The Most Interesting Thing I’ve Ever Read About Chess

… but admittedly also the only thing I’ve ever read about chess as far as I can remember. Anyway…

Indians are going cock-a-hoop over Viswanathan Anand who recently retained his World Chess Championship title after moving the little pieces around on the board in an extremely clever manner.

But the real story is what it took to get Viswanathan to this point in a country where sports are in the unfortunate hands of the government. In his excellent new blog, India Uncut, Amit Varda describes his own experiences as a teenage chess champ trying to overcome the ridiculous conditions in which he was supposed to develop:

When my team of four players landed up the day before the event began, we were shown into a large hall and told we’d be sleeping there for the night, with many of the other athletes and sportsmen who had shown up. About 60 people could have fit in it in normal circumstances. There were more than 100 of us. No bedding was provided, part of the floor was wet (leakage from somewhere), and sleep didn’t come easy.

The next morning, we found that the toilet facilities intended for us amounted to a small shed outside the building that had three or four cubicles in it. Inevitably, fights broke out in the rush to use it. There were judokas, wrestlers, weightlifters and shot-putters around. As you’d expect, we chess players had to learn to control our bowel movements.

With little or no decent training, championships that fell on the same day as final exams at school and training manuals that arrived several months after the Eastern Europeans got their hands on them, it is no surprise that India has not exactly scaled the heights of the chess mountain in the past.

Which only makes Viswanathan’s success all the more incredible:

His achievements … are greater than they would have been if they belonged to a Russian or East European player. They are beyond stupendous. In the context of where he came from, it’s like a guy takes a Maruti 800 into a Formula 1 race and wins the championship. That guy, frankly, is more than just the best driver in the world.

So well done him. Read the rest of the blog here….

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