Monday, December 31, 2007

Maker of the best moves

Winning the World championship in Mexico ahead of Russia's Vladimir Kramnik has been a crowning glory in chess wizard V Anand's career. But that's not the only qualification for being Times Sport's Sportsperson of the Year.

It has been a stunning year for the 38-year-old. After an utterly forgettable Olympiad last year, Anand has bounced back in superb fashion. He began by winning the Wimbledon of chess - Linares. The Super GM event is not known for strawberry and cream but for the creamy layer of players it provides on the chess board. That performance took Anand to World No 1 for the first time in his career.

This was followed by superb wins over former World champion Veselin Topalov and the ever-improving Levon Aronian in Leon and Mainz, respectively. And then an unbeaten run in Mexico which gave him the undisputed World title.

Along the way, he didn't forget the contributions made by National champion Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Sandipan Chanda and V Saravanan in his preparation. That adds to his greatness because he understands unsung heroes and significance of small contributions.

With the advent of internet, chess is now a game for youngsters. So, what makes Anand tick after all these years - nearly two decades at top-level competition? It's his adaptability to various formats, his feel for the game, the great mix of a genius and hard worker in him and his endeavour to enjoy the struggle and ambition of finding ideas to succeed.

An achievement in the game of chess, which will remain a non-spectator sport, should get a bit more weightage for a variety of reasons.

First of all, in an individual sport there is no place to hide. Moreover, a great performance is not possible in a losing cause. Then, the luck element is at its minimum. In all super tournaments, chess players get equal number of blacks and whites. So advantage of the toss is thrown out of the window. Weather, playing surface, umpiring decisions don't influence the game of chess.

One mistake costs you a game in this 64-square sport. The chance to regroup and comeback is minimum because one game is one process (not a series of the same process like tennis, cricket or other sports).

In other words, no bluff (positive body language and aura) will give you results in chess as this is a complete knowledge sport where the emphasis is more on chess pieces than physical action of the players. The intent and results in other sports can vary. Being a square-specific sport, intent matches with results for almost 100 per cent.

The most demanding aspect of other sports is that you have to take the decision in split second (for example, whether to race the car in the same gear, whether to make bowling changes). The classical variety of chess (three and a half hours per player) don't force you to take split decisions. Rather it encourages you to give off your best. A player can take his own good time, study the position deeply, before making his move.

Anand has found the best possible moves for the large part of year. And that makes him, simply put, a cut above the rest.

The next year would start with a bit of bad news for Anand. For, Kramnik is likely to grab the World No 1 spot in the latest rankings on New Year's Day. But Anand will get plenty of chances to set the record straight when he meets the Russian at Wijk aan Zee and the World Championship return match in Bonn, Germany, this November.

And if Anand manages to retain his title, it would need a miracle to stop him from becoming Times Sport's Sportsperson of the Year for the second year in a row.

Courtesy - @