Unflappable, indefatigable!

“Viswanathan Anand has a phenomenal ability to keep his emotions in check and recover from the most difficult of situations. This is one aspect that has always impressed me about him.”

Dibyendu Barua and Anand seen in action at a Super Grandmaster international chess tournament in New Delhi on December 19, 1990.   -  THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Anand is about a rare level of consistency. When I talk about the three important aspects of chess — opening, middle game and end game — he has an equal grasp on all three of them. There are very few players in the world who have mastered this. And this primarily is the reason why Anand has remained among the best exponents of the game in the last two decades. It speaks volumes about his excellent control over all the tactical and technical aspects of chess, which very few in the world can take to his level.

Another big aspect is his ability to adapt and innovate according to the demands of modern chess. Many people can say he is not the No. 1 in the world (in terms of rating and ranking) any more but one has to appreciate the fact that despite his age he is still beating the best in the business and overcoming the challenges posed by players who are much younger in age. Most of the players who are dominant in world chess now are below 30 years of age and Anand remains the only exception.

Most people have the impression that as chess is basically a cerebral game, one can play it till late in life. It is true that there is no retirement age in chess but one should understand that the performance graph of a player — which is dependant on stamina and mental reflexes — starts going down after a certain age. I must say that Anand has been able to defy all these factors with a rare level of motivation, which has kept him in the league of the best in world chess for such a long time.

Another outstanding factor about his persona is his temperament. He knows the art of keeping cool in all circumstances. He is not disturbed much by failures and is not swayed by success and hence is able keep his game uninfluenced by these factors. He has a phenomenal ability to keep his emotions in check and recover from the most difficult of situations. This is one aspect that has always impressed me about him. This unwavering temperament helps him in having an outstanding grasp of the game and has seen him extending his reign in the top level of world chess for over two decades.

The many comebacks he has made from hopeless situations without getting agitated, is something remarkable about him. This speaks about his unparalleled ability to assess his opponents and deliver the best move according to the situation. It is extremely difficult to beat him and I have seldom seen him hitting poor form. Now that he is back to playing Open tournaments, something which he did 20 years ago, tells enough about his confidence and gumption to take on challenges. Very few players in the elite group of Super Grandmasters, where he currently resides, take the risk of playing open tournaments. This proves that he is a complete player with an uncanny ability to adjust his game according to the merit of the opposition.

He has not only maintained the top-10 position in the last two decades but has become the best in all formats of the game, be it classical, rapid or knock-out. This is something which very few have achieved in the history of chess. Even a legend like (Gary) Kasparov could not be the best in all formats like what Anand has achieved. His versatility and all-round excellence as a chess champion are surely unmatched in the recent era.

(Dibyendu Barua became the second Grandmaster from India after Viswanathan Anand. He is considered the doyen of chess in Eastern India for having contributed to the growth of the game in the region. His home state West Bengal now boasts of seven Grandmasters.)

As told to Amitabha Das Sharma