Kolkata/Chennai: Saluting Viswanathan Anand for winning the World Chess Championship title for the fifth time, Indian Grand Masters Wednesday described him as the country's greatest sportsperson of all-time and demanded he be conferred the nation's top civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.
‘Of course, Anand is the greatest sportsperson in our country of all time. One hundred and eighty countries play chess. To be the World Champion, that too for five times, against such a field is a unique achievement for an Indian.
‘Moreover, it was he who broke the stranglehold of the Grand Masters who were products of the Soviet era. He is the best candidate for the Bharat Ratna from sports,’ Dibyendu Barua, a contemporary of Anand and the second GM produced by the country after Anand, told IANS.
Echoing Barua, GM Neelotpal Das said: ‘There can be no doubt that he is the greatest sportsperson in India ever. After this feat, the demand for giving him the Bharat Ratna will only get louder.’
Barua said Anand's triumph was great news for the game in the country.
‘It was a tough contest. We all thought that it would be a cakewalk for Anand who has lot of experience. He was also ahead of Gelfand in one-to-one fights. But Gelfand, having his first shot a the tile, really played well. He took the lead but then had to surrender it to the seasoned Indian player.
‘And in the play-off rapid chess tie-breaker Anand proved he is still the king,’ Barua said.
Barua said it could well be that it was the strategy of Team Anand that he would adopt some sideline tactics in the first set of 12 games so as not to tire himself.
‘But as critics have been pointing out, we did not see the spark in Anand as we generally see in him. He was playing extremely carefully with Gelfand going on the attacks for most part of the series,’ he said.
Das said Anand had rarely ever faced such a tough fight.
‘But it is a tribute to his class, that Anand managed to bring out his special game at the last moment and put pressure on his opponent.
‘There was not much of a difference between the two. Gelfand was more attacking. But Anand had the last laugh as he has more experience of playing in several formats. Though the entire tie was of very high quality, the public could find it abit low on entertainment,’ Das added.
Chess world body, FIDE, also feels that Anand is the deserving candidate for the Bharat Ratna.
‘Ever since he started playing as a young boy he has conducted himself with dignity and stayed clear of any controversy for more than 25 years,’ D.V.Sundar, FIDE vice-president, told IANS in Chennai
India's first international chess arbiter and Anand's first official coach V. Kameswaran said that Anand deserves the award because he is the only player to win the world title in all formats.
‘No other chess player has won the world title in different format except Anand,’ said Kameswaran.
R. Raghunathan, a former National B player, said Anand has again showed his class in rapid chess.
The All India Chess Federation (AICF) also favoured honouring Anand with the top civilian award.
‘It is a huge victory for Anand and also for India. He certainly deserves the Bharat Ratna for winning the world title for the fifth time. He has been performing consistently over the years,’ J.C.D. Prabhakaran, president, AICF, told IANS in Chennai.
He said the AICF would hold a grand felicitation function here after getting the advice of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa.