Viswanathan Anand has been ruling the squares undisputedly. He has remained one of the top five chess players in the world for the last two decades.
And even in a country like India — where cricket rules the roost — he is a well-known name.
Fondly called ‘Vishy’, Anand is the first Asian to have remained an undisputed chess champion in the last 60 years. He started playing chess at the age of six and became India’s first Grandmaster at 17.
He recently beat Boris Gelfand of Israel to win the World Championship crown for the fifth time. He is known for equable reactions post a big win and while chatting with Metrolife recently, he remained true to form. “For a moment, you do not realise what has happened. But yes, I was relieved when the game was over. It took some time for the feeling of winning the title to sink in,” he says.
Chess is a game of computational ability and analysis and it takes months of preparation to master the art. “I start preparing at least two or three months prior to a tournament but this time, I started in January,” shares Anand, who rates the match as one as his toughest in terms of intensity. “The opposition was very well-prepared and didn’t give me enough chances to make my moves,” he adds.
The chess wizard learned and honed his craft with the help of his mother, Sushila Viswanathan and there has been no looking back since. “She is a great support and used to travel with me for all my tournaments. She still follows every game and we often talk about them. She was really happy after I won the title, as she knew how big a struggle it was this year,” he explains.
Anand is calm and content in his space. What keeps him motivated? “You know, habit takes over after playing the game for so many years,” he answers. He regularly trains to polish his moves and play. His daily routine includes running and stretching exercises, after which he practises the game. “I also enjoy a light workout at the gym, just to relax,” he says.
What about vacations? “We took a three-week break in April. I do take breaks after tournaments but I don’t play immediately after my vacations,” says Anand.
Ask him whether he believes chess can emerge as a mainstream game and he says, “Parents are now encouraging their kids to play chess. The mindsets are changing and parents no more think of sports as a waste of time.”
Does he often enjoy a game of chess with Aruna, his wife? “I have played chess only once with her till now and that was a draw,” he smiles. Oh well, even you can’t win them all, Vishy!