Viswanathan Anand praises Russian chess in McKinsey essay

Anand said he was very intimidated by the chess prowess in the country. Source: AP

Anand said he was very intimidated by the chess prowess in the country. Source: AP

The Indian chess legend says chess was in the DNA of the Soviets and that he was intimidated by the chess talent in Russia when he went to Moscow for the first time.

Chess legend and five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand praised the chess prowess of Russia in an essay that was edited consulting firm McKinsey, PTI reported on Sunday.

The former world champion, who lost to Magnus Carlsen in Chennai last week said, the Soviets included a chessboard along with the bride's wedding trousseau to ensure that the children knew the rules of the game, according to the report.

“For the Soviets, chess was in their DNA,” the news agency quoted Anand as writing in the essay for the book titled Reimagining India: Unlocking the potential of Asia's next superpower.

Anand said that on his first visit to Moscow in the late 1980s, he was so intimidated by the chess prowess in the country that that he thought he could be “checkmated by every cab driver.”

“Such was the esteem in which India held the Russian chess school. As a young kid sprouting a wispy moustache, I was sometimes dismissed by the Russians as an upstart. I have even been referred to as a 'coffeehouse player,'” Anand was quoted as saying in the report. “Over the years, Russia's dominance over the game has ebbed and players have begun to emerge from China, Norway, Armenia and Israel.”

Anand said he dreams about the game being played in every school in the country, according to the report. “My dream is to see chess played in every school in India,” he said “With time and effort, our more intuitive Indian way of introducing a child to chess and letting his or her mind capture the essence of the game would not do too badly either.”

Anand wrote in the essay that he brings his "Indian identity" to his play. “I am often described as a natural or intuitive player. I agree there is something to that,” PTI quoted him as saying. “When I started out, the Indians did not have much interest in chess, no one talked about it. Now India seems to spawn new chess academies every day. The game is really taking off.”

The Indian chess legend added: “In some small ways, I believe that I may have made it possible, if only by showing that a coffeehouse player from Chennai without a physical trainer or psychological coach could hold his own against competitors from the Russian school.”

Based on a PTI report first published in the Deccan Chronicle.

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