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Viswanathan ANAND (India)
Born 11 December 1969 in Madras
FIDE World Champion 2000, World Champion since 2007
Rating on 1 January 2012 – 2799 (peak rating: 2817)
Early years. Anand was born on 11 December 1969 to a well-to-do family in Madras. His parents belonged to the highest caste in Hinduism: his father, Viswanathan, was an engineer, and later General Manager of the Southern Railway; his mother, Susheela, was a housewife. The future champion was given the name Anand at birth.
Indian people do not have family names, so in his own country he was known to everyone by his first name. But when Anand began to travel to Europe in the mid-1980s, he was “renamed”: his first name was taken as his surname, and people began to call him by his father’s first name, and then shortened it to “Vishy”. This form of address might have seemed crude and inappropriate to Anand, but he took a completely calm attitude towards it, and it soon became established in chess circles.
Anand learnt to play chess at the age of 6, at the instigation of his mother, and within a year he started going to the local chess club, named after Mikhail Tal. From his first acquaintance with the play of the eighth world champion he fell in love with Tal’s chess, and to this day Anand names him as his favourite chess player, along with Fischer. It very soon became clear that the Indian had a lot in common with his idol – the same talent for combinations and eagerness to take the initiative, and also incredibly fast thinking. Vishy did not waste time – he would spend not two hours but just 25–30 minutes on a serious game…
His parents strictly “rationed” Anand’s interest in chess. He only played if things were going well for him at school – they once stopped him playing for a whole month. Vishy never had a chess tutor: the main sources of his knowledge were books and magazines. He worked everything out for himself!
First successes. The breakthrough in Anand’s results occurred in 1983. He won the Indian Under-16 (9 wins out of 9) and Under-19 championships successively – and won a place in the country’s adult championships. After finishing in fourth place in these, the 14-year-old talent won a place in the Indian national team! Then, accompanied by his mum, he set off for his first Olympiad in Salonika. Anand played very successfully on board 4, with a result of +6=3-2, and his game against Hergott ended up in Chess Informant.
In 1985 Anand became an International Master, the youngest Asian player to hold this title. In 1986 he won the Indian adult championship, and in 1987, at his fourth attempt, he won the Under-20 World Championship, winning 10 out of 13. In “faraway Baguio” he beat Ivanchuk by half a point in an incredible race, and also defeated him in a head-to-head game. The other contenders were left trailing far behind. For this achievement the 18-year-old “chess prince” became a Grandmaster, the youngest at that time.
But according to Anand, the main thing for him was that at last people noticed him: “I didn’t need to waste loads of time playing in ordinary Indian tournaments where I could pump up my rating and wait for an invitation to some good tournaments…” He was immediately invited to a strong open competition in Lugano, and also to Brussels, where the young chess prince found himself acting as one of the commentators on the World Cup tournament.
While at this great chess forum, the young and sociable Anand managed to renew his acquaintance not only with the entire international elite but also, far more importantly for him at that point, with the organisers of the biggest international tournaments… Vishy immediately received an invitation to his first big round-robin tournament – in Wijk aan Zee!
It was after this tournament, in which Anand shared 1st-4th places with Nikolic, Ribli and Sax, people started to refer to him as one of the leaders of the new generation. And he himself felt that he had taken a qualitative leap forward in his chess development.
Challenger 1. In the middle of 1990 Anand’s rating went above 2600 for the first time, and as he set off for the inter-zonal match in Manila he was already one of the favourites. And he succeeded in justifying his supporters’ expectations! After a “bumpy” start Vishy finished the tournament in hurricane style – 3.5 out of 4, becoming a challenger at 19 years of age!
India was delighted and made every effort to get his 1/8 final match against Dreyev played in Madras. His rival was considered more experienced and stronger, but on the outside Vishy coped fairly easily with the pressure. His won the first game, and after a defeat in the third he achieved a hat trick and finished the match early, winning 4.5:1.5.
Immediately after this, Anand started his first Linares tournament. The Indian began with two victories – over Kamsky and Karpov – but then suffered one misfortune after another. After losing in devastating style to Ivanchuk with white, Anand fell to the lower half of the table… On seeing this game, Kasparov started talking about Vishy’s “glass jaw”: he’s a striking and talented player but he hasn’t learnt to “roll with the punches”.
In addition, when the experts discussed Anand’s style, they noted that he had two shortcomings: the lack of a “school”, which led to a not very convincing way of approaching the game, and being too hurried when taking important decisions. Of course, he wasn’t spending 30 minutes on a game as he had in his youth, but at times he was clearly hurrying, making second-class moves – and thereby spoiling games that he had played very well…
But in his quarter final match with Karpov, who before the start had looked like the favourite, Anand managed to improve his play. Mikhail Gurevich helped him to eliminate many of his shortcomings and taught him to work seriously on his openings without losing the inherent lightness of his game. And the ex-champion felt the full force of the new Vishy.
This match was probably a breakthrough for the future Anand. “At the beginning I was annoyed by the toss,” Vishy recalls. “But later I started to stick to the view that you can’t become a champion without meeting your most powerful rivals. You simply have to beat everyone you meet on the way!”
In the majority of games the Indian held the initiative, but his lack of match experience told. Anand did not win the third and fifth games, and instead the rivals exchanged blows in the fourth and sixth. In the seventh, Vishy attempted to “squeeze out” a victory, but instead he managed only to squeeze himself out. In the deciding eighth game Karpov proved to be fresher and bolder.
It has to be said that defeat in this match did not crush Anand. On the contrary, he drew the right conclusions, and this, he says, had an effect as early as the next cycle…
Challenger 2. The fact that Vishy was in good shape was shown by his two victories over Kasparov – at the tournaments in Tilburg and Reggio Emilia. In Italy the Indian for the first time left the whole international elite, including both world champions, trailing in his wake. In 1992 he shared victory at the Euwe (Amsterdam) and Alekhine (Moscow) memorials. But the landmark event for him was the “friendly” match against Vassily Ivanchuk in Linares.
They were both (with Gelfand) considered the heirs of the two “Ks”, but which of them would come out in front? Before the match in Linares Vassily’s shares were rated a little higher, but afterwards Anand’s “rate” went up… It was not only that the Indian won 5:3 (and might have won by more), but his game was more integrated and his palette was richer.
“This match proved to be an important point in my career, since it gave me a big boost in courage when I beat Ivanchuk,” Anand believes. “After all, he was the first really strong opponent that I defeated in a match. I took this as a good sign before the forthcoming world championship cycle…”
In 1993, as we know, the chess world divided into FIDE and the PCA, and Anand was faced with the prospect of playing in two world championship cycles at the same time. People even rushed to attribute words to the Indian – who was seen as one of the main favourites for both cycles – which he had not uttered, that there was no better way of uniting the crown than to win a match against both Kasparov and Karpov.
True, to play a match with the champion it was necessary to play an inter-zonal tournament and then Candidates’ matches. And at Biel 1993 (FIDE), Vishy nearly slipped up. In order to go through he had to win “+4”, and he finished with “+3”, but in the last round five (!) games in a row ended in the right way, and Anand got the last place to go through. In Groningen (PCA) there were no surprises: “+4” and sharing 1st-2nd places.
Anand went from victory to victory for the whole of the following year. At the beginning he soundly beat the “old men” Yusupov 4.5:2.5 (FIDE) and Romanishin 5:2 (PCA), but then unexpectedly lost to Kamsky. Their match took place in Sanghi Nagar, India, and after five games Vishy was leading 3.5:1.5. In order to get a match with Karpov, all he needed was to draw two of the three remaining games. Alas, Vishy did not manage to do this. The familiar surroundings of home played a nasty trick on him: at the time he literally did not know where to hide from the intrusive attention of his compatriots.
Anand lost the sixth and seventh games weakly, after which, as if hypnotised, he also lost both of the “rapid” games in the tie-break. In the concluding game Vishy surrendered on his seventeenth move, giving people an excuse, if one were needed, to chatter about his extreme vulnerability.
And so he dropped out of the FIDE cycle. But in the PCA “world” he advanced to the very end – a match with Kasparov. Along the way he first overcame Adams, 5.5:1.5, and then took revenge on Kamsky for his “home” defeat. But he lost the first game in Las Palmas to Gata through inertia (he ran out of time in an overwhelming position). But later Anand was almost irreproachable, totally in control of the game. He won the third, ninth and eleventh games, finished the match 6.5:4.5 ahead of schedule and went through to the title match!
Anand played in the Tal Memorial (Riga) as a challenger. He came second after Kasparov and lost to him in a head-to-head game, but Vishy’s mood remained good. “My game was very convincing, and I felt on form!” Vishy recalled. “I had every reason to be in good spirits at the moment when I had only just started preparing for a world championship match…”
At the top. Unfortunately, the actual match against Kasparov did not work out for Anand. He probably over-prepared for this match – he effectively didn’t play anywhere for half a year – and he lost the lightness of play and freshness of perception that was so customary for him.
Also, according to Kasparov, the Indian’s trainers paid too much attention to his rival, organising the preparations in such a way as not to allow Kasparov to make any headway under any circumstances, completely forgetting to develop Anand’s own best qualities. “They imposed a way of playing on him that was not natural for him, they put him in a box where a priori he had no way of showing what he was capable of with his gift… It was as if Vishy had forgotten about his rich intuition and completely excluded risk from his game!”
Photo from lenta.ru
The penalty for his lack of experience – Anand for the first time put his own “team” together. He invited four Grandmasters that he knew well and with whom he had worked previously: Ubilava, Wolff, Speelman and Yusupov. In the “final straight” he also added Dvoretsky. At the end of the match the Indian was saying that if they got together with him again, the effectiveness of his team would be higher than in 1995.
The moral climate was not the best either. On the threshold of the “match of his life”, Anand was burdened with a rather difficult relationship with the PCA leadership. He was very hurt that the opinion of the title challenger was not being taken into account – they were simply presenting Vishy with a fact. First, that the match would be transferred from Cologne to New York. Then that the prize fund for the contest would be reduced to $1.35 million. He was also irritated by everyday worries, so that by the start of the match the Indian was very tense.
But anyway, he was ready enough for the big fight.
On which subject, the first eight games against Kasparov, who had far more match experience and generally beat the Indian in head-to-head games, were drawn! Vishy yielded nothing to his awesome rival, and several times even held the initiative… Most of the games ended within about 20 moves, when the opponents were exhausting the conflict in the game and a draw was beginning to look obvious.
But from the eighth game onwards they began having a real fight! It was Anand who gave the signal for battle to commence. His two brilliant replies in this game forced the champion to switch from playing for victory to seeking a draw… And in the ninth game Vishy moved ahead, breaking through Kasparov’s Scheveningen defence at the fifth attempt!
Alas… then they played the tenth game: here Garry used his amazing novelty, sacrificing a rook and winning by using his home analysis. And Vishy “snapped”, as he had already done a number of times before. The eleventh game would be the key one.
In what was an approximately even endgame Kasparov suddenly, and it seemed at the drop of a hat, “blundered away” an exchange! Anand lost his concentration and made the most obvious move, after which he lost the game and the match in literally two moves… His rival accomplished the whole thing at lightning speed. Left without two pawns, Vishy immediately stopped the clock.
In the twelfth, the challenger won half a point with black, but… in the thirteenth Anand again lost through a crude blunder – the game ended in 25 moves! Kasparov also beat his opponent in the fourteenth game, bringing his lead up to three points. The match was one-sided now…
“I think one of my main problems in the match against Kasparov was that I didn’t have the faintest idea what pressure I would have to withstand in a match like this,” said Anand on his sad exit from the match. “When I think back to the eleventh and thirteenth games, I don’t need a team of four ‘seconds’ to know where I slipped up in these matches – I simply made basic errors!”
But just as he did after his challenger’s match against Karpov, Anand gradually recovered and did not give up thinking about scaling the chess Olympus again.
The chess world split. Throughout 1996 Vishy “simply played chess” with gusto. The most surprising thing is that despite a lot of brilliant games and excellent results, he did not win first place in anything! But coming second in the Las Palmas six-way tournament between the world’s strongest chess players – Kasparov was first, and behind Vishy came Topalov, Kramnik, Ivanchuk and Karpov – was quite enough to confirm the Indian’s status. Vishy was right behind Garry, even though on the basis of his results for the year he was rated third, yielding second place to Kramnik. This “world scene” remained the same in 1997.
One good result for Vishy gave way to another! He won in Monte Carlo, Dos Hermanas, Leon, Frankfurt, Biel and Belgrade… However, the main event for him in 1997 was taking part in the FIDE World Knockout Championship in Groningen. “After winning the tournaments in Biel and Belgrade I set off for the championships in very good spirits!” said Anand, recalling that year.
Working his way consistently past Nikolic, Khalifman, Almasi, Shirov, Gelfand and Adams, Anand got through to the final, where a “fresh” Karpov was already waiting for him. The whole point was that FIDE wanted to put an end to the “two kings” regime and had decided to allow the two “Ks” straight into the semi-final. But while Kasparov declined this privilege and his $300,000m, Karpov was not prepared to pull any punches. Their final match started in Lausanne, Switzerland, literally a few days after the end of the intense 23-day marathon.
Anand was losing 2:3 after five games, but managed to win the sixth, where a victory was crucial for him, taking the match to a tie break. “I won’t say the game was particularly good, but… it shows something in my character: despite all the difficulties I was able to win it,” said Vishy with pride. “Previously I probably couldn’t have done this, but I have become stronger over the years, especially in critical situations!”
Alas, in the tie break a huge tiredness made itself felt. Anand managed to gain a dominant position but not only failed to win the game but even lost. His attempt to draw level a second time did not work, and Karpov successfully defended his title as champion.
“I regard Groningen as a huge success and in a way I believe that I have won the FIDE world championship,” said Anand, making his position clear. “The terms in the final were so unequal that… it’s difficult for me to regard it as part of the competition.” The mood among the chess-loving public was roughly the same. Karpov had the official title and the money, but all the glory went to Vishy Anand.
It’s no accident that at the end of the year the Indian was awarded a Chess Oscar!
In 1998 Anand received an Oscar statuette for the second time, having secured victory in five super-tournaments – Wijk aan Zee, Linares, Madrid, Frankfurt and Tilburg.
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In 1999 Kasparov had talks with Anand about a new world championship match. Having lost the support of Intel, the PCA could not stage a Candidates’ cycle, and Garry had no alternative but to accept challenges, as in the “pre-FIDE” days. However, this time the champion himself was looking for a challenger.
The Indian agreed to play, but, remembering the story of 1995, during the work on the documents he demanded that the sponsors that Kasparov had found in the USA provide guarantees and also a deposit in case the match fell through. The talks were resumed several times, then things would go quiet again, until finally they became deadlocked…
Anand missed the 1999 FIDE world championship in Las Vegas as a result. But the next time, when it was held in New Delhi, Vishy succeeded in becoming the champion!
Champion. It is interesting that in 1999 and 2000 the Indian was only winning “rapid” tournaments”. In classical chess things were different… “At the beginning of 1999 I was still swimming with the tide of almost uninterrupted success, which started after I beat Kramnik in Belgrade-97,” Vishy recalled. “However, sooner or later all good things have to come to an end.” The failures that ensued toughened Anand, making him seize every chance and get the maximum out of the situation.
Another factor in this was the six-week preparation for the match with Kasparov that did not take place. “I discovered something: the work you’ve done always brings you a reward in the end, although sometimes that can be definitely not in the game you’d like or in the tournament you’d hope for…” For Vishy, it was in New Delhi.
However, in 2000 he became the double champion, having won the World Blitz Chess Championship in Warsaw and then the World Cup in Shenyang. “I was very motivated in my approach to the FIDE championship in New Delhi. To play 21 games in such a strong competition without a single defeat says that I was in peak form!”
On his home ground Anand overcame Bologan, Lputjan, Macieja, Khalifman and Adams, and in the final, which took place in Tehran, Shirov – 3.5:0.5. “The consequences of my victory in the FIDE world championship were extraordinary,” recalled Vishy. “When I returned to Delhi, I was met at the airport by thousands of people, and I was accompanied by a cortege of vehicles on a trip round the city… There were flags flying everywhere on the streets, just as they do on a national holiday!” In Madras Anand was seated in a carriage, carried through the centre of the city and decorated on behalf of the government. A real “chess fever” broke out in India itself, like the one in the Soviet Union in 1925.
The champion himself, understanding that it would not be easy to win his third knockout tournament in a row right on cue in a year’s time, did not intend to rest on his laurels. “When I won the title I experienced a sense of profound satisfaction with what I had achieved at the chess board, and I was looking forward to whatever new challenges fate might bring!” And he didn’t have to wait long.
The following year, 2001, did not work out very successfully as a whole for Anand. Vishy did not win a single victory in classical tournaments, and in the FIDE Knockout Championship in Moscow he lost 1.5:2.5 to Ivanchuk in the semi-final and lost his champion’s title. And this defeat by his historic rival had a “domino effect” on the Indian. Having acquired a new champion (Ponomarev), FIDE ruled Anand out of the Prague Unity Agreements for 2002, and the Indian, who was contracted to FIDE, was not included on the list of challengers for a match with Kramnik in Dortmund.
Vishy took a philosophical view of this: “It doesn’t matter, I said to myself. The chess life is about more than competing for the world championship! You can play in ordinary tournaments and get satisfaction from that. You can be happy regardless of money and titles – and even of playing chess.” And by way of “compensation” Anand scored a victory in Prague (in the final Vishy beat Karpov), in the World Cup (in the final he beat the future FIDE champion Kasymzhanov), and in Mainz, where one of his rivals was Ponomarev.
What next? For two years Anand “went with the flow”, with a fairly intense tournament schedule. In 2003–2004 Vishy was first in Wijk aan Zee, was among the first in Monte Carlo and Dortmund, and was also the traditional winner of the “championship match” in Mainz. This was followed by “rapid” tournaments in Bastia, Cap d’Agde and Benidorm.
In 2005, when FIDE finally gave up the knockout and defined a new format for the world championship – a two-round tournament of the best eight – Anand returned to the fight for the crown. But the FIDE world championship in San Luis proved to be a magic moment for Topalov. He swept through the first round – 6.5 out of 7 – after which he calmly reached the finish with draws. Vishy was the only one who did not lose once to Veselin, but he had to make do with sharing 2nd-3rd place with Svidler – 8.5 out of 14.
His time had still not come! In 2006 he had his traditional victory at Wijk aan Zee and was unstoppable in rapid chess, and in 2007 he scored victories in Morelia/Linares… But Anand was mainly focusing on the world championships in Mexico. He spent more than a month preparing for this tournament, and straight away “took the bull by the horns”. After finishing the first round with a result of +3, thanks to his victories over Aronian, Svidler and Grishchuk, the Indian seized the lead and left no one in any doubt even for a second about his superiority over his rivals. The result was 9 out of 14 and a one-point lead over Gelfand and Kramnik. And… the champion’s title!
At the top. Unlike Topalov, who became champion without any “buts”, Anand, or rather FIDE, still “owed” something ever since the Prague days. According to the regulations, in order to become the fully fledged king, Vishy would still have to confirm his title – in a match with the “classic world champion” Kramnik, whom he had already surpassed in Mexico. Once again the Indian was a “hostage of the system”, but… there was nothing he could do about it, so he started preparing for the new challenge. Their match was due to take place in Bonn.
Anand took the news that again he had something to prove almost philosophically. “I thought, since I had been able to beat Kramnik so confidently in the tournament match, I would probably have a good chance against him in a head-to-head match too. I’m well prepared, I have permanent trainers… Why not, if this match is so necessary and if it’s the only way to get a respite?”
This time Anand studied the mistakes of his 1995 match… First, he got together a superb “team”: Nielsen, Kasymzhanov, Wojtaszek and Ganguly, who constantly plied him with novelties and important reinforcements. Second, he had a “strategic plan” for the match, which he succeeded in fully implementing. And third, he simply approached this contest in fine form and did not show the slightest weakness.
The decisive factor in the outcome of the match was Kramnik’s two “white” games, in which Anand made a risky choice. Vladimir set himself the objective of denying his opponent at any cost – but did not manage to do this in either the third or the fifth game… The Indian won two very important victories, and then added another – in the sixth game, after which the result of the match was a foregone conclusion.
Kramnik could only score a “consolation goal”, while Vishy only needed to win half a point in the three remaining games to retain the title. The story of his match with Kamsky was not repeated – Anand’s “jaw” was no longer “glass”…
This victory mollified the Indian – now he was first without any reservations and could do whatever he liked! Following Kasparov’s retirement from chess in 2005, the most worthy candidate had now become the world champion. “For many years in a row I have taken part in all the prestigious competitions and accepted any challenge, but now I’m going to be more careful about how I choose my tournaments,” he said after the match. “The title of world champion places obligations on me, but I don’t want them to define my life. I’ve done too much and I want to live for a bit for my own pleasure!”
In 2009–2010 his tournament motivation clearly declined. Anand did not take a single first place in either classical or rapid chess. He even ceded his first place in the ratings list first to Topalov and then to Carlsen.
But this did not prevent Vishy from defending his champion’s crown – in a tense contest with Topalov, even on his rival’s territory, in Sofia in 2010. But this time Anand had to summon up all his strength to prove his superiority…
Veselin was brilliantly prepared. Playing at home with his own supporters, he was clearly burning with a desire to regain the crown he had lost in a scandalous contest with Kramnik. He played the first game in grand style, but did not shake Vishy – the latter replied in the second, but mainly in a brilliant fourth game, which was a credit to this match.
After seizing the lead Vishy went through a difficult patch. Despite the fact that Vishy had two white games from the fifth to the seventh game, Veselin dictated his own terms, and in the eighth he levelled the score to 4:4… With only four games left to the finish, the will and determination of the players would decide everything. And their match experience. It turned out that Anand had more – he had been through duels with the greats!
Vishy was very close to victory in the ninth game: several times he came close to forcing a win, but he could not find a solution. He had to seek a draw in the tenth game, “in retaliation”. The next one ended in a calm draw. But in the twelfth Topalov lost his nerve! Anand, on the contrary, was cold and dispassionate: he used his rival’s indecisiveness to settle the game – and the whole match – with a direct attack.
What Kasparov had done to Anand in 1995, Anand himself did to Topalov 15 years later, and he didn’t even need to sacrifice a rook to do it! The title of world champion was in Vishy’s hands for a second time. And again it was deserved.
A new challenge? It is worth noting that as world champion Anand has not yet won a single super-tournament. Vishy is always at the top, taking 2nd-3rd places, but first place always goes to someone else. Aronian, Carlsen, Kramnik… But all the evidence suggests that this does not bother him too much, although from time to time it becomes the subject of discussion among his colleagues or on the pages of chess newspapers and magazines. Anand is the world champion, and that says it all, and he has won dozens of super-tournaments in his life.
In May 2011 Anand found out the name of the latest challenger to his throne. It is Boris Gelfand, with whom he competed back in their youth in the mid-1980s, after which they followed “parallel paths” for a long time… It is quite a pity that their match will take place only now, when they have both passed the 40-year mark and possible have passed their peak. However, it’s better to ask their rivals about being “past their peak” – these players have not managed to prevent Vishy and Boris meeting in a contest for the chess crown!