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Very, Very Vishy

Vishwanathan Anand on his life beyond the 64 squares


ELDERLY BRITISH professors to keep youngsters who do not have any work, occupied, introduced chess. "Wrong," Vishy deadpans. "I suspect it was the painter who wanted an activity to keep him busy while the paint dried up," says the grandmaster, tongue firmly in cheek.

If one thought chess is a game for those naturally indisposed to excitement, Vishwanathan Anand came across as somebody else.

"Actually, Vishwanathan is my father's name, I am Anand," he chuckles. Anand or not, he surely is witty, very, very Vishy.

Checkmate! Aruna

Aruna, his better half, confirms the grandmaster's true nature. "I was smitten by his sense of humour more than anything else. There's no halo about being a grandmaster. Like anyone else, he is fun loving and loves to laugh, which makes him very special. And I think, he would have been the same even if he did not play chess, or were a cricketer."

And what does Anand think he would have been, if chess had not happened? "Possibly, I would have become a biker. There's a sense of romance about being one." Quintessentially, a romantic who's dabbled in river rafting, jet skiing and scuba diving, Anand loves football other than chess - an interest apparently kicked by his intense love affair with Spain, where he now lives with his wife when he is not in India, or travelling.

"If there's one activity we love doing together, it is travelling," says Aruna as Anand seconds, "Among my immediate non-chess plans, I want to include another 20-25 countries in my list of the 50 nations I have seen so far. And in my chess plans, I want to reach to the 2800-mark, I am short of only 18-points."

Master of pawns

When he started out, he lost his first three games. "But I won the fourth game as the opponent failed to turn up, yet I was over the moon," he reminisces. "If only people stopped giving up the game mid-way, we would have crushed the Russian supremacy, long ago. I am all there for them," says he, - who still takes time out to email answers for wannabes, who bombard his mailbox with queries.

For someone who was earmarked for success by destiny, who's made a habit of winning, has been an institution spawning a whole new generation, inspiring them silently and catalysing their dreams to fall in love with a game, - that otherwise was destined to die with him - Anand is surely a happy man today. But not the kind to be prisoner of his own brilliance, the unassuming world champion adds, "There's a long way to go."

In town to launch the NIIT Mind Champions Academy's 1st School Chess Tournament, Anand said he had made his first logical step forward towards an initiative that was always in his mind. "This is the constituency which will soon change the rules of the game. Just wait and watch," he asserts.

For someone, who - with his incisive insight - can foresee at least four moves his opponent will make on the board - Anand sure knows the future, at least his game.

"I love the King, the way he moves," says the grandmaster when asked about which pawn resembles him closest. Isn't it the same way Anand has moved: As he rose, he took chess along with him.

SOUVIK CHOWDHURY

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