“Viswanathan Anand was never defensive but Boris Gelfand had prepared well to take on the challenge. But the way Anand handled the pressure told of his superlative ability,” says Surya Shekhar Ganguly, a prominent member of the World champion's team of seconds. By Amitabha Das Sharma.

Boris Gelfand offered Viswanathan Anand a completely different challenge, says Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly, a prominent member of Anand's team of seconds.

“Gelfand came up with a brilliant repertoire of openings that sparkled of new ideas,” Ganguly said on his return from Moscow, where Anand retained his world crown for the fourth successive time, defeating Gelfand in rapid chess tie-breaker.

“In each of his three title wins, I found Anand rising to the occasion exceedingly well. This is the mark of a champion,” said Ganguly, who has been in Anand's team of seconds for the third successive World Championship. “While he (Anand) faced different opponents, each of his wins was strikingly different. This tells enough about his versatility,” Ganguly added.

“Anand was at his aggressive best against (Vladimir) Kramnik in 2008, while he was brilliant against an aggressive (Veselin) Topalov in 2010. Gelfand came with lines that were not seen before and his openings were based on new ideas,” explained Ganguly while analysing the world champion's last three successful title defences.

“Initially we found it very tough to contain the new approach adopted by Gelfand with white, but in the later stages Anand came to dominate. Gelfand looked apparently defensive but surprised us with his innovative attacks,” Ganguly said.

Before the World Championship the Grandmaster from Kolkata had said that it would be tough beating a player like Gelfand, who is from the classical school. He reiterated his observation saying, “The Israeli Grandmaster rode on the confidence of having won 10 consecutive matches before challenging Anand for the title. It was one of the toughest and extremely close contests I have ever seen.

“Anand was never defensive but Gelfand had prepared well to take on the challenge. But the way Anand handled the pressure speaks of his superlative ability.”

His extraordinary resilience and the ability to adapt to new ideas have helped Anand remain the undisputed monarch of the chess world over the years said Ganguly.

“It is true that chess is getting younger with a lot of youngsters becoming Grandmasters,” said Ganguly, who himself became a Grandmaster at the age of 19. “But Viswanathan Anand is Viswanathan Anand. He is master-class and has proved it by retaining the crown for such an incredible length of time,” he added.

Reacting to the news of a critical comment made by the former World Champion, Garry Kasparov, about Anand's motivation, Ganguly said Anand stayed away from such comments during the championship and never lost focus. “What others were saying about the competitors never bothered us. Criticism is easy, it proves nothing. Better beat Anand and prove it,” Ganguly said in defence of the World champion.

According to Ganguly, the person responsible for helping Anand go from strength to strength is his wife Aruna.

“Aruna is the driving force behind the whole process. She has outstanding management sense and handles all the operations apart from the game deftly,” said Ganguly.

“We could perform well as a team only because of the care she took to keep us comfortable all through the tournament,” he added.

“With the fifth World title Anand has proved he is the greatest sportsman India has ever produced,” said Ganguly before signing off.