Vishy's December #01 - "Anand Viswanathanovich"
On 11th of December 2019, Vishy Anand will turn 50 years old. As a mark of our gratitude to the immense contribution that this legend has made to the field of chess, we are celebrating Vishy's December! Throughout the month we will have stories, articles, anecdotes and wishes put out on Anand by his friends, competitors, peers and well wishers! We kick off the series with the first one by one of his oldest friends in the world of chess - Ravi Abhyankar. Ravi sent us four short stories of Anand which are interesting, humorous and at the same time thought provoking! In case you have an interesting story or anecdote to share about Vishy Anand, you can do so from the google form link that we have provided at the end of the article or email it to us at email@example.com!
The World Conqueror from India
by Ravi Abhyankar
The year was 1994. Venue the British Embassy in Moscow. Charles Crawford, the first political secretary, (later HM Ambassador in Yugoslavia and Poland) loved chess. He and I played on some weekends. Each year he organised charity events in the embassy. One was a simultaneous chess exhibition between the elite grandmasters and Moscow’s businessmen (the donors). I made British American Tobacco, my employer, pay a significant sum to the charity so that I get the honour of playing against Kasparov or Anand. In embassy’s beautiful central hall, Kasparov played with twenty players simultaneously, and Anand with another twenty at the same time. I faced Kasparov. (Naturally. I could play with Anand at my home).
I am proud to say I lasted forty-five moves and was the last one to lose to Kasparov. I am ashamed to say I had a lost position by around move 25, and just dragged on for another 20 moves before defeat became very obvious. Grandmasters are from another planet. Needless to say, every businessman lost.
On our way back in the car, Anand said to me, “…f5 was a blunder. Until then, your game was looking fine.”
“How… how on earth do you know…” There were no score-sheets.
“Why… I was watching your game. Trompowsky can be quite interesting.”
“But… you were playing with 20 people on the other side of the hall, weren’t you?”
“Yes, but when I came to the centre, I could see from the corner of my eye what was happening on your board.”
Anand then analyzed my entire game going rapidly line after line, telling me where I went wrong, and how I could have improved.
The year was 1996. Venue my Moscow apartment. Kremlin cup (a rapid chess tournament: one hour for each game instead of seven) was held every April. Anand was staying at my house. He had crushed Krasenkow and would meet Sergei Rublevsky, a strong Russian grandmaster, the following day in the quarter-finals. Anand was in the living room - working on his laptop. I was in front of my desktop. I was doing research on Rublevsky using the Russian chess programmes.
“Wow” I screamed. “This guy has never played Ruy Lopez. I can’t find a single game in my database.” (Rublevski appears to be the only grandmaster who never plays this opening.)
“Is that so?” said Anand. “In that case, I’ll play e5 to his e4.”
The following morning, Anand called me to show his laptop screen.
“See this is what I had prepared for the Kasparov match. Didn’t use it then, I can use it today. ”
“What if he does play Ruy Lopez?” I asked.
“No, he won’t. This is what he is likely to play. It’s not enough for a win, if he plays absolutely accurately – if he does, this is the line.”
Anand showed me on his screen the first twenty-two moves of the game that would happen explaining the nuances of the exchange sacrifice.
Two hours later, we were inside the Kremlin theatre. Rublevski began with e4, Anand with e5. Nigel Short was giving a live commentary in English. Short and everyone in the hall were puzzled how Anand took 22 seconds for the entire game, while Rublevski had to spend most of his allotted 25 minutes. Rublevski did play accurately and managed a draw.
Here is the game which Anand played in 22 seconds:
Anand opened with the Queen’s pawn in his white game.
“But you never play d4.” I said that evening.
“No, I don’t. But Rublevskiy has done some great preparation in the d4 openings. I wanted to see what I could learn from him.”
“But you could have lost the game, and draw would have meant a tie break.”
“I knew I could win the tie-break, so I didn’t mind drawing with white. It’s good compensation for learning Rublevsky’s preparation.”
The year was 1997. Editor of a Russian journal called me.
“We want you to take an interview of your friend Viswanathan.” He said, pronouncing each letter with precision.
“Do you mean Anand?”
“Yes, Mr Anand. I was trying to call him by his first name.”
“His first name is Anand.” I said.
“No, no. His first name is Viswanathan. That’s why he is called Vishy. His surname is Anand.” The Russian editor clarified.
[Russians and many in the West find it difficult to understand how South Indians, Tamilians in particular, can live their entire lives without a surname. Anand grew tired of explaining and accepted Vishy as a nickname. My friend Yuri Vasiliev, the leading chess journalist of Russia, in his purist moments has overcome the issue by calling him Anand Viswanathanovich!]
The year was 1998. Venue an Indian restaurant in Moscow: Talk of the Town. Anand was in Moscow to receive his Oscar. (Anand has received Oscar four times.) The lunch was attended by Anand, his wife Aruna, my wife, Corinne – my Canadian friend, and I. The owner of the restaurant was Indian. I guess he had told the waiters about the celebrity. When the young Russian waitress came to serve us, she was extra careful, and as a result poured a whole glass of mango juice on the celebrity’s T-shirt. I took Anand to the bathroom, the restaurant owner provided a new branded T-shirt. The waitress trembled every time she came to serve us.
“I hope he is not too angry.” The restaurant manager took me aside and said.
“I don’t think he is. It was an accident, wasn’t it?” I told him.
After coming out of the restaurant I said to Anand, “that mango juice – the restaurant manager was hoping you were not too upset.”
Anand looked at me with one of his mischievous smiles. “Oh, that,” he said. “On the contrary…this restaurant T-shirt is much better than the one I had.”
About the author
Ravi Abhyankar is one of Anand's oldest friends in the chess circuit. He met Anand before he was a grandmaster and has witnessed Vishy's journey from close quarters. Ravi, now lives in Mumbai, is a chess enthusiast and also a writer. You can know what an excellent orator he is from the speech which he delivered on Anand at the Hridaynath Award ceremony on 12th of April 2016.
Want to share an Anand story this December?
This entire December, ChessBase India is celebrating Vishy Anand's 50th birthday. We would like you to contribute any interesting story that you might have with Anand so that we can publish it on our newspage. In case you would like to share, you can do so from this google form link. Alternatively you can also send it to us via firstname.lastname@example.org