When Alexander Grischuk made his first visit to India, he was 17. He had arrived as the 46th seed for the World Chess Championship.
He caused a sensation, reaching the semifinal. He, however, went down to Alexei Shirov (who would then lose in the final to Viswanathan Anand).
It took Grischuk another 23 years to return to India, for the Tata Steel Chess India tournament in Kolkata. By that time, he had picked three World blitz titles, had been the World No. 3 and had become only the eighth player in history to cross 2800 Elo points in rating.
He had also created a huge fan base not just for his fascinating style of play but for his sense of humour as well. He didn’t speak much in Kolkata, but when he did, he made people laugh.
At the press conference, when he was asked about the chances of R. Praggnanandhaa becoming the World champion, he also took the names of D. Gukesh and Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan. But he added, “There is also some weird guy called Magnus (Carlsen).”
Praggnanandhaa, who was sitting next to him, broke into a big smile. Grischuk may not have smiled as much, but Grischuk had every reason to, last Saturday evening at Kolkata’s National Library, where he won the blitz title of the Tata Steel tournament. At 39, he was the oldest player of the tournament and he pushed behind him some of the world’s best young players.
“I hate losing, and that is the main factor that keeps me still going,” Grischuk told Sportstar. “I would rather stop playing completely than just be losing game after game.”
He isn’t surprised by India’s young talents taking the world by storm. “Because India has so many people and it is also the leading country in computers,” he said. “I am more surprised by the emergence of Uzbekistan as a major force in world chess.”
He has great regard for Anand. “I think Vishy is in the top five greatest players of all time (the others being Garry Kasparov, Carlsen, Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov),” he said.
Looking back to the World Championship in Delhi, he said he had come with no expectations. “I was more surprised with myself than anybody else,” he said. “Among the things I remember from that tour is my visit to the Taj Mahal. It was incredible, grandiose.”
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