Posts Tagged ‘Indian chess’

Anand-Gelfand 2012: A Tale of Two Countries

May 28, 2012

It is common knowledge that the star of Israeli chess, Boris Gelfand, was born and trained in the Soviet Union. In 1998 he imigrated to Israel and immediately became the strongest player in the Israeli chess scene. Despite, leading the Israeli team to two Chess Olympiad medals, Boris Gelfand is not very well-known in his home country and many citizens of Israel are completely unaware that he is close to becoming the first Israeli world chess champion. Should Boris Gelfand manage to win the World Championship, I am sure it will be a mega jackpot for the ISF (Israeli Chess Federation) and the overall popularity of chess in Israel. Should Boris Gelfand fall short, he can return to sipping his coffee at the cafe without the slightest concern of being hounded by fans.

Viswanathan Anand is one of the most recognisable celebrities in all of India and has even been considered India’s greatest sporting talent ever. Anand achieved the admiration of a billion Indian people despite the fact that he declined to play for India in the Chess Olympiads, does not take part in chess tournaments organised by the All India Chess Federation and allowed his Indian citizenship to lapse when he became a citizen of Spain. Regardless of these indiscretions, India has bestowed many prestigious local and national awards upon their hero and his success in chess has created popularity explosion for the game on a subcontinent where there had never been a high level master before him. Whether or not Anand wins will have little effect on the popularity of chess in his country of origin. Viswanathan Anand’s previous world championships have already inspired millions of young chess players who dream of following in the foot steps of their hero.


India in the Chess Spotlight

October 1, 2008
Harikrishna after winning the 2008 Spice Cup.

Harikrishna after winning the 2008 Spice Cup.

   The sub-continent that invented the game of chess in the sixth century is now becoming the focus of chess in the twenty-first century. Viswanathan Anand, the current World Chess Champion, has ignited a nationalistic enthusiasm for the “Game of Kings” not seen since the Soviet era. Anand has received rock star status in his home country of India and bagged many prestigious awards including the Arjuna Award, the Padma Shri, the Rajiv Ghandi, and the Padma Bhushan. The effects of Anand’s success can be seen in recent chess news of his Indian compatriots.
   In September of 2008, 22 year old Koneru Humpy was the top ranked player in the Women’s World Chess Championships. While competing in the semi-finals she shocked the world by loosing in a blitz play-off against the 14-year-old Chinese wonder girl Hou Yifan. I believe her loss was a combination of folding under pressure and not having a coaching staff (Humpy is trained exclusively by her father). Despite this disappointing loss, Humpy  remains the second highest rated female player in the history of chess with an astronomical rating above 2600.
   On September 28, 2008, another Indian chess player made chess history in Lubbock, Texas. GM Pentala Harikrishna, India’s third highest ranked Grand Master, won the strongest chess tournament of its kind ever held on United States soil. The category-15 2008 Spice Cup ended in a four way tie with Harikrishna winning on tie breaks. GM Pentala Harikrishna did not loose a single game in this nine round event that touted an average player rating of 2605.
   On October 14, 2008, Viswanathan Anand will defend his title against Vladimir Kramnik in Bonn, Germany. Regardless of this matches outcome, Viswanathan Anand will continue to be recognised as the chess trailblazer who led India onto the world stage.

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