When World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand Played in Chennai!
The score line 4.5-1.5 in favour of GM Viswanathan Anand against erstwhile Soviet Union GM Alexey Dreev might not even raise an eyebrow today. But then, in 1991, Anand was just an upcoming GM from the so-called third world country while Dreev was a rising star from the illustrious Soviet school of chess.
An Indian defeating a Russian with such a resounding score line was a big achievement. The win not only thrust India’s first GM into the limelight, as he advanced to the quarterfinals of the world chess championship cycle, but it also put India on the global map of chess for organising a match of that stature.
“When I broke the news to Anand’s mother Susheela Viswanathan about holding the pre-quarterfinals match in Chennai, she was both happy and surprised. She asked me whether we would be able to pull off such a big event. By successfully conducting the match, we proved that we can organise high profile events,“ said Fide vice president D. V. Sundar, who added that the total prize fund of about `2 lakh was a big amount in 1991.
Anand’s father K.Viswanathan said he was thrilled to see his son win the quarterfinal. He visited the tournament hall every day to provide moral support to his son who was 21 years old then. Anand had for the first time qualified for the 1990-93 world championship cycle.
Susheela, who stayed with Anand at the tournament venue Trident Hotel, recalled the candidates’ match, and noted that everything went on smoothly. “The crowd behaved well and it was an enjoyable experience. In one game, Anand played a knight fork that took everyone by surprise. My son was very good in handling knights,” she added.
Ebenezer Joseph, India’s first Fide trainer, said the interest level was lower for the AnandDreev match. “Chess was not much popular in India those days,” he added. Anand’s performances took the game to the next level.
Players started getting jobs and the union government recognised the mind sport. Tamil Nadu’s first WIM Saritha Reddy, however, said the 1991 match created interest for chess in India. “Chess was not as popular in the early 90s as it is today and we didn’t have many promising young players. But I feel the Anand-Dreev match created a buzz. Today we have so many youthful grandmasters and the popularity of the game has grown manifold,” she added.
Saritha said Anand’s chances against Dreev were 50-50. The Indian GM, a five-time world champion now, may start as the underdog against Magnus Carlsen in the world championship match, which will be held in Chennai from November 6 to 26 later this year.
From Alexandra Kosteniuk's
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