Viswanathan Anand,the man who won his fifth world title on Wednesday,is originally from Chennai,India,and now lives in Collado Mediano,Spain. Boris Gelfand,the challenger who ran Anand so very close over the past three weeks,was born in Minsk,Belarus,and now lives in Rishon LeZion,Israel. Yet,the biggest winner to emerge from the 2012 World Chess Championships was,in a way,Russia through the erstwhile Soviet cultural system.
On Thursday,when Russian president Vladimir Putin met Anand and Gelfand following their heroic battle that ended in a tie-breaker,it was the Soviet chess school system that walked away with the best accolades. And it all started when Anand revealed his first brush with serious chess happened at the Soviet Cultural Centre in Chennai.
I have a long connection with the Soviet Union and Russia, Anand told Putin. In fact,I grew up playing chess in the Soviet Cultural Centre in my hometown. Not one to miss a beat,Putin replied with a laugh: So weve brought this on ourselves by raising a champion.
Without the Soviet Centre,Anand perhaps would not be where he is today,and if not for the Soviet system itself,the Belarussian-born Gelfand would probably not have ever had an inkling towards this game which Russia have consistently dominated the world.
Even in the current FIDE world rankings,13 out of the top 20 chess players in the world are either from Russia or erstwhile Soviet nations.
In recent years,Russia and especially Moscow has once again regained its position as the capital of the chess world, Gelfand told Putin. I grew up in Minsk and every time I came to Moscow I visited the Tretyakov Gallery. I could not even dream that one day I will play in the world championship final here.
The meeting with the leader was considered a great honour by both players. The fact that you are meeting with us,Mr President,is evidence that chess is greatly appreciated and loved in Russia. Thank you, Gelfand added,before Anand wrapped up proceedings with his ode to Russia.
Ive been coming to Moscow from the mid-1980s to practice chess and I must admit that I have benefited immensely from interacting with Russian chess players and the school of chess here, said Anand. Thank you for taking the time to meet us. For us,this is a great honour.
The honour was also Mother Russias.
From Russia with love Putin quips,We have brought it on ourselves
World chess champion Viswanathan Anand and runner-up Boris Gelfand on Thursday met Russian President Vladimir Putin at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence in suburban Moscow. Following is the transcript of the conversation the trio had over a cup of coffee.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: …I want to congratulate both of you on your brilliant results and a great game that I am sure gave great enjoyment to chess fans around the world. It was an equal fight. Of course,Mr Anand scored an important victory and I am happy to congratulate him.
…Both India and Russia,as well as the former Soviet republics,have the leading chess schools in the world. In general,chess and achievements in chess have always been a source of pride for our nation. It is no coincidence that Boris comes from the former Soviet Union,from Minsk (Belarus).
…We have a special relationship with India and I am very pleased that an Indian national is today a leading chess player in the world. I very much hope that this will not be the last time you played together and that you will play in this country again,in different cities and not only in Moscow.
VISWANATHAN ANAND: Thank you very much. I have a long connection with the Soviet Union and Russia. In fact,I grew up playing chess in the Soviet Cultural Centre in my hometown.
PUTIN: So weve brought this on ourselves by raising a champion. (Laughter.)
Anand: We played in a very beautiful gallery,the Tretyakov. Overall I would say I enjoyed the Russian hospitality a lot this time. I would like to thank Mr President for taking the time to meet us.
Boris Gelfand: …This match,which I think was the best organised match in chess history,will give a new impetus to the development of chess,because millions of people worldwide watched the game and children will grow up watching these matches.
Putin: Boris,I want to add that everything I said to Mr Anand fully applies to you as well. We will always be happy to see you in Russia. I know that you live in Israel now. We have special relations with this country as well and many immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Russia are now living in Israel. We highly value this potential. I hope to meet with you again both here and in Israel. I have an invitation from the leadership of Israel to visit the country as there is a very good reason. So,I hope we can meet here and in your new home country.
Once again,congratulations to both of you on these remarkable achievements. I think this is the achievement of both players. The competition was intense and equal. The history of chess has seen many different situations,but here you were neck and neck. That is certainly impressive.
Once again,all the best to you both.