Viswanathan Anand has done it again. He has won the World Chess Championship for the fifth time beating Boris Gelfand of Israel in Moscow, a place which has produced some of the greatest chess players of the world. It’s Anand, who has made us proud at the world stage more than anyone else. If you ask sports lovers sitting in any corner of the world to name tope three Indian sportspersons, Anand will definitely feature among them.
So, the obvious question arises: Is Anand the greatest ever Indian sportsperson? Is he better than legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Dhyan Chand?
Though it’s neither an easy nor a fair task to compare players from different sports and of different eras, we have to first look at what Anand has done over the years in his glittering career.
The dominance that Anand has shown throughout his career is incredible. Very few Indian sportspersons have achieved what Anand has done during his illustrious career so far. Apart from his five World titles and numerous other international trophies, Anand has also won six chess Oscars, an award given on the basis of votes collected from the best players and writers all over the world.
That he would make it big and rule the chess world was evident from the early years of his life. He first won the World Junior Chess Championship at the age of 17 and next year became India’s first Grandmaster. It’s Anand who inspired an entire generation of Indians to take up chess. It’s no wonder that today India has 37 Grandmasters. In India, there has been no sportsperson who single-handedly inspired and changed the shape of the game like Viswanathan Anand.
Anand first heralded himself into the world arena when he finished ahead of Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov at Reggio Emilia tournament in 1991.
A thorough gentleman in the sporting circle around the world, Anand virtually broke the monopoly of Russia in the world chess circuit and established India among one of the top chess playing nations with his numerous titles.
Anand won the Linares-Morelia in 2007, a tournament in which world`s top players had participated, and became the undisputed King of Chess for the first time. Though the legendary Garry Kasparov had retired by then, not all accepted Anand’s greatness as he hadn’t won a title in ‘Matchplay’. Then he took on Kramnik, the man who had dethroned fellow Russian Kasparov and won against him.
One of the reasons why Anand is regarded as the greatest ever chess player is the fact that he is the only player to have won world titles in three different formats. Nobody, not even Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov have done it.
Are his performances enough to consider him the best Indian sportsperson and award him a Bharat Ratna? We put this question in front of Anand’s fellow chess player and Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua. Barua has no doubt that Anand is the greatest ever Indian sportsperson and he is the best man who can get a Bharat Ratna. He said: “Winning World title five times in a game which was played by one hundred and eighty countries is a unique achievement. He is definitely the best candidate for Bharat Ratna from the field of sports.”
Hockey legend Dhyan Chand had scored more than 400 international goals for India and had single-handedly helped India win three consecutive Olympics gold medals besides countless matches. Sachin Tendulkar scored 100 international centuries and helped India win a World Cup and numerous matches on his own. No wonder they are the two players who are considered most likely to receive the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award which will in a way acknowledge the best Indian sportsperson ever. It’s high-time that we include Anand in the list.