Viswanathan Anand: My first World title mirrored ancient paths of chess

Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Hou Yifan, Levon Aronian, along with a host of other officials, talk the rise of chess amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand with his wife, Aruna.   -  FILE PHOTO/ RAJEEV BHATT

 

Chess has actually grown in popularity during the coronavirus crisis that has crippled the world for the past four months. Its adaptability to the online platform has certainly helped.

On Monday, the importance of chess was acknowledged in no uncertain terms by the United Nations as well. Some of the legends of chess and representatives from the UN exchanged ideas online on the occasion of the International Chess Day (July 20).

World champions Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik and Hou Yifan, World No. 7 Levon Aronian, Mehr Margaryan, Permanent Representative of Armenia at the UN, Melissa Ruth Fleming, UN Under Secretary General for Global Communications, FIDE (world chess governing body) president Arkady Dvorkovich and vice president Nigel Short, who is also a strong Grandmaster, were the speakers.

Anand, who had logged in from his home in Chennai, was asked to trace the history of chess, which was fitting given that it had originated in India. The genial genius not only did that, but connected the history to his first World title in 2000.

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“When I won in Iran, my journey mirrored the ancient paths of chess,” he said. “I was living in Spain at that time. The two venues of the championship were New Delhi and Tehran. These were the first three countries where chess seems to have played first.”

He said he was happy that so many people had discovered chess during the pandemic. “This has been a good chance for chess to spread,” he said.

Yifan, the world’s best female player, said chess could promote peace. “Only sport, especially chess, could bring so many people together in a peaceful way,” she said.

Aronian said chess could help one process information in a big way. “My database in 15 million games of chess,” he said.

Kramnik spoke about how chess improved children in their academics. “The scientific studies have proved that,” he said.

Short spoke of promoting chess in countries were the game wasn’t that popular. “I spoke to three people at a meeting in Grenada who were running chess clubs though their country had no organisation at the time,” he said. “There is far more activity in chess than people imagine.”

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