Anand – Among the elite for 26 years… and counting!

Come July 1, and one of country’s greatest sportspersons Viswanathan Anand, 47, commences his 27th year in the world’s top-10 list. Barring four months last year, Anand has held a single digit ranking since July 1991.

In the past 312 months, Viswanathan Anand has been been ranked between 9 and 1 for 308 months.   -  R. Ravindran

In any individual sporting discipline, being a top-10 player in the world brings certain bragging rights with it. More the number of participants, more difficult it is to be among the elite. That’s the reason why top-10 players in tennis and golf earn more respect, and money, than their counterparts, say in, table tennis or badminton.

Chess is one such sport where players from 188 countries play competitively. In this cerebral discipline, the playing strength of an individual is reflected in a four-digit rating – the higher, the better.

Come July 1, and one of country’s greatest sportspersons Viswanathan Anand, 47, commences his 27th year in the world’s top-10 list. Barring four months last year, Anand has held a single digit ranking since July 1991.

In other words, in the past 312 months, Anand has been ranked between 9 and 1 for 308 months! Considering chess is a sport where the games of the elite players are analysed threadbare and theories challenged with the help of computers with mind-boggling features, it is truly amazing how Anand has firmly withstood the test of time.

When Anand first appeared in the top-10 list (as ninth), he was busy preparing to take on Anatoly Karpov in the World championship quarterfinal match, slated in August 1991 in Brussels. With Mikhail Gurevich as his first ‘second’, Anand created chances against the former World champion but inexperience did him in.

Later that year, Anand showed that he firmly belonged to the elite. He won the strongest event of that time in Reggio Emelia. In a select 10-man field, Anand was the only player born outside the erstwhile USSR and won ahead of World champion Garry Kasparov and Karpov, among others.

By this time, Anand made up his mind to shift base to Spain and this decision was to help his career immensely. Anand’s tremendous performances in tournaments stood out. With the divided chess world battling to find a solution to the crisis that arose when Kasparov defied FIDE, the world body for chess, and organised a parallel world championship in 1993, Anand was busy establishing himself as a fearsome rival.

Peak

In fact, not many remember that for 12 successive years – from July 1996 to July 2012 – Anand was ranked among the top five players!

What more, during this period, Anand won the world title five times, become World No. 1 and attained a career-high rating of 2817. One factor that set Anand apart from his peers was the pace at which he made his moves. Hailed as a ‘lightning kid’ in the late 1980s, Anand enthralled chess lovers with his awesome ability to filter out the best from numerous possibilities that follow every move.

During one of the interviews, Anand told this writer, “I don’t necessarily search for the best moves. The moment I find a reasonably strong move, I make it and do the rest of the calculations when my opponent’s clock is ticking. It helps but it is not something I set out to do.”

Today, time may have robbed Anand of his once-feared speed. But he remains amazingly motivated, testing the new generation of computer-aided champions. For his sheer perseverance and persistence, not to reinforce the consistency, Anand stays in the league of his own.

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