The emergence of India as a power in the chess world is attributed mostly to the rise of Viswanathan Anand. Born on December 11, Anand has successfully sparked an interest in the game among the younger generations which has seen India produce some exciting talent over the years.
The former five-time World Chess Champion is the first chess grandmaster from India and is widely regarded as the best rapid chess player of his generation. Anand has created a following among millions of fans which is an absolute feat in a cricket crazy nation like India.
In a career spanning over three decades, Anand has won several championships and distinctions. The grandmaster is one of the few players to have surpassed an Elo rating of 2800, a feat he first achieved in 2006.
Viswanathan Anand became the first grandmaster from the sub-continent in 1988 and won the FIDE World Chess Championship in 2000 after he defeated Alexi Shirov in a six-game match. He held the title until 2002. He reclaimed the title again in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. He also won the FIDE World Rapid Chess Championship in 2003, 2017 and the World Blitz Cup in 2000.
The youngest of the three siblings, Anand is the first recipient of the Rajiv Khel Ratna award in 1991-92, which is now the highest sporting honour in India. In 2007, he was honoured with the nation’s second-highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan which made him the first sportsperson to receive the award.
As the chess wizard turns 51, we look at some of the lesser-known facts about him:
— He was born on December 11, 1969, in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. His mother Susheela was a chess player and he learned the game from her. His interest in the game was developed at the age of 6 because of his mother and a family friend Deepa Ramakrishnan.
— Anand is a polyglot. Other than speaking fluently in his native language Tamil, he also excels in English, French, German and Spanish.
— He is the youngest Indian to win the title of International Master in 1984 at the age of 15, which was soon followed by the National Chess Champion at 16.
— Anand is also the first Indian and Asia to win the World Junior Chess Championship title in 1987 in the Philippines. A year later, he became India’s first Grandmaster
— Anand is fondly known as ‘Vishy’ and the ‘Tiger of Madras’, because of his sheer domination in the game.
— The chess grandmaster has a minor planet named after him. Titled as 4528 Vishyanand’ it orbits between Mars and Jupiter. Anand became the third chess player to have a minor planet named after him.
— Apart for Chess, he has a keen interest in astronomy and names Carl Sagan among his all-time favourite writers.