Anand stars in another year of gains

The year 2012 saw Viswanathan Anand winning his fifth World championship. That certainly was the highest point for Indian chess, but there were several other gains as well.

Anand, expectedly, defeated Boris Gelfand of Israel in Moscow to defend his crown, though the World No. 4 faced a stiffer challenge than he would have anticipated from a player ranked 16 places below him. The match was undecided after 12 games of normal duration, but Anand broke through in the second game of the tie-breaker (played in the rapid time control) to extend his reign as the undisputed World champion for the sixth year.

It was Anand’s third successive title in this format (in which the champion faces a challenger). He has also won the World championship in knockout and round-robin tournament formats. He truly is a versatile World champion.

He could not take his Moscow form to the tournaments he played afterwards, as he disappointed both at the Bilbao Chess Masters and the London Chess Classic.

Humpy disappoints in Worlds

Koneru Humpy, India’s greatest talent in chess after Anand, had a disappointing outing at the women’s World championship, which was also staged in Russia. At Khanty Mansiysk, she was shocked by Ukraine’s Natalia Zhukova in the second round.

The World No. 2 from Vijayawada was the highest-rated among the 64 women — the World No. 1 Judit Polgar is so good that she competes only with men — and was one of the strong favourites to be crowned the queen, especially after her fine showing in the Grand Prix circuit. She won the Grand Prix at Kazan and Ankara and was fourth at Jermuk.

Her State-mate, D. Harika had a more memorable World championship though, as the 12th seed reached the quarterfinals. It was indeed a tournament that paid scant regard to seeding — No. 30, Anna Ushenina of Ukraine won the World title beating No. 16, Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria.

Harika also played a key role in Indian women’s best-ever performance at the Chess Olympiad. In Istanbul, India finished fourth, despite the absence of Humpy who opted out. There was more reason to be happy as Tania Sachdev picked up an individual bronze medal in Turkey, on the third board.

Abhijeet Gupta won the silver on the fourth board, but it wasn’t a great tournament otherwise for the Indian men (without Anand, who rarely plays at the Olympiad) — they finished 35th, after being seeded 13th.

Future in safe hands

That India’s future in the sport is in safe hands was proved at the World Youth championship in Maribor, Slovenia. Eight Indians returned home with medals, keeping the country’s brilliant record in the event intact.

The girls, in particular, were outstanding, as three of them struck gold — M. Mahalakshmi (U-14), R. Vaishali (U-12) and N. Priyanka (U-12). And there were bronze medals for G.K. Monisha (U-14) and Riya Savant (U-12).

Though no Indian boy clinched the title, there were silver medals for Girish Kaushik (U-16) and Aravind Chidambaram (U-14) and a bronze for Ram Aravind (U-10).

Not surprisingly, India was unstoppable at the Asian Youth championship (classical, rapid and blitz) too, in Sri Lanka, winning 34 medals, including 16 golds.

India didn’t do badly at the continental level either, as Parimarjan Negi emerged Asian champion in Vietnam. In the women’s event, Mary Ann Gomez finished runner-up.

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