Sunday, November 23, 2014

My duels with Vishy Anand

How many chess players in the world can boast of having played against the World Champion? I am sure not many! I am among those lucky few who not only got a chance to play a World Champion once but twice! And no marks for guessing who this World Champion was....

India's very own, five-time World Champion, Vishwanathan Anand

The first time I played with Vishy Anand was way back in 2005, 23rd June 2005 to be precise. I was in 10th grade (15 years old) and was participating in an inter-school tournament. The top 10 winners from 2 categories (20 in all) would play in a simultaneous display against Vishy. I scored 5.5/6 in the tournament and finished joint winner along with Meghan Gupte. It meant that I had qualified to play against the World Champion. In 2005, Anand was not yet the undisputed World Champion. It was only in 2008 when he beat Kramnik that he achieved that. Yet he had won the World Championship title in 2000 in Tehran when he beat Alexei Shirov in the final of the knock out event. So he already was a World Champion when I played him.

Playing against 20 talented kids is a tough task for anyone but not if you are Vishy Anand!

Anand beat his opponent's one after the other at a breathtaking pace. There I am trying to stand up in the background.

In 2005, I was rated 2037. We were given the option of whether we wanted to play with the white or black pieces. I really wanted to play black because I was very well versed with the Dragon variation back then!(At least that's what I thought) But then what if Anand would play 1.d4!?? I quickly turned the board around and took the white pieces.

The game began as a Slav and after seven moves I was already out of theory. Not a good sign when you are playing a 2785 player famed for his opening preparation. Even though it was a simul, Anand did not miss a single tactic against me and with a flurry of nice combinative blows he won a pawn. Rest was just matter of technique for the great champion as he exchanged all the pieces and converted the extra pawn in an instructive rook endgame. 
Naturally I was dejected at having blown away this wonderful opportunity of playing a good game against Anand. But there was some consolation. My game lasted for nearly 49 moves while many others got mated in some 20 odd moves! So people applauded me for playing so long against such a great player. While that comforted me a little, deep within I knew Vishy didn't have to stretch even one bit to beat me that day!
Here's the game:

My priced possession! The 2005 score sheet which thankfully I have preserved

Vishy's signature: A wonderful memorabilia for any chess player!

Receiving the first prize

Vishy had a tough time against two players out of the 20. One was Kaushal Shukla, the boy against whom Anand is making his move and Aditya Udeshi who is now an IM, the little kid in the red shirt.
(Both the games can be played through towards the end of the article) 

Kaushal Shukla who was rated around 1950 had a mating attack and was about to win in around 12 moves but missed his opportunity! Right now I am wondering what a blow it would have been to Vishy if he had lost the first game itself. But nothing of that sort happened and Vishy won all the 20 games! What was absolutely fascinating was how after every kid resigned, Anand would set up the position and tell his opponent where they had gone wrong! What phenomenal memory!

Concentration personified!

So my first duel against Vishy Anand ended in a convincing win for the champion and I was waiting for the day when I would get a chance to play him again. I had to wait for exactly five years before the golden opportunity dawned once again! 

On 19th of June 2010, there was an inter collegiate knock out tournament held at the National College, Bandra. The tournament was not at all strong and I had to just win two rounds to get a chance to play with Vishy once again! This time I was a better player. My rating had improved from 2037 to 2265 and I understood more about chess in general. On the other hand, Vishy's list of achievements since we last met were just mind boggling. Not only had he won the FIDE World Championship tournament in Mexico in 2007, he had also beaten Vladimir Kramnik in one to one match in 2008 and Veselin Topalov in 2010. Vishy had beaten Topalov just a month before he came to play this simul. Wow! I was going to play the strongest player on the planet at that point of time!

Shaking hands with the undisputed World Champion before the start of the game

This time I had the black pieces and Anand opened with 1.d4, the same move with which he had opened his games against Topalov. I knew I was in for some heavy duty prepared lines by the World Champion but I decided to go for it and played the Queen's Indian. The game was extremely interesting as it soon took the character of a Grunfeld Defense. I sacrificed the exchange and had excellent compensation for it but soon I started playing with complete lack of confidence. Within few moves, Anand consolidated his advantage. There was still some technical work left to be done when the games had to be ended due to time constraints. I am sure Vishy would have beaten me from that position but you never know. Even the best can blunder sometimes! 

Here is the 2010 game. I had annotated the game on the day it was played and as I publish it here, I decided to leave the youthful annotations as they were!

After the game i asked Anand whether the exchange sacrifice was good. He said,"yes, it was very interesting but why didn't you take the pawn on a3?" How in the world was i to say that it was out of sheer respect for you!
Humility and modesty are two of  Anand's biggest traits. He didn't tell me that he was winning here. He just said that he has a small advantage! Of course he knew that the advantage was huge and almost decisive but that's the way a great World Champion is made!

A huge crowd had gathered to watch the games

This time I did make Vishy sweat a little more than the game in 2005!

It was a great pleasure and honour to play against Vishwanathan Anand on both the occasions. Seeing such a legend in action and playing against him can really help your chess career in a big way. These two games are something that I will cherish forever. Vishwanathan Anand is an inspiration for every Indian chess player and I wish him the best for his 11th and 12th game against Magnus Carlsen in Sochi! Hope he wins once again and I can get a chance to play with the World Champion for the third time, maybe one on one! :)

Aditya Udeshi was 12 years old when played with Vishy in 2005. He was kind enough to send his game against Vishy with annotations that he had done back then. Learn how to get a winning position against the World Champion:

Cute little boy off the board but a terror on it! That's Aditya for you!

While Aditya's loss was sad, you must definitely have a look at the next game. My friend Kaushal Shukla had Anand on the mat to such an extent that it was simply impossible to wriggle out of it! But Vishy managed to do that though not before Kaushal had botched his chance to checkmate his esteemed opponent!

The boy who was so close to beating Anand- Kaushal Shukla!

Meghan Gupte who won the tournament along with me!

My favourite picture from 2010. Hansal Pandya who is a deaf and mute had the best 10 seconds of his life holding the hand of Vishy Anand!

When Vishy met Vishy! Vishvesh Kochrekar receives the prize from Anand.

A huge thanks to Kaushal Shukla who provided me with all the pictures of 2005

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