New Delhi: When Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand put an incredible five World titles to his name yesterday, Sachin Tendulkar doffed his cap. There is no doubt that these two young men are way ahead of the rest in the race for the title of India's best sportsmen ever, and at this moment, many proud fans say its Vishy.
In beating Boris Gelfand in a tie-breaker at the World Chess Championship in Moscow, Anand defended his world chess title and won his fifth. After defeating the emotive and brooding Gelfand of Israel, Anand told reporters yesterday he had just had one very lucky escape. "I simply hung on for dear life," the 42-year-old said softly after winning an astonishingly tense shootout that organisers said was witnessed by tens of millions of the brain sport's enthusiasts on the Internet.
Facing criticism of being neither as sharp nor as inventive as in his mercurial youth, Anand showed the poise of a legend in his third title defence, his claim of being the flagbearer of the first post-Garry Kasparov generation secured.
His status in India, meanwhile, showed with the jostling posse of reporters who followed him to Moscow, hanging on to his every word and reporting it in breathless dispatches, the quiet man's daily habits laid out before the nation.
"Anand is, quite simply, the greatest sportsman India has ever produced," said Olympic Gold Quest, a foundation started in 2001 to support the country's top stars.
Like many of the mysterious sport's most gifted, Anand showed remarkable promise at an early age. But unlike most who often give up after their first major challenge, he persevered and won until there was no one else left to beat.
Born on December 11, 1969 to Viswanathan and Susheela, Anand was highly influenced by his mother, who played a vital role in focusing his interest towards chess as well as shaping his career in this sport.
She taught him the nuances of the game and sharpened his mind by making him solve puzzles. Anand has two siblings - a brother and a sister.
He studied at the prestigious Don Bosco, Chennai and holds a degree in commerce from Loyola College. Anand loves swimming, reading and music.
His wife Aruna, is his pillar of strength. They got married in 1996. Aruna, a post-graduate in Public Relations, looks after Anand's off-the-chessboard assignments.
In 1995, Anand shifted base to Spain, where he lives in Collado Mediano, a quiet Madrid suburb. Anand says that he loves the place and that Spain reminds him of 'home'. In 2001, Spain honoured him with 'Jameo De Oro', one of Spain's highest civilian awards for foreigners.
Anand first tasted success at the age of 14 in 1983-84, when he set a new record by scoring 9/9 points. Next year, he earned the title of International Master and he was the youngest Asian to have ever received that title. In 1985, he was given the Arjuna Award for the most outstanding Indian sportsman of the year.
After taking the junior circuit by storm, Anand soon graduated to the next level. In 1987, he became India's first Grandmaster and the youngest Grandmaster in the World at that time.
At the young age of 18, the Government of India awarded him the Padma Sri.
The 1990s were extremely successful for Anand and he made his mark in the game. He became the first Indian to qualify for Candidates Matches leading up to the World Championships in 1990.
In 1991, Anand won his first major International Chess Tournament, finishing ahead of world champion Garry Kasparov and former world champion Anatoly Karpov.
In 1991-92, he became the first recipient of India's highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
Winning the Alekhine Memorial chess tournament in 1992 and the PCA Interzonal title, the strongest Swiss tournament in 1993, are some of his other major achievements in the early nineties.
In 1994-95, 'Vishy', as his friends and family call him, dominated the qualifying cycles for the FIDE and PCA world championships. In 1997 and 1998 consecutively, Anand won the Chess Oscar, an award given to the best chess player of the year chosen by leading chess critics, writers, and journalists conducted by the Russian chess magazine 64. He won the award again in 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008.
In 1996, he won the prestigious Dortmund Tournament jointly with Valdimir Kramnik. In the same year he beat world champion Garry Kasparov in the Swiss rapid Grand Prix final to win the title.
In 1998, Anand won Torneo International De Ajedrez, Linares, the strongest tournament in the history of chess and moved to World No. 2 position. This year, he was also given the Sportstar Millennium Award, from India's premier Sports magazine for 'The Sportsperson of the Millennium'.
The new millennium heralded a series of bigger achievements. After a string of victories, came the bigger one when he won the FIDE World Championships
by beating Alexei Shirov in the Final.
Anand, who was awarded with the Padma Bhushan award, successfully defended his World Cup title in 2002.
In 2007, Anand became the World Champion for the second time. He won the double round-robin tournament with a final score of 9 out of 14 points, a full point ahead of joint second place finishers Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand. Earlier that year, Anand took an early lead at Morelia-Linares Super Grandmaster Chess Tournament and stayed there right up to a final draw with Vassily Ivanchuk. He took the title at Linares for the first time since 1998 and also took the FIDE World No.1 Ranking for the very first time ever.
In 2008, he won three big events. He defended his Morelia Linares title by defeating Topalov. His next win came in 13th Grenkeleasing Rapid World Chess Championship at Mainz where he beat Magnus Carslen. He has won the Mainz Tournament 11 times in its 13 years of existence and the last 9 times in a row. But the biggest one was towards the end of the year when he defeated rival Kramnik 6.5-4.5 in a match to retain the unified World Champion Title and achieve it in an unprecedented third different format.
In 2008 the Government of India awarded him the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award, for his World Championship Title and No.1 World Ranking.
Story first published on: Thursday, 31 May 2012 11:01 IST