When it comes to sport in India, the word consistency has applied to but a few. Sporting talent has seen but not always conquered, other times it was the potential not living up to expectation. India has held its breath, waiting patiently for those few who can take our collective breath away. But in the last couple of decades, there is one sportsman who has broken free of this mold. He has been consistent, sometimes boringly so. He is a rare case of potential living up to and even exceeding expectation. His feats may not take your breath away but take a long look at his illustrious career and it is breathtaking. Vishwanathan Anand is genius personified.
At 48, Anand continues to push the envelope and his penchant for reinvention would put a lucha libre to shame. Towards the start of 2017, many were stating that age has finally caught up with the Tiger from Madras. Towards the end of a tough year, Anand rose from the ashes and completed a stunning win in the Apex Convention Center in Riyadh and became World Rapid Chess Champion for the second time in his career. Throughout his career, Anand has been revered as someone who rattles off moves quickly and in this format, he has had a vice-like grip for years.
But since 2012, Anand’s performances in the shorter format have not been that great or many. This is precisely why last year’s triumph in the World Championship and this week’s win in the Tal Memorial are significant events in the career of an athlete who has already scaled Caïssa’s peak on more than one occasion. To put things into perspective, barring the late, great Viktor Korchnoi and Mikhail Botvinnik – two giants of the game – few players have contested World Championships into their late 40’s and play Chess at the level Anand is able to play. Anand has fought against the K’s – Karpov, Kasparov, and Kramnik, against the next generation, led by Carlsen and Aronian, and now he is even fighting against age.
And he is winning more often than not. So what has Mr. Consistent done to keep himself in the game for this long? To begin with Anand has always had a natural talent for the game. On pure talent alone, Vishy is right up there with the best in the history of this ancient sport, alongside the Cuban maestro Jose Raul Capablanca and the Latvian wizard Mikhail Tal. Anand’s game has been inundated with tactical strokes and no one can go through his games and say that he doesn’t play interesting Chess, and here I mean from a layman’s point of view. But as time has ticked, Anand has also realized that alongside talent, he needs to take care of his body and remain fit, else fall by the wayside like so many of his contemporaries and become irrelevant. It this attitude that shines through in what may be Anand’s latest reinvention. To say that he would like another crack at Carlsen’s crown is stating the obvious but for now, we should all feel privileged that we are seeing a rare sporting talent who is hell-bent on going out on his own terms.
After a brief dip, the Tiger from Madras is on the prowl again and if performances in the last few months have spelled out anything, it is this: Anand has been the one constant in the ever-changing dynamic of Indian sport in the last 30 years.
The author, Sanjeev Anand is Country Head – Commercial Banking and in-charge of Sports Vertical, IndusInd Bank and an avid sports enthusiast.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
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The CSR Journal Team