Born Chennai, 11 December 1969
Viswanathan Anand is the world’s most loved Grandmaster. He wears the mantle of the FIDE World Champion without any flashiness, and fame and fortune at a very young age haven’t changed him.
Anand’s mother, Susila taught him Chess, along with the three R’s, when he was just five. Hence, when he called up his mother from Teheran to inform her that he had won the World Championship, on the eve of Christmas 2000, she chided him, “If you’d attacked Alexei Shirov’s queen, you could’ve wrapped up the fourth game faster!” Susila had followed the entire championship round on the net.
Anand’s mother says that he has always had a photographic memory. She recalls how as a child of two he would pick up his favourite records and remember the songs in each to play on his father’s radiogram. He was a brilliant student throughout, and is a B.Com with honours from Loyola College in Chennai.
‘Vishy’ Anand was six years old when he first visited the Tal Chess Club in Chennai. Manuel Aaron, India’s first International Master would regularly play there and would hold classes for the members, basing his lessons on the tactics of the Soviet Grandmasters. Aaron says, Anand would regularly interrupt him and suggest alternative moves. “I looked upon him as a big nuisance because he wouldn’t allow me to complete my lectures.” Anand beat the legendary Aaron when he was only 13.
Anand’s has been a meteoric rise in the extremely competitive world of Chess. In 1984-5, at the age of 15 he became International Master, the youngest Asian to do so. In 1987, he became World Junior Champion, India’s first Grandmaster and the world’s youngest. In 1992, he won the Reggie Emilia tournament in Italy, ahead of Kasparov and Karpov. In 1995 he lost to Kasparov in the World Championship match at New York, but became World No. 2. In 1996, he beat Kasparov in the final of the Credit Suisse Rapid Chess Grand Prix in Geneva. In 1998, he lost to Karpov in the FIDE World Championship final at Basel, Switzerland. Karpov was given the unfair advantage of being seeded straight into the finals. Ever popular with the world press, he won the coveted Chess Oscar twice in succession, in 1998 and 1999. In 2000, he won the FIDE World Cup at Shenyeng, China and at the end of that year he won the FIDE World Championship beating Alexei Shirov.
He has won the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri, perhaps the youngest to do so. He has also been conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
Anand, who lives with his wife Aruna in Spain’s Collado Mediano, is known as the ‘lightning kid’ on the Chess circuit. The standard time allotted to a Chess game is 120 minutes for 40 moves. He makes those moves in just half an hour! This nerve-wracking speed puts a lot of pressure on his opponents. Soviet Grandmaster Tukmanov once said of his lightning fast game, “ People play that fast in Coffee Shops!” He likes action films and loves Rock music.