| World champion Viswanathan Anand with the trophy, in Moscow, on Thursday. (AP) |
Calcutta/Moscow: The day after he was crowned the king of chess for the fifth time, it was time for Viswanathan Anand to be showered with accolades, prizes and praises. And in the list of his admirers was Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.
Anand and runner-up Boris Gelfand Thursday met Putin over a cup of tea at his residence.
Anand received a gold medal, prize money of $1.4 million, a memento and a piece of contemporary art displaying him and Gelfand, for his achievement at a ceremony, at the State Tretyakov Gallery, in Moscow.
On the occasion, Anand stated that his connection with Russia has been very deep. “I benefited a lot from playing chess in the Russian Cultural Centre in Chennai and my second Grandmaster norm was also made at the Russian Cultural Centre in New Delhi.
“The connection with Russia, thus, is quite deep… I also played a lot of tournaments here while growing up,” Anand said.
Anand mentioned about the Russian connection during his chat with Putin as well, and this what the President had to say: “So we brought this on ourselves!”
The game was dominated by the Russians for long, but the Indian Grandmaster has diminished their supremacy with four world titles on the trot.
Anand, on his part, said: “I really enjoyed it, the President was fully aware about the match, was very warm and friendly. For me it was an honour.”
Anand, who got better of Gelfand in the tie-break on Wednesday, informed that Gelfand, the challenger, always greeted him warmly before each game, ensuring that the match was played in the right spirit.
The icon also thanked the sponsors and Fide for organising the world championship and also acknowledged the support of his wife, Aruna, and his support team.
Anand’s has remained the same as it was four years back, with Peter-Hiene Nielsen, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, Radek Wojtajsek and Surya Sekhar Ganguly serving as his seconds.
Reacting to a question about the role of computers in contemporary chess, Anand said: “Definitely, computers have levelled a lot of ground… But we still see that those with a structured frame of knowledge in chess make better use of computers than the others… The human interaction is also important, computer itself is not complete,” he said.
The champion was of the view that that the tiebreak as the decider was the perfect solution for drawn matches. “I actually think it’s a good idea given that we had 12-games to separate us… Tie-breaks are there in other disciplines of sports as well… I think it’s just fine, instead of giving the title to defending champion in case of a tie which was an old practice.”
Asked about his role in being the face of Indian chess, Anand said: “When I grew up, there was not much chess in India… But I was lucky that whatever was there, the centre was in Chennai. We benefited from the fact that the Soviet Cultural Centre was in Chennai.
“We had a bunch of enthusiasts who would come on Sunday and play blitz the whole day. They were also very committed, they would organise weekend tournaments and I used to play… And with constant practice I started to become better,” he recollected.
“I’m very proud that India has rediscovered chess… I am proud to have played a big role in that discovery. I could feel it because when I became the world junior champion and then the Grandmaster, we could see that chess was certainly becoming popular in India,” he added.
This was Anand’s fourth world title in a row. The Indian chess wizard bagged his first world title in 2000, before winning three in a row — in 2007, 2008 and 2010. He has been the world champion since 2007.
In a separate development, sports minister Ajay Maken has said that he would be happy if any sportsperson, including Anand, is conferred the Bharat Ratna, but he could not make any recommendation for any particular individual.
Asked whether he feels Anand deserves to be honoured with the highest civilian award of the country for his stupendous achievement, Maken said: “As a sports minister I will be happy to see any sportsperson getting the Bharat Ratna. But I can’t vouch for any individual.
“It is the Prime Minister’s prerogative and he has to decide whom to be given and when to be given.
“I am happy that the Home Ministry and Prime Minister has accepted our recommendation to have modified rules to pave way for eligibility of sportspersons for Bharat Ratna,” he said.
Maken also informed Anand would get a cash award of Rs 10 lakh under the government scheme for winning World Championship for the fifth time on Wednesday.
“In the past, we have distributed cash awards to different players for winning gold, silver and bronze medals in international events under the government scheme,” Maken said.