Viswanathan Anand showed tremendous character in winning his fourth world chess crown in a decade. The 40-year-old Indian genius won the most intense battle of his career against Bulgarian challenger Veselin Topalov in Sofia, significantly scoring his edge-of-the-seat victory with black pieces in the 12th and final game of the championship match. This sealed Anand's place in chess history — as the greatest non-Russian champion, after the legendary Bobby Fischer, ever to play the game. For one whose three previous world titles came in different formats, Tuesday's triumph only reinforced the belief that his universal style of play remains the most effective against opponents of different temperament and approach. In a glittering international career spanning more than two decades, Anand has evolved from a bright, talented boy to a battle-scarred veteran who can quickly adapt himself to any challenge and challengers. If his maiden world title in 2000 took the monkey off his back after he destroyed Spain's Alexei Shirov in one of the shortest title-clashes, the triumph in a classy eight-man field in 2007 underlined his determination to end a seven-year wait and regain the title. The purists, mostly from the erstwhile Soviet Union, believed that the true sign of a world chess champion was his ability to win a title match, comprising a stipulated number of games. In 2008, Anand won their admiration by beating a previously unbeaten Russian, Vladimir Kramnik, with a game to spare.
Anand's latest triumph should rate a notch higher considering the challenges he had to overcome on and off the board before and during the match. Stranded at the Frankfurt airport following the cancellation of flights after volcanic ash descended over Europe, he travelled 40 hours by road to reach Sofia. After the schedule of games was pushed back merely by a day, he was off to the worst possible start, losing the opener rather listlessly. The setback steeled his resolve; he hit back in the second game and took the lead after a majestic victory in the fourth. Thereafter, both players had their chances in turn but it was Topalov who managed to capitalise on the champion's late error in the eighth game to draw level. Anand could have taken the lead again but missed a winning continuation in the drawn-out ninth game. After two more closely fought draws, the challenger pressed a little too hard with white pieces in the final game and the champion was quick to make him pay. As is his wont, Anand valued the “relief” of keeping the title more than the €1.2 million that came with it. A true world champion who has made it completely on his own, he is the pride of India.