By all criteria, 2017 was a rosy year for Indian sport, in which stirring individual deeds as well as teamwork made for a record medal haul in a non-Games year. In fact, 2017 was rendered one of India’s best by badminton stars showing their mettle in international competition. The icing on the cake was Viswanathan Anand winning a world title after a hiatus. Maybe it was just the World Rapid Chess Championship, a pop version brainy chess harnesses to market itself to a wider world, but it meant a lot to India’s world champion. At 48, he not only beat someone half his age in the title tiebreaker but, on the way, also beat his nemesis Magnus Carlsen in an intense Nimzo Indian.
Anand hasn’t even qualified for the more traditional and grinding format of Candidates to be held this year. Age can’t be the defining factor in chess although modern champions tend to focus on physical fitness to back up their mental strength with stamina. However, in rapid chess, Anand is always as quick as a computer, his speed of thought legendary in a game of extreme complexities: so much so that he’s rated the speediest grandmaster on the planet. As Artificial Intelligence makes an appearance at higher levels, the technical world of chess is likely to evolve even quicker. But older champions like Anand and Garry Kasparaov can take heart in having played in a less complicated era, when big money was just starting to come in and the world championship was the ultimate. Now, chess federations are dependent on Rapid/Blitz events to even survive.