NEW DELHI: He may have won the World Championship twice, but chess genius Viswanathan Anand has got used to being greeted as the Grand Master even today.
Yet, in the period between his two world titles in 2000 and this year, Anand has created a massive wave through his pet project, the NIIT Mind Champions Academy that was set in motion in 2002.
Congratulating the trio of Shikhar Pandey, Ajay Lilha and Ashish Lilha of the Sun Beam School, Varanasi, which won the trophy in the Masters event, in a competition spread over 3500 schools across 22 States in the country,
Anand said that he was overjoyed with the idea of the mind champions benefiting as many as 150,000 students.
“I am glad that what started as a little dream has become a national movement. In the next five years, I hope it becomes the national icon,” said Anand, even as he fondly wished that his birth place, Mayiladuthurai, would have one such academy soon.
“I congratulate the visionary Principals. I also congratulate the other three teams (DAV Public School, Hyderabad, Delhi Public School, Kolkata, Vivek Vidyalaya, Mumbai) that made the Masters,” he said.
As expected, he was quickly asked about the impending world championship challenge match against Vladimir Kramnik in October 2008.
Anand said that it was too early to think about it and that he had already put his blinkers on for the first three tournaments of the year till March.
Anand had met the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the morning to present his world championship medal and said that he had talked about the progress of the Mind Champions project to him, among other things.
Though quite pleased with the overall growth of the game in the country, the first Grand Master of India who has inspired 16 more to reach the status said that children should enjoy the game and use it as a tool to sharpen their career rather than put unnecessary pressure on themselves.
The Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Mani Shankar Aiyar, who could not greet the world champion on two earlier occasions because of unavoidable circumstances, said that he was proud that the world champion came from his constituency, Mayiladuthurai.
“It is more than appropriate that I meet him on this platform. There can be many Grand Masters who live in their own world. It is a rare Grand Master who carries forward what inspired him to the children all over the country.
I hope Anand’s example is emulated by others so that we can break out of the vicious cycle of winning few international medals,” said the sports minister.
The Chairman of NIIT, Rajendra Pawar, had initiated the project, impressed by the idea of using chess as a tool for academic excellence and cutting down on the crime rate.
The larger objective was to use the academy as the gymnasium of the mind and help India emerge as a leader in global economy, rather than be content making chess champions, he said.