‘We are a balanced team now’

Viswanathan Anand, who will pull his weight for India at the Chess Olympiad in Georgia two months later, expressed happiness at the wealth of talent at home.

India’s first Grandmaster, speaking on the sidelines of a Fincare Small Finance Bank event to name him as a brand ambassador, expressed ‘relief’ at fact that the age of prodigies winning the coveted rank had not dipped below the 12-year mark. At 12 years, 10 months, R. Praggnanandhaa

is India’s youngest-ever GM and the second youngest in history.

Asked to explain the phenomenon of a 12-year-old Indian earning the honour and younger GMs coming up, Anand said: “In a sense, there is no minimum age limit. The age of 12 has been fairly consistent, for the last seven to eight years now. There are no 11-year-olds now (in the GM list) and with many new talents coming up, I almost find it re-assuring you need some time to master chess and become a Grandmaster.”

Referring to the depth of Indian chess talent, Anand, ranked 11th in FIDE’s July list, said: “Both Harikrishna (ranked 22) and Vidit Gujarathi (29) are very close. We are all in the 2700 (Elo points) range. K. Sasikiran and B. Adhiban have had some problems with consistency, but have had performance ratings which are much higher. “In fact, we are now one of the more balanced teams.”

During his early years in Chennai, he was of the view that Moscow was the place to be for emerging players like him. “Now with a 12-year-old Indian becoming a GM, Anand, when asked if his views about Moscow had changed, said, “I meant access to training purely went by geography then. India is not a place to play chess now, because the sport has become very competitive. Juniors compete so hard that you should be choosing somewhere else (to come up).”

Better chances

India had won bronze at the 2014 Olympiad and expectations are now higher due to his presence. “At the last two Olympiads we had done well. I hope with my participation, we will improve on those results. The gap between teams has narrowed down a lot. The only thing to do is to go there, prepare yourself and deal with things as they come up,” said the five-time World champion.

“I am proud to have been a catalyst and convinced a lot of people to try out chess. I was the first GM in 1987 and now we have 52. The growth has been solid and consistent. I hope the Olympiad will be a demonstration of that growth and the next development will be some Indian getting into the Candidates.”

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