SPORT

This year I silenced my critics: Anand

Rakesh Rao

NEW DELHI: For more than a decade, Viswanathan Anand has remained an epitome of consistency. Without doubt, Anand's level of performance, motivation and the quality of results in this period place him in a different league.

As a part of the natural progression, umpteen awards, recognition and accolades have followed the World's second strongest chess player. This week, the announcement of a fourth Chess Oscar for Anand only underscores his class, form and worth in the eyes of the chess fraternity.

Pleased

Winner in 1997, 1998 and 2003, Anand was particularly pleased on retaining the Oscar mainly because he `played the best in 2004.'

Sharing his thoughts with The Hindu on Friday, Anand said, "This year, I silenced all the critics who thought that my rapid chess prowess clearly exceeded my classical chess skills. For me, in the end, it is chess. The time-control only changes the speed. Again, winning by such a huge margin reflects my strength on the chessboard. Now I am the only non-Russian to win the award four times. In chess, that means a lot."

Last year, Anand won the season-opener Corus tournament at Wijk Aan Zee, the rapid title at the Amber tournament in Monaco, Mainz Classic, Corsica Masters and in between added the prestigious Dortmund crown in classical chess before rounding off the year with a perfect score in Estonia.

Significant

Equally significant was Anand's return to the Chess Olympiad after 12 years. His unbeaten performance on the top board gave India the sixth place, its best ever finish.

Amongst the dominating performances of the year, Anand chose victories over three Russians as some of his better games in the classical version of the game.

"I played some very nice games. For instance, the one against (Evgeny) Bareev in Corus and my second-round win against (Peter) Svidler at Dortmund. In the Olympiad, too, my game against (Alexander) Morozevich was a sweet revenge for Monaco."

Asked about his `pick' in rapid chess, where his record is the best in the world, Anand said, "I played some nice games against (Alexie) Shirov but winning 5/5 in Estonia (in the year's last tournament appearance) was like a script sure to win an Oscar."

The first Oscar

Remembering his earlier Oscar-winning experiences, "the one in 1997 was my first Oscar and obviously I was elated. To be a non-Soviet and to win it made me feel real good. To win the Oscar two times in a row (in 1998) felt excellent. The second time over, you can't feel as excited as the first time. But when you see a large number of Soviet chess journalists putting aside national patriotism or favouritism and only voting a player based on his performance made me feel very special.

"In 2003, the Oscar felt as good as the first one. In 2001 my chess was at a nadir. In 2002, there was one quality of mine that started being noticed: my drive to fight back. I did that excellently in Mainz Chess Classic (against Judit Polgar), the World Cup and in Corsica Masters where I fought back to win. I think 2002 would count as one of my best years, too," said Anand.

Recommended for you