India India India

The birthplace of chess has come a long way since an assuming young man won the World Junior in 1987. This man was known for his calculating abilities and for finishing his games in a matter of minutes. Now this player of humble abode is gracing the top of the chess charts and will lead India to the 36th Olympiad in Mallorca, Spain. Of course, this Spanish resident is Viswanathan Anand, currently the world's #2 player.

More Indians in Spain

Recently Anand gave an interview (mentioned on Mig's Daily Dirt) in which he raised some concerns about India's chances in the Mallorca Olympiad. He stated, ""We will be playing some top chess playing countries like Russia, Israel, Ukraine, USA and Armenia among others and it will be a tough task for us to win a medal as all the members of the team will have to do well consistently."

This is a surprising comment given that India scored an impressive 8th place finish in the Istanbul Olympiad four years ago without Anand's presence. Given that the nucleus of the Indian side is strengthened by
Krishan Sasikiran, Pentala Harikrishna and Surya Ganguly, the future appears bright for India. Chanda Sandipan and Abhijit Kunte will round out the strong Indian side.

GM Viswanathan Anand at Sao Paulo.

GM Viswanathan Anand
(Photo by Olena Boytson)

Two Sides of the Coin

Hopefully, Anand's comments were apparently made as a motivating factor, but his presence will certainly make a difference in the attitude of the younger Indian players.  When
Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships, he lead a group of 2nd-tier and 3rd-tier players in each case. Many basketball fans realized that Jordan's electricity and fierce determination to win made his teammates play to new heights.

Watching Anand destroy the chess world in the past year will certainly give the young players a boost and take a lot of pressure off of Sasikiran. "Sasi" (only 23) has played board #1 in the Istanbul (7-5) and Bled (6-5) Olympiads. While Anand and Sasikiran will score well on top boards, Harikrishna may play the key role in India's success in the crucial rounds.

GM Krishnan Sasikiran

GM Krishnan Sasikiran
(Photo by Vijay Kumar/Vishal Sareen)

The only problem may be lack of experience in playing with a player of Anand's stature for the first time.  While Sasikiran, Harikrishna, Ganguly and Kunte have played together on Olympiad teams before, Anand's presence could provide either confidence or discomfort. When Jordan came out of retirement to join the Washington Wizards, his presence became a liability as he scolded young players and lacked confidence in them.  Anand certainly will not resort to such tactics, but it will be interesting to see what type of chemistry the Indians will have with Anand on top board.  The prospects look very good.

Read article, "Winning at the Olympiad is tough: Anand," Sun Network, 17 September 2004.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 16 September 2004