Saluting the champ

Amit Varma on Vishy Anand, and all that he means to chess, to India. Must read.

16 thoughts on “Saluting the champ

  1. Prem, thanks for the patient response to my rather flippant comment.

    You must bear in mind that Anand has not been crowned the world champion now. That happened last year ( or, it can be argued, even earlier). This time he has retained the crown. Amit’s article on Anand blazing a lonely trail is old hat. To a small degree, it may have been relevant last year . Not this time.

    Secondly, I still maintain that Amit has rambled on in his article. The preamble could have been condensed to a single para of 3-4 sentences. Malcolm Gladwell’s style of starting out with longish anecdotes to grab the reader’s attention may work well for Malcolm. Not for Amit.

    I used to love Amit’s style as a blogger. This short, wham-bham, T-20 format suited his style. A few links embellished with a few WTF comments from him made for lively reading. When he started to write his columns in Mint ( the ODI format, to extend the cricketing metaphor), I found his writing too labored and tiring. About his foray into Test cricket ( his novel) the less said the better.

    To paraphrase Groucho, ‘ These are my views. If you don’t like them, well, I have others”.

    • Raj, the problem isn’t with Amit, I’m guessing, it’s with you. I’m guessing you like only T20 cricket, and not ODIs or Tests, to use your analogy. How many novels have you read this year? How many columnists do you routinely follow?

      Speaking for myself, I love Amit’s columns, and am very happy that he has started writing them again. It is with good reason that he won the Bastiat Prize in 2007, and it was a great loss for his readers when he stopped writing columns. He has resumed with a bang, and his piece on Anand is beautiful exactly because of its personal tone, and the way he gives context to Anand’s achievements. That is the charm of it, and it certainly touched me.

      I loved his novel also, much more than his blog. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

  2. Amit Varma’s claim that Anand’s success would lead to other’s emulating/replicating his achievements turns to be unsupported by facts. Anand has been in the global top 3 in chess and winning tournaments and contesting for WCC crown for over 15 years. And we haven’t seen anyone in the top 20-25 even now. Which also means that internet access and chess software helps a lot but you also need a good competitive structure and organization which India lacks.

    • Kalyan: I am slightly older than Anand. During my younger days, we had only one Manuel Aaron, who was worthy of anything in Chess in India (and I am talking of late 70’s and early to mid 80’s). And Aaron was not even a Grandmaster, just an IM. Barua and Anand were the first of the GM’s. During 90’s the Chess Federation of India took lot of initiative, which with Anands growth, led to many many Chess players taking up the game in a big way. As of May 2010, there are 21 Male Grand Masters and 12 Women Grand Masters – a phenomenal Achievement. Besides we have currently 61 male IM’s and 17 women IM’s. And all this in a space of 2 decades. We already have a 4 times world champion, in a sport that was dominated by Russians for ages. Chess is not a spectator sport and hence it is difficult to get sponsors in a big way. I am sure, Anand’s successes will slowly but surely push Indian Chess forward. Rome was not built in a day after all.

  3. Regarding the postponement of the world championship by a day due to Anand’s late arrival, it is shocking to read the statement ( ) and language from the Bulgarian chess federation justifying rejection of Anand’s request for a 3 day delay.
    Looks like they were hoping/expecting that Anand would not turn up and Topalov would win by default.

  4. Prem, it is an interesting article, but certainly is not one on ‘Vishy Anand and all that he means to chess’. The first 60% of the article is on Amit himself and his struggles as a chess player, Then Vishy Anand makes a fleeting, guest appearance(5%). The other 35% is a plug for a friend, Devangshu.

    • I don’t see it quite in the same light. Amit — or I, or anyone else at all — could have written 1000 words about what a great champion Anand is, about his early fiasco at the hands of Kasparov, how that made him a stronger person and player, how he came back and successively beat the best players of the age to reign supreme for the best part of a decade.

      To what point, though? All of that is the stuff of contemporary history. There is another way of looking at achievement — through a very personal frame. Amit wrote as he did because he has first hand experience of what a chess player goes through in this country. The point of the piece is to set Anand’s achievements against the backdrop of chess culture in this country. For me, it magnifies the Anand magic to know this is the unfertile soil he came from, it makes my awe all the greater. As for DD — what “plug”? The piece doesn’t suggest you follow him, or seek him out for stock market tips, or whatever. It quotes him on the state of chess in India, at the point in time when Anand was learning and becoming good at the game. And who better to ask that question to than DD, who besides being an excellent player in his own right, is one of the very few in India who can claim to have defeated Anand in match play?

      Tell you what — if I had Amit’s background in competitive chess at any level, I’d have shaped my tribute in this fashion. Come to think of it, I have in the past written on the difficulties of the contemporary cricketer, based on my experiences in school, collegiate and league cricket.

      • Prem:

        Geez, the the trouble you take to explain yourself – you must enjoy this, I would presume.

        A tribute to Anand need not be ‘about’ Anand, as Mr. Varma eloquently demonstrates.

        However, I am not as sanguine as Mr. Varma that this achievement would throw up more champions from this country. For that to happen, we would need a support system that maximizes the innate talent that is around. Most kids who are good in chess, who also happen to be geeky, do not pursue the game at a professional level because of two reasons. One, there are other avenues which in our society is considered more secure, and they are easy to fit there. Second, this I think is a cultural thing, we do not seem to produce people who can consistantly labor and work at their profession (such as sports) which require extra dedication without the promise of ‘success’. People like Anand are the exception, and hence justified of all the adulation.


        • I treat readers as partners in a dialog, yes, so I end up responding. Perhaps stupid, but I’ve been this way for a lifetime, too late to change.

          AS to the other, sure, that is valid — Amit sees a rosy future, you don’t.

    • Prem, don’t get me wrong here…i have to go with Raj the article has an undertone suggesting ” what a good chess player i was” and how because of the system I could not achieve “greatness”…and that is a problem with Amit Verma..i have nothing personal against him but feel he is hugely over rated; i made the mistake of reading his book; in the book there are innumerable references to how great a blog writer Amit Verma is ;what wonderful blogs he writes etc etc;which is extremely irritating;i occasionally go on yorker your chat show; and whenever Mr Verma is around he turns it into a discussion on All time world 11; All time india 11; which is fine but Mr Verma uses the opportunity to show off his knowledge by naming ” greats” from the 20’s and 30’s; we know Mr Verma has read Mehir Bose; Ramchandra Guha and his wisden almanacks ; but why the show off; also in all his articles Mr Verma will refer to some hifi philosophical jargon which is not really related to the column; case in point in this article he talks about his ‘knowledge’ of the the Orangutan opening.In his previous one he talked about Sturgeon’s Law,book by Cass Sunstein. I know Mr Verma you are extremely well read but please spare showing it off on us; I normally don’t react on blogs on sumthing I don’t like…but just couldnot resist today; btw the inagural yahoo opinion columns have been brilliant; with the exception of Mr Verma

      • I do agree that in both the Yahoo columns, Amit has been disappointing and showing off with gratuitous references and boasting. Haven’t ever read his blog, so can’t say if all that reputation is deserved or not.

    • Well then don’t read it 🙂

      Plenty of others who find chess enjoyable.

      Nothing personal – take it easy.

  5. Vishy is not only a great champion but also a truly humble person. He was the reigning world champion but travelled 40 hours to play his challenger, this is unheard of…A world champion taking great pains to play his challenger…just that one act speaks a lot of the man. Amit paints the realistic picture of the state of sport in the country and i share his optimism that chess can grow in popularity since no infrastructure is needed to play it.

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