India has now been somewhat accustomed to the rise of grandmasters and international masters from their ranks, but chess was never the same in the nation unless a magician called Viswanathan Anand graced us all.
The winner of the World Championship a whopping five times and also the fourth player in Chess history to have crossed the magical ELO rating of 2800, Anand blazed the trail for countless benchmarks, all of which simply seemed like a dream for anyone from the heart of a nation vociferously voicing their support for cricket.
Viswanathan Anand was born on 11th December 1969 to retired general manager of Southern Railways, Krishnamurthy Viswanathan and Sushila who was an influential person in society and also an ardent chess zealot.
He completed his education at Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School and initiated playing chess at the age of six with his mother being his first teacher. However, he got a hang of chess at a more in-depth level while his residence in Manila when his father was deployed there as a consultant by the Philippine National Railways.
He changed the face of chess in India at a very tender age and the way he became the standard-bearer of the sport eventually paved an inspirational path for countless chess players who would later climb up the pecking order in world chess but is still to reach the peak of the planet.
In this story, we would like to share ten facts about Viswanathan Anand with you that are rare to come by and will make you proud of him being the torch-bearer of excellence in one of the most reticent sporting disciplines of the nation.
1. Anand is India’s youngest International Master
At the tender age of just 14 years, Anand savoured his first triumph at the national level that saw him winning the National Sub-Junior Chess Championship in 1983, a year that resonates with Indians because of their World Cup triumph. The following year saw him notching up the prestigious title of an International Master, in the process becoming the youngest India to have achieved this herculean feat. His rise to stardom was unchecked by then and the next two years saw him becoming the national champion on a bounce.
2. He is also India’s first Grandmaster
Now given the 29 grandmasters that India has, spanning from Dibyendu Barua to Koneru Humpy, it was Viswanathan Anand who blazed the trail in this glorious feat.
3. Vishy is the first Indian to become a World Champion and the only Indian to do so until now
Winning the crown of the world is no mere feat and doesn’t come as a cosmic fluke. One needs to toil hard enough to reach here even once and Viswanathan Anand notched up this incredible feat a whopping five times. He won the first FIDE World Championship in 2000 after trumping over Alexei Shirov in the final match.
4. He won the Chess Oscar a record six times and no other Indian has even come close to this feat
Such has been his eminence in the 64 squares that he went on to win the Chess Oscar a record-breaking 6 times. It is an international award that is awarded by Russia to the best chess player of the year. He won it in 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008.
5. He is also an eminent author
We are all acclimatized to the grand chess personality called Viswanathan Anand. However, there is another side of him that we are hardly accustomed to. He authored a book called “My journey of chess” which got the British Chess Federation’s ‘Book of the Year’ award.
6. Anand is also the first recipient of India’s highest sporting award
Anand has had such a scintillating career that awards have been a rife scenario for one of the calmest and reckoning sporting personalities. He received the prestigious award of Padma Shree at only 18 years. He was also the first Indian sports player in history to notch up the Padma Vibhushan award in 2007. He was also the first recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 1991-92 that is India’s highest sporting award.
7. Viswanathan Anand has a planet named in his honour
Such extravagant is this man’s aura that a minor planet which was discovered in 1988 has been denominated after him and goes by the name “(4538) Vishyanand”.
8. Barring chess, he shares a massive interest in astronomy
This man seemed to have disseminated his brilliance in all spheres of life. Keeping aside chess that is his forte, he shares an extremely robust bond with astronomy that was propelled by Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.
9. He was the only sportsperson to have been invited to the dinner with Barack Obama
On November 7, 2010, when the US president, Barack Obama visited India, Anand became the solitary sportsperson to be invited to the dinner that was convened by then Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.
10. The man to have won it all
Going by the words of a Czech-American chess player namely Lubomir Kavalek, Anand is the only chess player to have won the World Chess Championship in both the league and knock-out format that was also followed by a triumph in the rapid tournaments. Also, just in case you should know, Anand is well-versed in French, German and Spanish language.