x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Vishwanathan Anand set up the moves for Indian chess

Chess had a following even before Anand came along, but organised structures and competition mainly arrived on the back of his success.

India's Vishwanathan Anand plays against Israel's Boris Gelfand in Moscow.
India's Vishwanathan Anand plays against Israel's Boris Gelfand in Moscow.

Chess, like sporting pursuits associated with strength and athleticism, is a young person's game. Garry Kasparov, considered by many to be the greatest grandmaster of all, was 37 when Vladimir Kramnik dethroned him in 2000.

Kasparov was 22 when he won the world title from Anatoly Karpov.

Karpov had been the champion for 10 years and was 34 when he lost his crown. By those standards, Viswanathan Anand, who became world champion for the fifth time a couple of days ago, is something of an anomaly. Anand will turn 43 this year, and he became the champion only at the age of 37.

Anand picked up the game while a child and became a grandmaster when just 19. The impact that he had on Indian chess cannot be overestimated enough.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a swathe of tournaments held in India, with thousands of kids inspired to take part by dreams of becoming the next Anand.

Chess had a following even before he came along, but organised structures and competition mainly arrived on the back of his success.

Having won the FIDE title in 2000, Anand had to wait until 2007, when he saw off the challenge of Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand to be recognised as a genuine champion.

Two other Indians, Krishnan Sasikiran (at No 26) and P Harikrishna (No 56) are now ranked in the top 100 (Koneru Humpy sits fourth in the women's rankings) and it won't be long before the true impact of his achievements becomes apparent on the global stage.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE & Dileep Premachandran @SpiceBoxofEarth