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Viswanathan Anand backs India to have next Chess World Champion by 2025

Viswanathan Anand continues to inspire young chess players even today. With India gradually becoming a rising force in the sport, he has backed the nation to have a Chess World Champion by 2025.

Viswanathan Anand backs India to have next Chess World Champion by 2025-ayh
First Published Sep 7, 2022, 4:32 PM IST

Legendary Indian GrandMaster Viswanathan Anand firmly believes India has sufficient talent to create the next Chess World Champion. However, it cannot happen before 2025 since there isn't any "quicker pathway", and creating one will take some time. Anand began grooming and mentoring the upcoming chess whizkids batch at his Westbridge Anand Chess Academy (WACA) following the first COVID-induced lockdown in 2020. Six of India's Gen-Next talents: Nihal Sarin, R Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani, D Gukesh and R Vaishali and Arjun Erigiasi were inducted as WACA came into effect in December 2020.

Praggnanandhaa's personal coach happens to be RB Ramesh. "If you want the formal title, it will be earliest in 2025. There is no quicker pathway, which gives us plenty of time to get ready but there are a lot of details in that," Anand quoted to PTI on Wednesday. With Magnus Carlsen not defending his title, the 2023 World Championship will happen between the top two finishers of the Candidates, which is from the next cycle only that the Gukesh and Praggnanandhaa can compete for the honours.

Anand's objective is not to contribute to an Indian winning a world title but to create a pool of chess masters, making India a "superpower in chess". "The world championship cycle, let's see what shape it will take in the next 1-2 years and so on. But the World Championship is just the icing on the cake. We should aim for the cake by getting more robust and making progress. If you are strong enough, you are ready for whatever turns up. That's my attitude. It will be tough to predict what shape of things the chess world is changing very fast these days," he added.

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Chess Olympiad showed India is an emerging chess superpower
India finished with an exceptional nine medals, including a first-ever bronze by the women's team during the Chess Olympiad, giving Anand plenty of hope. India B team comprising Gukesh, Nihal, Praggnanandhaa and Raunak won a bronze in the open section, while Anand feels it's "not a coincidence".

"I certainly think we contributed to it. Of course, you must praise their individual coaches, families, and work. But, I think we certainly contributed. There was a period when they were all promising top youngsters, and I think they have not wasted these last three years and made significant progress, every single one with this kind of systematic work," continued Anand.

"Results of the Olympiad more or less convey that [India is emerging as a superpower in ches]. Yet, there are many areas to work on, and there are a lot of competitions. I want to keep my foot on the accelerator. We need to keep pressing this," Anand further stated.

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The performance is more praiseworthy for Anand as it was a junior team. "You can hardly ignore that essentially our junior team, which was fielded only because we could field a second team as the host nation, goes on to win a bronze and misses the gold. That is quite a story. That's not a coincidence," he speculated.

Focus will shift to fitness, tournament-specific training
Anand wishes to impart more tournament-specific training and focus on improving wellness in the coming days. "For tournaments, if we are going to play at the Wijk aan Zee meet [Tata Steel Chess], or any top event in an online series, then you should be able to train a bit exclusively for that," he stated.

"I also want to expand the program a bit more so we can see each other quite a bit more often, and increase the emphasis on fitness [with smart watches], psychological training because the needs are evolving," counted Anand. For Anand, he needed not to waste time during the peak pandemic months as the Academy was up and running in December 2020.

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"My first goal was we should not waste the pandemic. There was a lot of online chess happening. That's fine for some things. I saw it as an opportunity to play chess and be ready for bigger tournaments when they happen. Praggu [Praggnanandhaa] and Nihal were just above ELO rating 2600. Arjun, Gukesh along with Raunak were rated at 2500-something," Anand guessed.

"Once the Academy became functional, with upgraded coaching, all the students improved upon their ELO rating. Very soon, everyone's rating graph took off. They started having very, very successful results. We were running ahead of targets. At that stage, we spoke of 2615, how to get there, and so on. Everyone was crossing that quite fast," affirmed Anand.

"We have Gukesh, Arjun, who has a 2700-plus rating. Praggu has mainly beaten Magnus five times, the biggest of the standard achievements. He's been doing very well and is close to 2700 now. It's been outstanding progress," Anand clarified.

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"One-two tournament a year, so I don't forget chess"
So what's in store for Anand as a player? "It's just playing one-two good tournament a year because if I don't play often enough, then I forget what practical chess is like. It's important to have at least familiarity and try to play well to keep my level. I would say that's where I'm right now," he concluded.

(With inputs from PTI)

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