December 27, 2000

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Vishwanathan Anand

'He brings us happiness, we give him love'

Shobha Warrier

It was a great feeling, watching Anand win the tournament and become world champion.

We followed his progress on the Net. There is one great advantage with that -- it is as if you are actually there, beside him. In a playing hall, you see the monitor but here, you are sitting in your own home, in your own atmosphere, following the play many thousands of miles away.

Also, while watching, when we have a doubt about a particular position, we call up friends like Manuel Aaron and Venkata Ramana Raju, we can also surf various sites and see the comments of various experts. You can't get this experience anywhere but on the Net, so the bottomline is, no, we don't regret not being at the venue.

I am an amateur when it comes to chess. Even so, I frankly did not expect him to win, when the game started. But after the 19th move, I felt that Shirov was taking a big risk -- and Anand plays very well when his opponent is taking risks. He is a naturally aggressive player, and he loves being in a situation where he can attack and force a win. He hates draws, he gets irritated when he has to play against an opponent who is looking fo a draw from the first move.

It was after the 19th move that I thought he had a chance. By the 23rd move, we knew the game was over, Shirov was simply dragging it along. He went on till the 41st move. Experts felt that it was futile, Shirov was playing a losing position, but then again, maybe he was dragging it on in the hope that Anand would make a mistake.

Later, when Anand called us, he said that he didn't realise at the time that he had won the world championship -- he only knew he had won the game. It was only when the spectators came and hugged him that he thought to himself, my God, I am World Champion! But then, that is the normal tendency of top players -- they focus on the game they are playing, not on the outcome of the tournament as a whole.

We haven't had any celebration, no -- for us, the celebration is his coming home. When he comes here, he gives us happiness. And we have always given him love. So there really is nothing more to give, or receive.

Anand's father Anand was delightful as a child. The big advantage he had was that he was born after a gap of eleven years. So there was no dearth of people older than him, to look after him and play with him. I still remember how, when he was young, around four or five, he wouldn't let me go to office, he wanted me to stay at home all the time. So someone or the other would take him away, and I would push my car onto the road in order to avoid making a noise, and only then start it and drive away.

He was very affectionate, and no, he wasn't pampered one bit. I am a strict father, actually -- but I don't remember having to be strict with him, because he was a naturally disciplined child, there was never any need to chide him. In fact, I must say that I am fortunate that none of my children gave me any reason to be strict and rough with them.

My father was a strict disciplinarian, and I guess I imbibed that trait from him. Discipline played a big role in my doing well in life, and I think that is true of my three children as well. My elder son, Shivakumar, is Chief Design Engineer with Crompton Greaves, and my daughter, Anuradha, did her MBA at IIM Calcutta. She got married, went off to the United States, did a doctorate in Corporate Management and now teaches at Michigan University. And now my youngest son, Anand, is world chess champion!

I notice that my daughter has imbibed the same lesson, of discipline, with regard to her own children. And they are doing extremely well in America. My grand-daughter, now 16, is in college. They say that today's children are not amenable to discipline, but I think that is not right. You don't have to stifle them, but there should be some discipline, that is essential.

I feel that if parents follow the basic norms of behaviour, their children will also grow up to be well-behaved. I feel very proud of Anand in that respect -- his manners are impeccable, he is very warm, and that is why you will find him surrounded by admirers wherever he goes. More than being a good chess player, he is a very good person, and I think that is important.

He is very well read, very aware. When he comes here, he discusses many things with me. He has a fast grasp of all subjects, and the ability to read and absorb at high speed. He subscribes to magazines like The Economist, and Time, and he seems to just skim through them, but he has taken it all in and can discuss various issues at length with me.

He is interested in politics -- but not the local politics, he follows international politics very closely.

For quite some time, we have known that he would be a very successful chess player. In fact, we realised that in 1984 itself, even before he became a grandmaster and world junior champion. I remember that in 1984, he was playing in a tournament in Paris, and was suffering from jaundice at the time. My wife and I had gone with him, but we were not allowed into the tournament hall, we were waiting outside. The arbiter reassured us, he told us that he would take good care of Anand. Anand would play a move, and doze, he was so sick. The arbiter would wake him when it was time to make his next move.

He went on to win the bronze, and that is when I realised that his future lay in chess. But we didn't want him to stop studying, either, we wanted him to have something as backup. He did very well in his studies and graduated in Commerce. But like I said, we knew that chess was his future.

He is world champion now, and we think he has won the title at the best possible moment for him. He is now fully matured as a human being and as a player, his game is now very strong, very well rounded.

It has been wonderful, to sit back and see him progress. He has made it a habit to win awards and trophies and accolades, which he brings home to us, he has given us happiness throughout our life.

Vishwanathan Anand - The Complete Series

Photographs: Sanjay Ghosh

Mail Sports Editor