Anand to de­fend his world ti­tle at home in Chen­nai

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

IN A NA­TION where cricket is a re­li­gion and re­tir­ing su­per­star Sachin Ten­dulkar its res­i­dent de­ity, reign­ing world chess cham­pion Viswanathan Anand holds his own as one of In­dia’s finest sports­men.

Anand, 43, who opens the de­fence of his fifth world crown against Nor­we­gian chal­lenger Mag­nus Carlsen at home in Chen­nai to­day, has dom­i­nated the chess scene in In­dia and abroad for al­most two decades.

Anand’s longevity and per­se­ver­ance has of­ten been com­pared with that of Ten­dulkar, the world’s bat­ting record­holder who ends a bril­liant 24year ca­reer later this month.

“There’s cer­tainly a case to be made for Anand be­ing the great­est sportsper­son In­dia has ever pro­duced,” The Hindu news­pa­per said. “He is as much a na­tional trea­sure as Ten­dulkar.”

Anand showed re­mark­able prom­ise at an early age but, un­like many oth­ers who give up af­ter their first ma­jor chal­lenge, he per­se­vered and won un­til there was no one else left to beat.

The soft-spo­ken fam­ily man, who lives in Spain with wife Aruna and three-year-old son Akhil, is far re­moved from his tem­per­a­men­tal pre­de­ces­sors like Bobby Fis­cher, Boris Spassky, Anatoly Kar­pov and Garry Kas­parov.

While Kas­parov has be­come a fierce critic of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Anand is more at home mus­ing about subjects such as his pride in In­dia’s space pro­gramme and his love of Barcelona foot­ball club.

“There is no feel­ing bet­ter than rep­re­sent­ing your coun­try,” he wrote on his Twit­ter ac­count last week in the buildup to the match against Carlsen.

“If there is any­one close to per­fec­tion in chess, it is him,” said In­dian grand­mas­ter Surya Shekhar Gan­guly. “He is also one of the nicest hu­man be­ings to know, a hum­ble man de­spite his enor­mous achieve­ments.”

Anand’s game is built on bel­liger­ent at­tack that catches op­po­nents off-guard, but his un­flus­tered ap­proach en­sures he has the right de­fence when the go­ing gets tough.

Anand be­came an in­ter­na­tional mas­ter at 15, was crowned In­dian cham­pion at 16, won the world ju­nior ti­tle at 17 and be­came the coun­try’s first grand­mas­ter at 18.

The govern­ment con­ferred on him the coun­try’s fourth high­est civil­ian award, the Padma Shri, a few months short of his 19th birth­day.

It is sig­nif­i­cant that when In­dia’s high­est sport­ing hon­our – the Ra­jiv Gandhi Khel Ratna – was in­tro­duced in 1992, Anand was its first re­cip­i­ent ahead of such cricket lu­mi­nar­ies as Ten­dulkar, Su­nil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev.

Anand was just 23 then and the hon­our came al­most eight years be­fore he won the first of his five world ti­tles by beat­ing Rus­sian Alexei Shi­rov in Tehran in 2000.

How­ever, more losses than wins in the past year have seen him slip to num­ber eight, with Carlsen, 22, as­sum­ing the top rank­ing with 2,870 rat­ing points, 95 more than Anand. – Sapa-AFP

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