Viswanathan Anand, FIDE World Chess Champion, returned here to a tumultuous welcome at the Anna International Terminal in the late hours of Sunday. The bustle and din there gave way to scenes of spontaneous celebrations as airport personnel and passengers joined the well-wishers in according the four-time World Champion a warm welcome.
Among the first to greet the champion were his parents, Susheela and Viswanathan.
Anand refused to rate the latest title-defending win over Bulgarian Veselin Topalov above his three other title triumphs. “The latest is always the most fresh in one's mind. Beyond that, I would not consider this more special than the rest,” he said.
Anand retained the World Chess Championship on May 11, defeating Topalov by a score of 6.5-5.5 in Sofia. The decisive win came in the 12th game of the match. Making light of a loss in the first game that came on the back of a 40-hour bus journey to Sofia that was occasioned by the cancellation of air traffic all over Europe, Anand raced to a one-point lead at the end of the fourth round. Though Topalov stretched Anand all the way to the 12th game, the Indian triumphed with black pieces in the final encounter to defend his title.
Topalov admitted that he was desperate for a win in the last game as Anand's fearsome reputation in the rapid games — which would decide the title if the scores were tied at the end of the series of classical games — would have given him a distinct edge. As it happened, the Bulgarian blundered in going for a win, to let Anand pull the rug from under his feet.
Much was made of the difference in age between the champion and the challenger before the series, but Anand outlasted Topalov, 35, over several marathon encounters that went beyond five hours.
In good humour after his home-coming from Frankfurt, Anand said: “Oh this one [compared to his gruelling bus ride to Sophia] was nothing at all. I slept through it.”