Friday, May 18, 2007

Anand: The greatest sportsman from India

By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

SIMPLY put, Viswanathan Anand is the greatest sportsman India has ever produced.

He won the Fide world championship in 2000 and is now the highest rated player with an Elo of 2786 though his peak rating was 2803 in April 2006. He is only the fourth player to breach the 2800 mark, the others being Gary Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov.

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He won the Oscar, the most prestigious award in chess, four times in 1997, 1998, 2003 and 2004. Since its inception in 1970, he is the sixth and the only non-white to head the rating list. The others are Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik and Topalov.

He first came to my attention in 1987 when the World Juniors Championship was held in Manila. It was a significant event at that time as one of the favorites was Cebuano Enrico “Econg” Sevillano, a protégée of NM Bombi Aznar. Also participating, if I recall correctly, was Vassily Ivanchuk, who belongs to the list of elite players now.

However, the talk among chess players then was Anand, who already had a big following in Manila as he was a resident there for quite sometime. Even before, he was already known as a fast player and has proven it time and again, that is why he is known as the “lightning kid”. Anand won this tournament though Econg was also seen as a rising star and seemed on his way to becoming a world-class player.

Anand was a former Fide World Champion when he defeated Alexei Shirov in Teheran in 2000, 3.5-0.5. He was also the World Rapid Champion in 2003. He won the title ahead of 12 other players in the world, beating Kramnik in the final.

Anand’s trademark is that he is a very fast player. It is common for him to finish his match in 10-20 minutes when the first time control is two hours. In Rapid control, where the format is 25 minutes plus 10-second increment, he has dominated most tournaments he has entered: Corsica (six years in a row, 1999-2005), Mainz (seven years in a row, 2000-2006), Leon (2005), Eurotel (2002). He also won Melody Amber five times and the rapid portion seven times.

In Melody Amber 2007, he did not lose a match in the rapid section, scoring 8.5/11 for a performance rating of 2939.

Among the awards he has received are: Arjuna award for Outstanding Indian Sportsman in Chess in 1985. Padma Shri, National Citizens Award and Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1987. The inaugural Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, India’s highest sporting honour in 1991 and 1992. British Chess Federation ‘s “Book of the Year” Award in 1998 for his book My Best Games of Chess. Padma Bhushan in 2000. Jameo de Oro, the highest honor given by the Government of Lanzarote in Spain, on April 25, 2001. This award is given only to illustrious personalities with extra ordinary achievements.

Chess Oscar (1997, 1998, 2003 and 2004).

I would say that his greatest victory was the 2007 Morelia/Linares Super Grandmaster tournament when he took an early lead and hung on to it, to not only win, but also to take the No.1 Fide ranking for the first time.

CEPCA NEWS. The Winners in our monthly tournament last Sunday at Stella Maris were: Maggie Dionson followed by Miguel Banabane and Cepca president Mat Matuco for the seniors. Juniors champion was Cy Balbanera and Kiddies champion was Marq Balbona.

The internment of Tito “Bobot” S. Villaluna will be tomorrow in Bacolod City.

Bobot was the 10th president of Cepca (2002-03) and was known for being soft-spoken and was a good organizer. He is the third member to have passed away, the first being lawyer-radio broadcaster Migs Enriquez and my co-founder of the club, the man-of-all-seasons, Sonny Sollano. (

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