You had to do well in this tournament to become world champion. Thats all. It does not matter if you have spent the rest of the year as World No. 1 or anything like that. In hindsight, I think I did everything perfectly. Of course, there will always be mistakes. With hindsight, I think that may be the most significant moment in my chess career. I had won the FIDE world title in 2000, but it was a disputed one. It was still in the phase of the two federations. Mexico 2007 was the big thing. Somehow, it clicked. You always try and imagine what you think will work well and prepare yourself as best you can. But whenever you go to a tournament you know it can go well or something unexpected can happen and it can go badly. But this one went like a dream. There are not too many events that go perfectly. And because of Mexico, I was world champion for the next six years, says Anand.

Admitting his career is always determined by what happened in Mexico and the following years, Anand reasons that with a clear goal an opportunity presents itself to deliver and get the job done. I wanted it. It makes my legacy as a chess player the dominant chapter (2007 to 2014) if not in my own eyes certainly in the eyes of others, he says, adding that an external legacy will be always looking at the biggest things. As, he puts it, sometimes after you put in all the work and all the effort it does not work out at all. So, remembering the moments when things work out is special.

There isnt another game or sport, perhaps no other domain, in which an Indian has achieved the level of success Anand enjoyed in chess. Little wonder, then, that he is the first recipient of the countrys highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1991- 92 and the first sportsperson to receive the second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, in 2007.

Anand knows the passion to be world champion is also not about glossing over other key moments. At a personal level, the next big moment for me and Aruna was the birth of our son Akhil in 2011, he says, pointing out that the human mind focuses on the big events and moves on while the rest is fleeting. I tried to capture it in my book Mind Master (2019), but we ended up focusing on the big stuff.

See original here:

I was 13 and suddenly winning everything - India Today

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Refresh