Anand was a class act on the final day as he won against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France. (Source: Express Archive Photo)
This was not among the most illustrious seasons for Viswanathan Anand. For a man who has conquered the World Chess Championship title five times, was the trailblazer who put India on the map when he became the first Grandmaster from the country back in 1988, and is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, success can only be measured at the world level.
But not much was achieved, by his standards, through the duration of 2019. For the second time in a row, the veteran also failed to make it to the Candidates tournament, which would decide who would face-off against world champ Magnus Carlsen next year. Yet regardless of what was won or lost, 2019 was destined to be the year of Anand.
On December 11, the man dubbed ‘Lightening Kid,’ the ‘Tiger of Madras,’ or quite simply and fondly, ‘Vishy’ turned 50. He is the oldest player in the current top 15 standard chess rankings, and still very much a potent threat at any and all competitions he enters in – just as he was when he was a teenager travelling in Europe, steadily picking up the FIDE points to become the country’s first Grandmaster.
2019 is a testimony to the longevity Anand has had in a sport that is mentally draining. And the secret is that he still trains ‘like a younger person does.’
“His main advantage compared to others of his age is that he’s truly young at heart. For example, many people of his age don’t welcome change. They stop downloading the latest software versions of things or don’t update their apps, like young people do,” says Dutch player and world no 8 Anish Giri in an interview to Chess.com in May. “But Vishy is the kind of guy who I am sure updates all the apps on his phone. The fact that he’s accomplished what he has, and remained there for so long is because he’s able to reinvent himself, and change the way he works, the way he approaches things, just like a younger person does.”
As Anand's 50th birthday approached, fans put out throwback photos.
Staying online and staying abreast with the latest trends invariably forces you to stumble upon social media. And Anand has followed that path and made it his own, in his own classy way.
He prefers posting and reposting chess-related content – like the link to Giri’s interview. But not all is related to his sport. There’s an outside in-look towards the life of Anand, his likes, dislikes, hobbies… There are videos of him (trying) to play badminton along with former world no 1 shuttlers Prakash Padukone and Martin Frost, trying his hand at shotgun sport shooting, a complaint, a cooking contest he won, and an endearing incident involving his son Akhil.
On July 8, he posted about him advising Akhil to play a certain move, but the eight-year-old refused based on the advice of an chess website designed for children. On July 12, Anand tweeted that he has become chief mentor in India for that website.
1 Complaint against a service provider ... but with a smile
In the age of twitter, complaints against faulty mobile network, airport immigration, taxi services et al have had consumers use the online method of making their grievances felt. Athletes too have taken this route, and on one occasion, on September 28, so did Anand. But when he sought the attention of a courier company about a missing chessboard, he did it in his own light way.
“(My) wife has been dealing with your customer care since 23rd. The story has been repeated so many times that our neighbours by now, know the AWB no. A chess board is somewhere ... A payment needs to be confirmed... and a lady who I love dearly is really losing it!!”
32 Articles featuring him retweeted
Be it a nostalgia piece reminiscing his 23 years of marriage, or him spending time with teenage Grandmasters from India, about him ruing missed chances at a tournament in Kolkata, about the need to accept challenging times, and even a story with his opinion that once rival Vladimir Kramnik retired too early (at age 43), Anand has read and retweeted them all.
1 Instagram link shared on Twitter
Despite him being social media savvy, Anand tweeted just one Instagram link which incidentally was an advertisement for his book. On his Instagram account though, the 50-year-old has been relatively less active, posting just 24 photographs.
14 Instances which made him recall good old times
As he approached his 50th birthday, fans and peers started putting up old photos – from him competing in a tournament in 1990, to a popular dairy brand posting a video of all the five muppet girl advertisements it dedicated to the chess legend. The man himself, over the course of the year posted some fond memories – about him being a fan of Kramnik’s dry humour, an ‘on-this-day’ retweet of him winning the 2007 World Championship 12 years back, and a photo of a 1987 magazine. He even recalled an anecdote of his first ever meeting with a Grandmaster – “I remember my first GM interaction. I got to play a simul against GM Bagirov. I offered a draw. The GM came to me, picked up his rook and my bishop and in his thick Russian accent said "You see Bishop and you see Rook and you say DRAW? My first GM lesson on piece evaluation.”
3 Food tweets, one by wife Aruna, Grandmasterchef
On June 7, he tweeted a photo of a salmon dish his wife Aruna cooked, calling her the ‘Grandmasterchef.’ A day later, on a rest day during a tournament in Norway, he took part in a cooking contest meant for players and won it. Then a day ahead of his 50th birthday, he posted a photo of himself and his son baking a cake (no prizes for guessing what the cake was for).
7 Welcomed seven Indians to the Grandmasters club
This year, seven more Indians attained the title of Grandmaster, and Anand was prompt in congratulating them all – Gukesh D (the youngest Indian to ever reach the mark), Iniyan, Swayams Misra, Nihal Sarin, Girish Kaushik, Prithu Kumar and India’s 65th GM Raunak Sadhwani.
4 Emojis used in the year — two thinkers, two winks
As Giri says, that Anand approaches things the way younger players do, the one thing synonymous with social media that the Indian maestro hasn’t quite mastered is the art of using the emojis. Over the year, he used just four – two thinkers, one winking, and a winking with the tongue sticking out). In comparison, the 34-year-old basketball star LeBron James, who was once a social media recluse, posted 1172 emojis in the month of November alone.