Why is Viswanathan Anand a chess legend?

Having played chess from the age of five, Viswanathan Anand has almost single-handedly propelled India to the top of the chess world.

Updated: November 22, 2013 21:34 IST
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Viswanathan Anand has been the undisputed world chess champion since 2007 and has stamped his class over experienced as well as young and promising opponents. On Friday, the Indian Grandmaster was finally dethroned from his pedestal by Norway's Magnus Carlsen. Anand though does leave behind an inerasable mark, one he has carved with extreme precision over the years.

Having played chess from the age of five, Anand has almost single-handedly propelled India to the top of the chess world. Such has been his dominance that he became the first sportsperson to be honoured with the Padma Vibhushan in 2007- India's second highest civilian award. The 43-year-old though had been showing prodigal prowess for years by then.

Born to Tamil parents in 1969, Anand's interest in chess was spotted and nurtured by his mother. In his own words, Anand has credited her for helping him develop his game. "I started when I was six. My mother taught me how to play. In fact, my mother used to do a lot for my chess. Of course, she and her family used to play some chess and had some background in the game," he was once quoted as saying.

Anand's journey in chess, from a six-year-old to an adolescent was meteoric. By 14, he had won several national level championships and a year later - in 1984 - became the youngest Indian to win world junior chess championship. At just 18, Anand became the country's first Grandmaster and was awarded Padma Shri - India's fourth highest civilian award.

Since then, there has been no looking back for him. If winning the world chess championship five times - 2000, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012 - wasn't enough, Anand even became one of only six ever to break the 2800 mark on the FIDE rating list.

Rivals have come and they have been made to surrender but what has defined Anand is his genial nature and non-controversial image over close to three decades of playing chess at the international level. Awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 1991, there have also been strong voice in favour of him being conferred with the Bharat Ratna. To Anand though, chess remains his most passionate gift.

Lesser-known facts about Viswanathan Anand:

* Is married to Aruna Anand and have a son named Akhil, who was born in 2011.
* Was the only sportsperson to be invited to a dinner hosted by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for US President Barack Obama in 2010.
* His family had briefly moved to The Philippines when he was a child. His mother used to jot down chess puzzles shown on TV while Anand was still in school and the two used to solve them in the evening.
* Has a sister who is elder to him by 11 years and a brother who is elder by 13.
* Anand has won the Chess Oscar six times - 1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008. It is an award given to the year's best player who is chosen after a worldwide poll of top chess critics, writers and journalists.
* Anand joined Olympic Gold Quest in 2010 - a foundation to help Indian athletes prepare for international events.

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