“A woman can beat any man; it’s difficult to imagine another kind of sport where a woman can beat a man. That’s why I like chess.” ALEXANDRA KOSTENIUK
By Alex P. Vidal
Jim Slater (not the ice hockey player) sent me the link of Deccan Chronicle with a story that happened 19 years ago about Soviet-born American chess grandmaster Gata Kamsky “saying sorry” after eliminating Indian grandmaster Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand, 6-4, in the FIDE (Federation internationale des echecs) or World Chess Federation quarterfinal held at Sanghi Nagar, Hyderabad, India in 1994.
Slater is an Australian sports scribe I met outside the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) sometime in June 1992, during the 30th World Chess Olympiad. His namesake, Jim Slatter (last name with double letter “t”) is also an Australian and my esteemed colleague and friend in the original World Boxing Federation (WBF).
Slater was asking if I know that Anand, 43, learned the rudiments of chess in the Philippines when his family moved here in the early 70s. He wanted to know more about the Anand family’s stint in the Philippines. Did Vishy really learn and sharpen his chess skills in Manila? Was he trained by a Pinoy? I told him the truth: I have no idea.
I play chess and cover chess tournaments as a sports writer, but I didn’t know that Anand, the current world chess champion, was a one-time “resident” of the Philippines. Interestingly, Anand won the world junior chess championship in Baguio City in 1987 at 17, the second time for the gigantic event to be held in the Philippines since 1974 where Britain’s future super-GM Anthony Miles emerged as world champion. A year after winning the Baguio world junior crown, Anand became India’s first grandmaster.
“I am sorry,” the Deccan Chronicle story quoted Kamsky, now 39, as saying after ousting Anand. The report cited international master P. D. S. Girinath’s analysis that Anand was the hot favourite going into the quarterfinal and the result was unpalatable for his fans. “Everyone thought Anand would win convincingly, especially after he led by two points midway through the match. The eventual result upset everyone at the tournament hall and Kamsky’s gesture was appreciated.”
Garinath added, “In the match against Kamsky, Anand drew the first two games and won the third and fourth. Fifth was a draw and then came his downfall, when he lost two games. In the final game, he drew to enter the rapid fire round. Despite holding a better position with black, Anand lost the first rapid game. He tried very hard to make it even with white pieces in the second game, but failed.” Garinath further said: “Kamsky and his father had got their return tickets booked even before the end of the match, as they had expected Anand to win easily. The organizers — Sanghi Industries — had already agreed to hold the semifinals in the same venue anticipating Anand’s participation.”
The match was conducted well, according to chess coach and international arbiter V. Kameswaran. Fans reportedly proved to be a distraction for Anand. Kameswaran said playing at home might have taken a toll on his performance towards the end of the match.
Kameswaran pointed out that the Indian champion did not wait long to take his revenge. He defeated Kamsky 6.54.5 in a 12-game final qualification match in the Professional Chess Association (PCA) world championship cycle in 1995.
The story said the win helped Anand challenge world champion Garry Kasparov for the title. Meanwhile, Kamsky defeated Valery Salov of Russia in the semifinals at Sanghi Nagar in 1995 before losing to Anatoly Karpov of Russia in the world championship match in 1996. “Since world champion Karpov was playing in India, there was a buzz among chess players during the semifinals. However, the absence of Anand was obviously felt,” Girinath said.
When Anand won the FIDE World Chess Championship for the first time in 2000 at Tehran, Iran, writer Arunabha Sengupta, narrated in a September 12, 2013 article posted on dnaindia.com: “Anand overcame a flight delay due to the erupting volcano Eyjafjallajokull, and underwent a harrowing 40-hour road journey before defeating Veselin Topalov to secure the World Championship. In the sixth game he made 13 consecutive moves with the knights, leading commentators to wonder whether he was trying to solve the Knight’s Tour Problem.”