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Displaced from top spot after 37 years, Viswanathan Anand feels 'funny in own skin'

Viswanathan Anand, displaced as India's top chess Grandmaster after 37 years, speaks on his feelings at the long wait coming to an end.

Displaced from top spot after 37 years, Viswanathan Anand feels funny in own skin

Viswanathan Anand and D Gukesh at an event (File Photo/Getty)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 1 Sep 2023 3:04 PM GMT

Viswanathan Anand, displaced from the top spot in Indian chess after 37 years by his understudy D Gukesh on September 1, said he now feels something different in the air but he is relieved that the wait for something he knew was going to happen eventually is finally over.

"It's partially a relief, because how long do you want to wait for it to happen? The thing about being semi-retired is that you're much more detached personally. But it's still a shock to realise that something you expected to happen eventually - you never define 'eventually' in your mind - when it finally happens, you feel funny in your own skin. You're not sure what's different, but there's something different in the air," Anand told Champions Chess Tour during an interaction on the occasion of Gukesh overtaking him.

Anand had been the first Grandmaster from India. After him there have been 82 Indian Grandmasters, most of them coming up in the last decade. On Friday, as the chess rankings were updated, Gukesh, a student of the Westbridge Anand Chess Academy, officially overtook his mentor to now be ranked India number one and 8th in the world.

Anand has been India’s top-ranked player in all published lists since January 1987. He first made it to the world’s top-10 in July 1991 and has been the undisputed king of Indian chess since then. He had dropped to India number 2 for a few hours in the live rankings in March 2016, when Pentala Harikrishna had briefly overtaken him.

With Anand now having 'semi-retired', Gukesh has finally definitively ended Anand's reign.

"I feel very proud. I'm not really his coach, but I was able to give him a lot of suggestions, interacted with him. With Pragganandhaa also I have interacted a lot," Anand said.

On his plans for the future, Anand said that he has some competitive chess left, but added that he will not keep at it for too long. "There's no pressure on me now, I can try different things. (One of the priorities now) is to keep things that were once central in life in their proper place," Anand said.

The passion to hold on to his top spot - something Anand successfully did for 37 years, an unprecedented feat in Indian sports - is probably what he meant by this. With Gukesh having taken over, that passion can finally go from holding the central spot in Anand's life to being 'in its proper place'.

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