General Dec 11, 2019 | 1:50 PMby FM Joachim Iglesias

Indian Chess legend Vishy Anand turns 50

Viswanathan Anand turned 50 today, Wednesday 11th December 2019. To celebrate, chess24’s FM Joachim Iglesias takes a look at some of the highlights of the incredible career of the Indian superstar, who became his country’s first grandmaster before going on to win the World Championship title in all possible formats.

Vishy Anand, aged six

Vishy Anand in numbers

50 His age
11 December 1969 His date of birth
6 The age at which Vishy learned to play chess
1988 The year he earned the grandmaster title
5 The number of World Championship titles he's won
4 The number of times he reached the World Championship final but didn't win
2817 His peak rating
15th His current world ranking

Vishy Anand's 9 World Championships

1995 Kasparov 10.5 - 7.5 Anand

After 8 draws in the first 8 games of the PCA World Championship match in the World Trade Center in New York, Vishy Anand won Game 9. The Beast from Baku bounced back with a vengeance, however, winning 4 of the last 5 games to take the match.

In trouble during the match, Garry Kasparov resorted to the Sicilian Dragon to reignite his title hopes

1998 Karpov 3 (2) - 3 (0) Anand

Vishy had won the Groningen knockout tournament, an event equivalent to the current World Cups, which qualified him to play a match almost immediately afterwards in Lausanne, Switzerland against Anatoly Karpov, who got to the final directly. The classical games ended 3:3 but, exhausted by the marathon that his opponent had been spared, Vishy fell to a 2:0 defeat in rapid chess.

The conditions were just too unfair. Anand: “Karpov waited for the corpse of his challenger to be delivered in a coffin” 

2000 Anand 3.5 - 0.5 Shirov

Anand qualified for the final of this knockout FIDE World Championship by beating the defending champion Alexander Khalifman in the quarterfinals and Mickey Adams in the semifinals in New Delhi, India. Seeded no. 1, Vishy was ruthless and became the first Indian Chess World Champion by crushing Alexei Shirov 3.5:0.5 in the final, held in Tehran, Iran. This was “only” the FIDE World Championship, with Vladimir Kramnik holding the World Championship title thanks to his victory over Garry Kasparov.

Vishy Anand’s first World Championship title

2007 Anand 1st with 9/14 

In 2007 the title was reunified and FIDE organised an 8-player double round-robin tournament in Mexico City. Vishy won the title with 9/14, a point ahead of Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand. 

1Viswanathan Anand (IND)2792½½½½½½1½1½½11½9
2Vladimir Kramnik (RUS)2769½½½½1½½½101½½½8
3Boris Gelfand (ISR)2733½½½½½½½½1½11½08
4Peter Leko (HUN)2751½½½0½½½½1½½01½7
5Peter Svidler (RUS)2735½0½½½½½½½0½½1½
6Alexander Morozevich (RUS)2758½010½0½01½½½106
7Levon Aronian (ARM)27500½½0001½½½½½1½6
8Alexander Grischuk (RUS)2726½0½½1½½0½010½0

Vishy Anand, here facing Peter Leko

2008 Anand 6.5 - 4.5 Kramnik 

Vladimir Kramnik had agreed to put his title on the line in Mexico on the condition that if he didn’t win he would then play a match against the winner. The match in Bonn, Germany in 2008 was best of 12 games, with Vishy needing just 11 to retain the title after winning 3 of the first 6 games! Anand had therefore become the first player to win the title in three different formats – a knockout, a round-robin tournament and a match.

Vishy Anand dominated the match in the openings, particularly with Black

2010 Anand 6.5 - 5.5 Topalov

Anand had to travel 40 hours to reach Sofia, Bulgaria from Frankfurt since all the flights had been cancelled due to the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The score was two wins apiece before the 12th game, in which Topalov had White. Fearing playing rapid tiebreaks against Vishy, however, Topalov took too many risks and finally lost.

Topalov was afraid of losing the match in rapid tiebreaks… but finally lost in classical chess instead

2012 Anand 6 (2.5) - 6 (1.5) Gelfand

After 6 draws at the start of this match in Moscow, Russia, Boris Gelfand won the 7th, but Vishy immediately hit back to win the 8th, in a mere 17 moves! After another 4 draws the match went to rapid playoffs. It was very close, but Vishy emerged victorious after scoring one win and 3 draws. That was his 5th and last classical World Championship title.

A photo taken during the tiebreaks – the players were playing in a cage made of one-way glass

2013 Carlsen 6.5 - 3.5 Anand

22-year-old Magnus Carlsen won his first World Championship title, by 3 wins to 0, in Chennai, India, Vishy Anand’s home town.

Magnus Carlsen beat Vishy Anand, who was playing at home

2014 Carlsen 6.5 - 4.5 Anand

One of Anand’s greatest achievements was managing to again qualify for the World Championship in 2014 after winning the Candidates Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk. In the match in Sochi, Russia Magnus won the 2nd game, but Vishy equalised in the following game. Carlsen ultimately won the 6th and 11th games to retain his title.

The rematch was tighter, but the winner was the same

Vishy Anand in a few diagrams 

Any best-of for Vishy Anand needs to be extremely selective, since the 5-time World Champion has produced masterpieces throughout his long career. Here are five moments from particularly beautiful games.

Ivanchuk-Anand 1992

Anand surprised everyone, including Vassily Ivanchuk, by playing 17…gxf6!!, a move that looks anti-positional but is simply a stroke of genius… and it wasn’t the only one in the game! After 18.Rxd2 h5! 19.Rg1 hxg4 20.fxg4 

Vishy continued the idea begun by gxf6 with 20…Bc4!!

It seems weird to exchange the good bishop and keep the e7-bishop, walled in behind pawns that we’ve doubled ourselves… But Vishy’s plan soon becomes clear: to place a rook on h3 to put pressure on h2, play Kd7 and let the b8-rook switch to the kingside. Black then plays Ke6 and pushes d5 and f5, creating two connected passed pawns. Vishy went on to execute that plan to perfection.

Replay the game here

Anand-Ivanchuk 1996

This game was played 23 years ago, on Vishy Anand’s 27th birthday.

14.Rxh4! was a surprising exchange sacrifice. After 14…Qxh4 15.Qxh4 Nxh4 16.Nb6 Black had the choice between playing with an out-of-play rook on a7 or continuing as in the game with 16…Rb8 17.Qf4 Nf5 18.d5!

Despite the extra exchange, Black is tied up in knots.

Replay the game

Anand-Lautier 1997

20.h6!! A move with a well-hidden point! The idea is that after 21...gxh6 White now plays 22.Bg6!!, winning, because of 22...Qxd1 23.Rxe6+! Kf8 24.Bxh6+ (the hidden point of the 20.h6!! move) 24…Kg8 25.Bxf7#.

Replay the game

Aronian-Anand 2013

Despite already having multiple pieces en prise, Anand follows up with 16…Nde5!! The main idea is 17.fxe5 Qxd4+ 18.Kh1 Qg1+! 19.Rxg1 Nf2#.

The game continued 17.Bxg4 Bxd4+ 18.Kh1 Nxg4 19.Nxf8 f5!! with a position similar to “Rubinstein’s Immortal” (against Rotlewi in 1908):

The game ended 20.Ng6 Qf6 21.h3 Qxg6 22.Qe2 Qh5 23.Qd3

23...Be3! and White resigned.

Replay the game

That game was selected by Vishy Anand in the following remarkable 20-minute look back at his career. Don’t miss the likes of Vladimir Kramnik, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (“Congratulations on being the Federer of chess!”), Alexei Shirov, Arkady Dvorkovich, Praggnanandhaa and Garry Kasparov (“You are braver than me, continuing to battle the youngsters rather than teaching them!”) paying tribute to Vishy:

Anand-Caruana 2017

26.Qd4!! was the point that Fabiano Caruana had overlooked. After 26...Qg5, the cute 27.Rc5! finished things off, with Black resigning after 27...Rxd4 28.f8=Q+ Kg6 29.Qf7+

Replay the game

For some of Vishy Anand's own favourite moments check out this video series here on chess24:

Happy Birthday to Vishy the King from everyone here at chess24! 

 Here are just a few of the tweets on Vishy's 50th birthday:

See also:

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