Second's first-hand feel of toughest win - How Surya helped Anand win fifth crown

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  • Published 4.06.12

Sachin Tendulkar felt “50kilos” lighter after scoring his 100th hundred. Surya Sekhar Ganguly looks 10kg lighter after helping Viswanathan Anand win his fifth World Championship title.

“Yes, I have lost 10kg in four months. I had to because my wife scolds me!” laughed the 29-year-old Grandmaster and Anand’s second, back in his Salt Lake home on Sunday after the Moscow marathon against Boris Gelfand.

“Jokes apart, I was working out during the match as well as before the match… it helps... if you are fit, you will be mentally agile…. There were days when I just slept two-three hours, but I was still hitting the gym…. In earlier championships, when Anand used to go to play, I used to sleep. This time, I would go to the gym, have lunch and then sleep,” said Surya.

If the kilos were lost in four months of gymming, the crown was won after six months of slogging. “Preparations started in January in Germany. We were eagerly waiting for the match to start (on May 11). On the night before the tiebreak (May 29), preparations went on till 4.30 in the morning. We were all discussing how all this would be over the next day. We had one working room and I desperately miss that now.... No matter how serious the situation was, there was always a lot of laughter, jokes being cracked, music….” The playlist? Pet Shop Boys, A-ha, Rammstein....

What exactly did Surya have to do as the champ’s second? “It is research-based. Once you come across a new idea, to support that you come up with 10,000 moves with the help of computers and your own thoughts. We help Anand come up with new ideas. Also, help him with match strategy… what he will play, what he has to watch out for. The final decision lies with Anand. If he is uncomfortable with a suggested line, he will not play it, but that rarely happens. He has full faith in us,” says Surya, who has been Anand’s second for the last three World Championships.

All the three championships were “different”, but this was the “toughest match”, felt Surya. “This was incredibly difficult.... Gelfand was exceptionally well prepared. He managed to surprise us almost in every single game in the first half of the match.... Only because it is Anand, he is capable of taking this pressure.”

Anand sat Zen-like through the matches. “He never looked tense even before the tiebreak. He is a very controlled person. It is all about controlling your mind, that is what Anand can do at the highest level, and that is why he is Anand. I personally feel that Anand is the greatest sportsman of India,” said the loyal second.

The nail-biting win was followed by dinner out at an Indian restaurant. “I cannot remember what exactly we ate; it was like bring on pretty much everything!” smiled Surya. And then it was back to the working room, one last time.

If Anand is the man in the middle, wife Aruna is clearly the queen of Team Anand. “The team will just not function without Aruna. We are seconds but she is the better half. She motivates and she care of everyone. She makes it like family.”

So, what next for the boy who lifted The Telegraph School Chess Championship trophy in 1994 and became the Asian champion in 2010?

Surya’s next tournament is in mid-July, but for a while he will trade chess for karate — the mastermind is already a brown belt.