Deccan Chronicle

Garry too early, Carlsen too late

Deccan Chronicle| t.n.raghu

Published on: November 24, 2013 | Updated on: Invalid date

Viswanathan Anand will forever be a champion for all Indians as no Indian had a greater impact on a sport than the chess wizard.

Chennai: Viswanathan Anand will forever be a champion for all Indians. No Indian had a greater impact on a sport than the chess wizard. He is a credit to chess and India. No sportspersons in this country can claim to be reference points in their respective sport. In chess, though, we would always be talking about periods before and after Anand.

Anand's achievements in the game, which has been his life since he was a school student, are numerous to recap. His association with chess wasn't borne out of a desire to pile on the riches or to set a benchmark for Indians. Anand's love for the game is abiding.
All other things were incidental.

One could say that the defending champion's failure to win a round against Magnus Carlsen in losing his crown by a three-point margin was a fall-out of his love affair with the ancient game.

New challenges in chess fascinate Anand. Nothing should stop the Indian from carrying on as long as his heart says it's right.
Roger Federer says he is now enjoying his tennis than ever before. In an individual sport, Anand has all the right to do a Federer.

Chess isn't football or athletics to make an impulsive decision on the future after a big event.

Anand has already agreed to play some tournaments including the London Classic next month, even though he needs some time to deliberate on his participation in the Candidates in early 2014. Having invested so much time and energy for the Carlsen match, it’s perfectly understandable for Anand to unwind before taking a call.

In an interview to Financial Times before the Chennai match, Anand spoke of the pain a top chess player endures after a loss. "When you lose, you really feel a sense of self you actually feel that you are being taken apart, rather than just your pieces." An analyst compared Anand’s battle with Carlsen to a top heavyweight boxer’s struggles in his twilight years.

Boxing and chess have similarities, although the comparison looks odd at the outset.

To this reporter, the Anand-Carlsen duel was reminiscent of Ali vs Foreman in 1974. In the epic Rumble in the Jungle, the older and slower Ali had the rope to cope with Foreman’s crushing blows. Despite a positive start, Anand couldn’t mount an offensive like the redoubtable American. Foreman lost the plot in Kinshasa but the heir apparent played solid, if not spectacular chess, in Chennai to clinch his maiden title.

Anand candidly admitted in his post-match press conference on Friday that he had been afraid of trying to match Carlsen in long-drawn games. He ultimately failed in his mission. It may be noted that Vladimir Kramnik had said that the Indian was "somewhat intimidated" by Carlsen. By Anand’s own admission, Kramnik wasn’t wrong.

Where does the defeat at the hands of Carlsen leave Anand? As Carlsen said on Friday, Anand’s position in the pantheon of chess greats had been secured even before the big match in Chennai.

It’s, however, undeniable that beating Carlsen would have been the crowning glory in the resplendent career of the five-time champion.

Another failure that would haunt Anand was his inability to beat Garry Kasparov when the Russian was in his prime.

A person who knows the Indian well said Anand should have tried harder to take on Kasparov after his loss on the top floor of the World Trade Center in 1995. "Unfortunately, he avoided him," he added.

Ali would have loved such stern tests, even if his body had disagreed with him. That’s the difference between a great and the greatest.

Anand probably met Kasparov too early and Carlsen too late in his career. The Indian may not like to be reminded of Kasparov once again but the irrepressible Russian had the prescience to say something before the world championship that would have suited Anand’s state of mind against Carlsen: "It’s not about being fearless, it’s about how you cope with fear." Anand tried his best against the Norwegian but it was eventually not enough.

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