The five-time Champion wants more
There are already irrefutable arguments which confirm that Viswanathan Anand is one of the best chess players of all time: five-time world champion in all possible formats (knockout, tournament and long duels). and his career is not over yet: at age 42 (and after becoming a first-time dad in 2011) he has just recaptured the throne and is looking for more victories. One of the few that elude him is a win at the Masters Final.
Anand works very hard on his technique, between six and nine hours a day. He probably lacks that ‘killer instinct’ that distinguishes Fisher, Karpov and Kasparov, but he looks after his physique as much as or even more than they do. “Yes, years ago I realized that it was important. I am convinced that my two hours a day at the gym when I am at home are essential in order to withstand the wear and tear of the tournaments”, he explains in perfect Spanish. As for psychological balance, apart from his family and Chess he is also passionate about Astronomy and Economy.
The amazing speed of his reflexes, which allows for a display of brilliant moves in tenths of a second, frustrated his opponents since his first appearance at Linares in 1991 where an entire match took him scarcely half an hour. “The thing is, if I think, I don’t play well”, was his peculiar explanation. Today Anand maintains the same humility he had back then and is highly regarded in India, where in 2000 he was named Sportsman of the Millennium by popular vote and paraded in a horse-drawn carriage, with Chennai’s (formerly Madras) traffic cut off by a crowd which enthusiastically mobbed him. He once underwent a test to show that the right side of his brain, the side that controls intuition, is that of a genius, to which he replied, “I couldn’t care less about my mindpower”.
After his great victories, he always first thanks his wife, Aruna, who he says “always takes perfect care of a thousand details”, and next he thanks his main trainer, Peter Heine Nielsen from Denmark. “I owe many of my World Championship victories largely to his magnificent work”. Karpov and Kasparov were never that generous to the people who aided them.
After toppling Topalov at the Sofia championship in 2010, Anand made it clear that he was still hungry for success saying, “The day you get used to victory is the end. I am as happy now as the first time, especially because this has been my most difficult victory, in which I suffered until the end. I remain with the ambition and especially the will to keep enjoying chess. Logically, winning is a big part of that, and I suppose that one day it will end. Nevertheless, age 40 is not a special number for me; it is simply the one that comes after 39. My professional attitude for the next two years is the same one that I had before my duel with Topalov”.
Subsequent events have been consistent with these words, although not without suffering. For Anand it had to come down to quick games (after the 6-6 of the twelve assaults at normal speed) to defend his title against the very tough Israeli Boris Guelfand at Moscow’s Tretiákov Museum this spring. He is already 42 years old but his opinion has not changed. “I see no reason to retire now,” he says.
Anand will continue to stir up excitement in a country with 1.1 billion inhabitants. “There are already more than 700,000 Indians receiving chess classes; of those, 200,000 are enrolled in my World Champion’s Academy. I hope to contribute to increasing that number”.
Viswanathan Anand earned an automatic spot in the Grand Slam Masters Final when he became World Champion this year, for the fifth time.