Age, they say is, just a number. This, however, is rarely true in the realm of sports when age eventually catches up with everyone. Be it a Sachin Tendulkar or Roger Federer, time takes a toll on you. Viswanathan Anand though seems to be an exception. On Thursday, Anand emerged as the new World Rapid Chess Champion, defeating Vladimir Fedoseev in a two-game tie-break.
Anand turned 48 a couple of weeks ago and his achievement is even more impressive in a world where Magnus Carlsen took the world title at 23 and players are written off if they don’t become a grandmaster by 17. Half of the world’s top ten players are in their twenties. Fedoseev, whom Anand beat, was eight when the Indian last won the World Rapid title in 2003. Even the great Garry Kasparov thought it prudent to walk away from chess at 41.
Yet here Anand is, champion of the world yet again, despite most experts writing him off when he lost his classical world title to Carlsen four years ago. In this tournament, Anand remained unbeaten through 15 rounds and even defeated the Norwegian. Even in the tie-break, he absolutely dominated Fedoseev, crushing the Russian with white and drawing with black. But this is not the first time Anand is confounding critics who think it’s time he steps away from top-level chess.
When Carlsen first became the world’s top-ranked player in 2010, many though a new era had dawned. But Anand fought back to regain the top spot within a year. After losing his world crown to Carlsen, Anand won the Candidates tournament in 2014 and earned the right to challenge the Norwegian. He came close to repeating that feat in 2016, finishing tied for second.
Anand’s latest win was met with astonishment and applause from all around the world but the most memorable compliment came from the man who is perhaps his greatest rival. Kasparov tweeted, “I hope you dedicate this latest victory to everyone who has asked you when you were going to retire.”