Anand: Olympiad will reflect India's chess growth

India won a bronze at the 2014 Chess Olympiad and expectations are higher in 2018 due to the world champion’s presence.

Anand is set to take part in the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Georgia two months later.   -  PTI

Viswanathan Anand, the first Indian Grandmaster, expressed happiness at the wealth of talent in the country and is relieved that chess prodigies winning the coveted rank had not dipped below the 12 year mark.

R Pragganandhaa is India’s youngest GM at 12 years, 10 months and the second youngest in history. Russia’s Sergey Karjakin (12 years, seven months) holds the world record as the youngest GM.

Asked to explain the phenomenon of a 12-year-old Indian earning the honour and younger GMs coming up in future, Anand said: “In a sense, there is no minimum age limit. The age of 12 has been fairly consistent, for the last seven to eight years now. There are no 11-year-olds now (in the GM list) and with many new talents coming up, I almost find it re-assuring you need some time to master chess and become a Grandmaster.”

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Karjakin is placed 10th in the World Chess Federation (FIDE) list of players with GM rating, followed by the Indian chess icon at 11th position. GM Pendlya Harikrishna (22nd), GM Vidit Gujarathi (29) are Anand's teammates at the top.

Referring to the depth of Indian chess talent, he said: “Both (Penthala) Harikrishna and Vidit (Gujarathi) are very close. We are all in the 2700 range (ELO points). Of the others, K Sashikiran and B Adhiban had some problem with consistency, but have had performance ratings which are much higher. In fact we are now one of the most balanced teams (at the Chess Olympiad).”

During his early years in Chennai, he was of the view that Moscow was the place to be for emerging chess players like him. The Indian GM had felt that access to training was the best in the former Soviet Union.

Now with a 12-year-old Indian schoolboy becoming a GM, he was asked if views about Moscow as the nerve centre for chess had changed, Anand explained: “I meant access to training purely went by geography then.  India is not a place to play chess now, because the sport has become very competitive. Juniors compete so hard that you should be choosing somewhere else (to come up).”

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On the expectations for the 2018 Chess Olympiad, he said, “The last two Olympiads we have done well. I hope with my participation, we will improve on the result.  The gap between teams has narrowed down a lot. The only thing to do is to go there, prepare yourself, deal with things as they come up.”

He talked about India’s presence in the chess world with pride, saying, “I am proud to have played part, as a catalyst, convinced a lot of people to try out chess. I was the first GM in 1987 and now we have 52 (players with GM rating). The growth has been solid and consistent. I hope the Olympiad (at Serbia) will be a demonstration of that growth. I hope the next development will be some Indian getting into the Candidates.”

Anand, who is getting ready to pull his weight for India at the 2018 Chess Olympiad in Georgia two months later, was speaking on the sidelines of Fincare Small Finance Bank event to name him as a brand ambassador.