CHENNAI : For Viswanathan Anand, Monday was a special journey back into the past. He was conferred the ‘Order of Friendship’ by the Russian Federation at the Russian Centre for Science and Culture here. It was also the place where Anand took the initial steps of his chess career, playing regularly in what was then called the Soviet Cultural Centre.
“It is a great honour for me to receive this award from Russia, a country that has meant so much to my chess career,” Anand said. “But it’s a special memory to come back into the Soviet Cultural Centre. It is just like going back to my youth, I remember coming here so many times. Every Monday, Thursday and Sunday I would come to play chess here,’’ recollected AnandAnand also recollected the time he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, during his 2012 World Championship match against Boris Gelfand, which was held at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
“In 2012 during my match with Boris Gelfand, I met President Putin at the palace,” he said. “I mentioned to him that I used to play a lot at the Russian Culture Centre as a kid and it was here that I learnt the nuances of the game.” Russia has also contributed a number of Anand’s fiercest rivals from Anatoly Karpov to Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik.
Sergey Kotov, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Chennai bestowed the honour by presenting a badge and a plaque. “Russia has the greatest regard for art and culture and looks at it for fostering friendship and strengthening cultural ties. We are happy to bestow this honour on Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand for the development of Indo-Russian relationship in sports,’’ said Kotov.
Tamil Nadu Youth Welfare and Sports Minister Balakrishna Reddy was the chief guest. He hailed Anand for his achievements and pointed out the support the government has been giving to sport. He also remembered how Chennai had hosted the World Championship in 2013 when Anand played against Magnus Carlsen.