The chess champion Anand, the ‘good guy’ that everyone loves in Spain

An important Indian newspaper asked me to write a story about the chess champion Anand and his relation with Spain. Anand was playing in Chennai (India) the World Chess Championship 2013 against the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. On Friday 15th  November the newspaper had my feature: a very optimistic story about Anand. But, after send it, the Indian player started to lose and they decided to wait to publish it. Yesterday, Carlsen dethroned Anand as world chess champion.

This is my never published story:

New Delhi, 15 /11 / 2013

Carlsen (left) vs Anand /FIDE
Carlsen (left) vs Anand /FIDE

The members of La Roja, the Spanish National football team, and tennis star Rafael Nadal are, by far, the most beloved athletes in Spain. The reason is simple. Their humanity and simplicity, because they become sports a game to enjoy these highlight values such as friendship and the desire to excel.

For chess’ lovers in Spain, the five-time champion Viswanathan Anand, who lived for more than a decade in a village on the outskirts of Madrid, is a faithful representative of all those values.

“You don’t need to be an unpleasant person to know put pressure on the board. For that I have enough aggressiveness,” Anand had told Spain’s influential chess commentator Federico Marin Bellon in 2010.

A journalist from the Spanish newspaper ABC, Bellon is a faithful follower of the Indian chess player and has shown on numerous occasions his rendered admiration to the champion from Chennai.

“Anand is one of the athletes with more followers in the world, after Chinese basketball player Yao Ming. At home is an idol. He have won five times the world chess championship and almost has a right to be an asshole, but his kindness and humility always catch you by surprise,” wrote Bellon once.

For the Spanish expert, like for many other followers of the sophisticated sport, “Vishy Anand is a lovely guy and the biggest talent in chess in the last half century, at least.”

ANAND / FIDE
ANAND / FIDE

Known in Spain as ‘the Tiger of Madras’ for his legendary speed of playing, Anand may not have started as favourite the Norwegian star Magnus Carlsen, but it appears that his experience and unique vision of the game has made him take steps forward in the world championship against his young rival.

“Contrary to forecasts, the aspirant Carlsen is suffering more than necessary to achieve some form of favorable position despite having played with white pieces. Seemed even he was going to be defeated at times,” was the verdict in Marca, Spain’s foremost sports daily, some days ago.

It is clear that Spain is devoting much attention to their naturalized hero in his current championship fight. Anand’s relationship with Spain began in the 90s when his “Spanish parents” — as he speaks about Mauricio and Nieves Perea — convinced him to take up residence in Collado Mediano, a village defined by Anand as “small and friendly”. Anand especially liked Collado Mediano for its location, nestled in the mountains of Madrid and where he even bought a house in 1995.

But the choice of Spain to live in, was due to a much more practical reason: “I needed a base in Europe to play more tournaments and to collaborate with the great masters”.

In 2001, Anand explained to El Pais, the most important Spanish daily, that his adaptation was easy as “despite cultural differences, the Spanish and the Indians are warm people , conducive to physical contact with southern spirit.”

“I was a vegetarian, but when I realized how delicious the fish was, I added it to my diet. My only problem at first was kiss to women as a greeting, but I got used easily,”Anand recounted laughingly.

The ‘affection’ that he got in Spain was won with his gestures, said Javier Ochoa de Echagüen, the president of the Spanish Chess Federation. Anand “speaks Spanish very correct” and has always accepted the proposals of the organization to perform some type of sports cooperation.

However, Anand recently broke off his romance with Spain, settling finally with his son and inseparable wife Aruna in his hometown of Chennai.

Football, famously remains one of the great passions of the Indian chess player during his stay in Spain. Real Madrid’s faithful follower, he is a convinced lover of ‘La Roja’.

Anand once referred to the style of play of the Spanish football team after it won the third consecutive title last year, saying: “They play the beautiful game beautifully”. And he said this, gracefully pointing out, that “it is coming from a Real Madrid fan who knows that Spain are following the Barcelona model of tiki-taka football”

Playing beautifully is very important to him because, as he said in 2007 after winning the world championship in an interview with EFE, the Spanish news agency: “You can’t be playing if you aren’t having fun, I enjoy a lot after a good game or if I find something that I didn’t suspect or plan for.”

ANAND / FIDE
ANAND / FIDE

The Spanish public remembers with special fondness the words of the champion in Madrid last June, when he had won his fifth world title against Israeli Boris Gelfand. It was a particularly tought win, coming against all odds, due to a painful defeat in one of the games:

“In the darkest moments,” said Anand, “One must keep doing the right thing and keep the faith that things go smoothly. All this allows me to reflect on the crisis that is happening in many countries, including Spain. When everything seems horrible, we must work as always and hope for the best. If the solution comes by surprise, always will be the most pleasant surprise. The crisis may last more or less, but we have to do it the best we can.”

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