Mixed bag

Even as Viswanathan Anand continued to strive harder to take his game to the next level, most of the other Indian names did not have a great year, writes Rakesh Rao.

Twenty years ago, a teenager by the name of Viswanathan Anand redefined excellence for Indian chess players. He combined speed with skill, imaginative ideas with intuition and reeled off results that did not go unnoticed by some of the best brains in the game. With the passage of time, his phenomenally consistent performances put him among the elite of this cerebral sport. His tireless work paid off this year and realised two of his long cherished goals. He captured the Wo rld number spot in April and went on to regain the World title, which he won in 2000.

Seldom has an individual made such a lasting impact on the future of any sporting discipline in India. His talent apart, what caught the nation’s imagination was his pleasing ways. His smile, wit and the ability to simplify the complexities of the game made him an instant hit. From becoming the World junior champion in August 1987 to becoming the game’s latest World Champion in September 2007, Anand has contributed more than any other Indian sportsperson for his or her chosen discipline.

He became the country’s first Grandmaster in December 1987 and since then only 16 more have joined the list, including two in the last two months. Interestingly, the last three Grandmasters — Parimarjan Negi, G. N. Gopal and Abhijeet Gupta — were born after Anand founded the country’s ‘GM Club’.

“I don’t want to leave behind some kind of legacy. I don’t think about it. I still have some more chess left in me,” is the reply from Anand when one touches the subject of his contribution to Indian chess or how he would like to be remembered. Indeed, Anand has kept his sights firmly on his goals and achieved them like few others in the world of sports. Delightfully, he has not finished yet.

Anand did have a glorious year during which he added the prestigious Moralia-Linares title in March and the rapid title in Monaco. He went on to retain rapid titles at Leon and Mainz. He has won the Chess Classic title 10 times including all the seven occasions since the event moved from Frankfurt to Mainz. In November, Anand braved indifferent health to finish runner-up to champion Vassily Ivanchuk in the World blitz championship in Moscow. Interestingly, Ivanchuk was considered the favourite when Anand won the world junior title in 1987. What more, Anand and Ivanchuk finished the year 2007 as the top two ranked players in the game. Surely, the duo, along with World Cup champion Gata Kamsky, showed that experience still was a handy weapon against the exuberance of youth.

Even as Anand continued to strive harder to take his game to the next level, most of the other Indian names did not have a great year. K. Sasikiran had his moments in the premier Mtel Masters where he let go of a golden opportunity to win the title ahead of the eventual winner, the 2005 World Champion, Veselin Topalov. Again, in the World Cup in Khanty Mansiysk, in Russia, Sasikiran moved to the last-16 stage. He did pick up three gold medals from the Asian Indoor Games where the Indians gave an impressive performance.

Here is the full story.

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