November 20, 2013 14:54

Anand's Chennai — Pictorial Report

Anand's Chennai — Pictorial Report

Although his family lived in the Philippines for a short while, Viswanathan Anand grew up and spent most of his childhood in Madras, the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Having lived in Europe for a long time, Anand has now moved back to the city that was named Chennai in 1996 by the state government. It is the host city of the 2013 Chess World Championship between Anand (the "Tiger of Madras") and Magnus Carlsen. On two rest days, I got the opportunity to visit several places which played a role in the life of the young Vishy Anand. Here's a pictorial report.

On the second rest day, on 14 November, I visited Anand's old school, the
Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Egmore, Chennai
L-R Eric van Reem, Stefan Löffler, Cathy Rogers, Lennart Ootes,
Peter Doggers, Ian Rogers & Hans-Walter Schmitt
The school is named after the Italian Roman Catholic priest and educator and writer of the 19th century
Ram Bhat, a classmate and friend of Vishy, gave us a tour through the school
On the wall we quickly spotted this tribute photo collage 
Outside, a cricket tournament was under way
Hans-Walter Schmitt chatting with perhaps one of the new Sachins...
...and checking out the tournament's prizes
Cricket is the #1 sport in India...
...but this form of (table)tennis is also quite fun to play!
Some statistics about the staff & students of the school today
One of the class rooms, which has hardly changed since
Vishy attended the school in the 1970s and early 1980s
Anand used to play chess at the Tal Chess Club, part of the Russian Cultural Centre
where sometimes Russian coaches would visit, e.g. Yuri Averbakh
A cabinet with Russian memorabilia includes some chess books
These days the chess club has a different name...
...but still many prizes from the old days are kept... this one, a tourney where Anand played first board!
Culture includes food: a lunch in the splendid Dakshin restaurant with banana and rice dumplings together
with coconut, lentil, koriander and garlic/tomato served on a banana leaf...
...followed by the typical (and excellent) South Indian filter coffee
The chef explains how this sweet milky coffee, made from dark roasted coffee beans and chicory, is made
South Indian coffee is brewed with a metal device that resembles two cylindrical cups, one of
which has a pierced bottom that nests into the top of the "tumbler" cup, leaving ample room
underneath to receive the brewed coffee. The upper cup has two removable parts:
a pierced pressing disc with a central stem handle, and a covering lid.
Nicknamed "meter coffee", it is typically served after pouring back and forth between the
dabarah and the tumbler in huge arc-like motions of the hand. This serves several
purposes: mixing the ingredients (including sugar) thoroughly; cooling the hot coffee
down to a sipping temperature; and most importantly, aerating the mix without
introducing extra water (such as with a steam wand used for frothing cappucinos).
Our tour through "Anand's Chennai" included a visit to Vidya Sagar...
...a school for children with cerebral palsy and other neurological disabilities which is supported by Vishy and Aruna Anand
Anand's signature on the wall, with business cards designed by one of the pupils
The energetic Ms. Rajul Padmanabhan showed us around 
The wheelchairs are all named
A few creations by the pupils
This group is about to do some exams
Communication often goes via a letter board
Young children are helped with vision stimulation
This group includes at least one chess lover!
The biggest chess fan, named Karthik, was the one to invite Anand
to become ambassador and happens to play on! 
During our visit M. Swaminathan showed his drawing skills
He was given chess pictures...
...copied them by blowing up certain elements...
...and this was the result!
A speech given by Anand at the school: "For me Vidya Sagar , is a place where i go for inspiration. The laughter and the spark in each child's eye speaks of a struggle that has been overcome. A struggle from within and a struggle to exist as an equal in society. The need to be someone and not anyone. For me Vidya Sagar is about each child that wants to conquer and have that little piece of the world. I am very proud to be part of Vidya Sagar. It is an institution that has taught me to be humble. Each child at Vidya Sagar is different, Bright and all that they ask of us is a smile a healing touch and some compassion. Wishing Vidya Sagar and all the people who make it happen all the very best". 
On the wall we noticed these wishes for Vishy ("anna" means brother) — he will need it!


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers



Thank you very much for your excellent coverage of the match !

Chess Fan's picture

Peter and Chess Vibes. What an excellent article!
Thanks for this MOST WONDERFUL cultural coverage and coverage about Anand's Chennai. This is almost one of the best articles an coverages that I have seen.
I keep mentioning about respecting Anand and the tremendous amount of silent help he has done for Charities. This is what my respect for Anand stems from - his humanity as a people' s champion.

Anonymous's picture

Absolutely brilliant, Peter!!! One of the best reports on chessvibes. Great work, keep it up!

Anonymous's picture


Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the report!
Reminds us that people and education are more important than any chessboard can ever be, and that chess can only be great in this context.

Anonymous's picture

Bravo Peter !

Tyche's picture

Wonderful stuff, Peter! Thank you so much. It is very nostalgic for me since I was born and raised in Madras (Chennai). I actually played against Anand in his very first chess tournament (Madras District Juniors - TNEB organized it) and beat Anand in the 4th round where I was white and we played Giuco Piano. Anand was only 8 yr at that time and I was 15 yrs! About 3-4 years later (after he got back from Phillipines), we played again in the Bertram intercollegiate at Loyola. He beat me with black, playing Caro-Kann. How can one forget such experiences?

Thank you so much for the piece about Vidya Sagar. It tells us all that we really need to know about Anand. The rest, about being world champion chess player, is not really that meaningful in the big scheme of things. Regardless of the result of this match, Anand will always be one of the greatest champions on and off the board.

Frits Fritschy's picture

You mean well, but I have to disagree with you on one point. That Anand is world champion chess is the most meaningful thing in the big scheme of things. Without it, there might not have been any connection between him and Vidya Sagar, at least not at the present level.
Vincent van Gogh studied to become a preacher among the poor Belgian miners. Let's be glad he left that to others and started painting.
It's meaningful to do what you're best at.

Thomas Richter's picture

I see what you mean - but we'll never know if van Gogh would have become a good preacher if he hadn't been a talented painter. Likewise, Anand (who studied commerce) might have become a successful businessman (or could still become one if he retires from chess?) if he wasn't that good in chess, or had never discovered the game. Also with such a profession, he could support Vidya Sagar.

Chess Fan's picture

Tyche, very interesting. Are you a professional chess player? Can you say your first name, only if you don't mind?
Thanks for sharing your story.

Ch_FN's picture

What an incredible story! No matter what heights a person may reach in his/her life, being humble and respectful with everyone and staying true to the roots of human beings is an absolute invaluable asset which is far more important than making billions of bucks. One of the greatest sports persons and icon Vishy you are!

vpai's picture

Good one

Tyche's picture

@Frits Fritschy. I agree with you. Anand is able to make significant contributions outside of chess mainly because of who he is in chess. I also completely agree with you that the best way to serve is to do the best in what you do. My main point was to highlight the laudable fact that he is channeling his chess stardom into service of humanity.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Then we agree.

Chess Fan's picture

Tyche, very nice comment.
Many people have the gift of good fortune (not just money) to help other people and make their lives better, but how many people use that gift?

filiusdextris's picture

Great presentation (I'm wiping away some tears).

Thomas Richter's picture

First, I was puzzled that Catholics and (other) Christians are counted separately, and together slightly more numerous than Hindus - obviously related to the fact that the school is named after a Catholic priest and under Rev. leadership. Still it's open to all religions (also catering to children of expats?).

How did Anand end up at, i.e. why did his parents choose this school? It must well have shaped his personality!?

Chess Fan's picture

My friends from India tell me that it is one of the most prestigious schools in Chennai. At Anand's time, it was the best school in Chennai for both academics and sports.

Ihab's picture

Good work! Many thanks

celso's picture

As we all know, since everything is fine, Anand is a true gentleman!

Tyche's picture

@Thomas Richter. In India, it is very common for Hindu parents to send their children to Christian schools and vice-versa. The quality of education and the discipline are the main things that the parents look for when choosing a school. Whether the school is secular or parochial is secondary. I, too, went to a Christian school because of its good reputation, even though my parents were card-carrying Hindus. I know the Christian Bible quite well, I might add!

balu's picture

India has unmatched diversity - all religions welcome.. it is not a hindu state - a secular state in practice..peace

Tyke's picture

Anand is going to come back and win this match in style. Mark my words.

Mohit Sharma's picture

Yeah, an interesting tour. Nice report thanks.

Morley's picture

Very cool, thanks!

Chess Fan's picture

One trivia that I learned is that though Anand was very busy with chess and was hardly able to attend school, he got a perfect score in Maths (200/200) in 1987 in his high school final exam which was considered a great accomplishment. He also got admission into prestigious medical and engineering colleges, which he eschewed to do a commerce degree to focus on chess.

VK's picture

Very nice report Peter!. and thanks for it, great work!

Anonymous's picture

SERIOUSLY, I am AMAZED how you keep this most boring chess match in the history and future of chess - the most interesting one ever.

Chess Fan's picture

Anonymous, this is as much about people, background, and emotions as it is about just chess match and moves. That is the difference between this WCC and WCC between the two best chess playing engines. We can as well have the latter and cancel all human games otherwise, can we not, just based on playing strength?

Anonymous's picture

All what you wrote is thanks to the organizers, who should get WC title instead of any of the modern players.

Anonymous's picture

Non-event, non-match, noon-news.

Anil Philip.'s picture
Paul's picture

Funny al this Anand fetish besides the fact that he is No gentleman, i'm sure a lot of players would have beaten hin: e.g Kramnik, Aronian, Nakamura, Grishuk, Caruana,Svidler etcetc. His won matches egainst leko en topalov were obvious the only time he performed well was beating Kramnik who by than wasn't a shade he is now.Anand is about MONEY!!!!..spoiled! Long live the real player Carslen who is stronger and absolutely more witty and's like whats printed in a Dutch paper: hitting at Carlsen is like hotting a ball against a tenniswall. Let Anand enjoy a life of chocolade, cashewnuts and draws..but he will never have back the status. On the long list of WC's he might be in challenge with Max Euwe for the lowest place,

Anonymous's picture

Your post is irrelevant to this report!

sundararajan ganesan's picture

how mean one can be!

A Viswa's picture

This is the gift of anonymity on the internet -- you can trash anyone you want and be as mean as you want! Trash people and trash legacies with no respect, dude. This is not good.

Thomas Richter's picture

When did Anand play a match against Leko? What is Svidler's score against Anand? Hint: Svidler won two rapid games in 2000 and 2002.

Even a hate post should get some facts right - at least I always try for my "hate posts".

Anil Philip.'s picture

Hello your are from which planet????. We are discussing something serious. Children like you, should not comment in this serious matter go and sleep baby.

Anil Philip.'s picture

Paul, Hello your are from which planet????. We are discussing something serious. Children like you, should not comment in this serious matter go and sleep baby.

Septimus's picture

Wow, superb article that really captures several unique elements of Indian culture. Very nice!

Tony L.'s picture

The future of chess:
As this match draws to a conclusion; it is plain that the title is headed for a new home. Tigran Petrosian would probably be proud of the style of chess, but I feel a sense of disquiet and disappointment since, of late, the great god Caissa has made a habit of rewarding long ponderous endgame battles that started out being that way right from the first move. Gone are the days when an opening was followed by creative, imaginative flair accompanied by all manner of courage, timing, discipline and will to win, now this has been replaced by a ‘play not to lose’ mentality. Many will point to examples to refute my observations but it could be seen coming first with the Gelfand challenge and now, amplified, with the Carlsen challenge. It is so acute now that I would guess that within a generation or so; playing chess as a creative, imaginative intellectual pursuit will dwindle and, in all likelihood, perish.

I think that Anand has been an exemplary champion, arguably, the greatest we’ve seen. Its a pity that the kingdom though will now shrink.

SS's picture

Long time reader but compelled to respond to this one. You spoke my mind ! There is distinct lack of aesthetics in Carlsen's play. There is no romance. There is no beauty. It is cold, long and boring.

It is perhaps little too optimistic of Anand to take easy draws in the last two games and hoping to conjure up something in game 9. But alas, I am afraid it is not to happen.

sab's picture

What is cold for you can be beautiful for other.

A Viswa's picture

Very nice article. Congrats on such a thoughtful and touching piece. I think it highlights the pressure that Anand indirectly faces more than most other chess players -- the background, pressure, and expectations back home. In addition to age, Nielsen's defection, and the undeniable ability of Carlsen, I am sure that this hidden pressure hinders Anand's showing. He may have been better off playing in Europe for this championship where not many would know him and the psychology wouldn't play on him much -- as most Indian expats all over the world would understand. Not making excuses for his tame play in this match, but just trying to emphasize what's going on.

A Viswa's picture

I should add that I am an admirer of Vishy, but am now almost at the point of giving up. I am not quite as rabid as Garry Kasparov or Nigel Short or Ian Rogers (the latter two have serious hidden biases and colonial hangovers), but I think Carlsen has earned the crown -- unless Anand comes back sharply very soon. Do it Vishy!

A Viswa's picture

I think spending so much time in India with the crowds, phone calls, and sponsorships has distracted him and hurt his preparations and play. His seconds are also not that impressive, other than the Polish GM (sorry I don't recall his name, my sincere apologies). He should really have played in Norway -- he would have done much better.

mouna's picture

a lone lion can hunt and do it well but a lot of lions can really hunt and do it extremely well.... But in the case of Anand I would like to reverse this phrase and I can see : a lot of lions can hunt and do it well but a lone lion can really haunt hunt and do it extremely well.... I hope that anad will give up his seconds and mostly Leko (the king of draws ). I hope that Anand pay them and send them to theirs country as soon as possiblen and he plays as a real fighter ,and no problem if he dies with proud and dignity . The most important we would like to see Anand fight for win.

Guy_Montag's picture

Excellent article, thank you. I just finished watching the Game 9 replay on YouTube. I think Vishy saw his error a split second after he touched the knight...I'm thinking this because his follow through, to physically put the N on f1, did not look natural. I'm sorry to see the match end like this. The next 10 moves looked extremely exciting.

Vishy is an honorable man, a humble champion, and an excellent ambassador for chess.

Tyche's picture

As we get ready to usher in a new era, let us reflect a bit on Anand's legacy. Is he one of the greatest chess champions of all time? Purely on the basis of domination over the chess board, most would agree that he is not. He is certainly not in the ranks of Steinitz, Lasker, Morphy, Capablanca, Alekhine, Fischer and Kasparov. He has never utterly demolished his peers in any single super GM tournament. He was never the undisputed (by a clear margin) #1 in the world. His only convincing WC win was against Kramnik. So, if he does not merit a place in the pantheon of the all-time greats of chess, what is his legacy? He is probably the pioneer of computerized chess preparations. I am not an expert on this, so please correct me if I am wrong. He has inspired hundreds of millions of children in India. Perhaps a future champion emerges from this group and beats Carlsen (!). I would be delighted to hear from Anand fans and anti-fans on this issue of his legacy on the game of chess.

Anonymous's picture

Great question and I'd agree with all you write and say that Anand ranks in the group with Euwe, Kramnik, Spassky and Petrosian among the World Champions. All naturally great players but never clear #1 or in any way dominant like Karpov, Kasparov etc or really comparable with the greatest Champions. He was unlucky to have Kasparov to compete with, but there's always someone.


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