Champion of Champions Print
Wednesday, 24 December 2008 21:16

Champion of Champions

The third world chess title placed Anand among the legendary names of the game and made even his detractors accept him as the universal champion, writes Rakesh Rao.

After Abhinav Bindra made history by becoming the first Indian to win the individual Olympic gold, in Beijing, Viswanathan Anand’s triumph over Vladimir Kramnik for a third world chess title is clearly the biggest sporting achievement by an Indian in any individual discipline this year.

In a year that also saw boxer M. C. Mary Kom win a fourth world title, cueist Pankaj Advani retain his world billiards crown, golfer Jeev Milkha Singh and shuttler Saina Nehwal attain their career-high world rankings, the feats of the bespectacled duo of Abhinav and Anand clearly stand out.

A third title for Anand assumed added significance since he proved himself in the time-honoured match-play format. The convincing 6.5-4.5 victory with a game to spare in the 12-game match-play against Kramnik, who was undefeated in matches since dethroning Garry Kasparov in 2000, helped Anand to add another first to his list of unparalleled achievements.

Before winning this title in Bonn, Anand had won every single worthy title, in all-time formats, the sport had offered. In an international career spanning well over two decades, the only distinction that eluded Anand was a victory in match-play format for the world title.

By winning the “Battle of Bonn”, Anand became the first player to win the world title in three formats. In 2000, Anand was the strongest in the 128-player knockout field. In 2007, he topped an eight-player double round-robin competition.

Since the World Chess Federation (FIDE) is unlikely to revert to these two formats, Anand may well be remembered as the only player in chess history to win in three different formats.

Anand knew he was not the favourite since his match-play record was far from impressive. On the other hand, Kramnik’s eight-year unbeaten streak in the classical match-format gave him the edge.

Kramnik’s pre-match preparations were believed to be better than Anand’s since the Russian had outplayed a previously unbeaten Kasparov (in 2000), Peter Leko (2004) and Veselin Topalov (2006). Then again Anand finished last in the Chess Grand Slam finals at Bilbao in the days leading to the clash in Bonn.

Further, two days before the 12-game match, Kramnik revealed his team of ‘seconds’ (a chess equivalent of trainers as part of the support staff) that included Leko. This was seen as a slight setback for Anand since the Hungarian is known to be his good friend. In fact, Leko was Anand’s ‘second’ in the world title clash against Anatoly Karpov a decade ago.

Here is the full article.

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