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Chess players' careers are getting shortened — Know Why?

Five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand on Monday said that the career span of players has become shorter than earlier times.

Viswanathan Anand (Source: Eric van Reem, courtesy of Hachette India)

Viswanathan Anand (Source: Eric van Reem, courtesy of Hachette India)


Md Imtiaz

Updated: 15 Jun 2021 11:29 AM GMT

With the outbreak of the coronavirus last year, many sporting activities around the world were postponed or came to a standstill. Amid, the difficult times, many athletes took up different activities which kept their momentum up amid the lockdown. Indian cricketer and one of the best all-rounders of the team, Ravichandran Ashwin started his own conversation videos on YouTube with the title 'DRS with Ash', a show where he hosts many eminent personalities of Indian sports and gets candid with them discussing the various aspects of their sports.

The series which started in June 2020, marked its 26th episode on Monday where Ashwin called upon India's most prominent chess grandmaster Viswanathan Anand. While sharing his experience and various insights about his game, the five-time world chess champion said that career span of players has become shorter than earlier times.

Anand went on to explain the reason being the high level of hard work arising out of intense competition. He said the level of "physical tension" is much higher these days as compared to earlier times and so players need to be physically fit. "The physicality of your life is coming into the sport. The level of physical tension and physical level is much higher now. So nowadays, it is fitness, fitness and fitness,"

He further said, "This hard work is very energy-intensive and therefore, career spans are shortening. This is unquestionable.

The 51-year old chess maestro was referring to the hard work that (chess) players put in these days. Asked about playing against players of the younger generation, Anand said he would try to bring unfamiliar situations to them by using his vast experience. "Younger players, you could drop them in any situation and they would just calculate better. And how these two strategies clashed? Computers changed that, because it has shortened the time, you need to have experience," he said.

Anand said the legendary Bobby Fischer was one of the reasons many began to look chess as a career. "In the 1970s and 80s, probably like many sports, chess was just starting to become like a career. The biggest reason was Bobby Fischer. "It was already a career for people in Soviet Union or the East Block, but that concept didn't exist anywhere else. But after Fischer, those doors started to open for everybody," said Anand. "That's why even today, you'll see many old timers being very grateful to Fischer because they say 'Because of Fischer, we are here today'."

Watch the full episode here:

Anand recalled that in India of 1970s and 80s, chess was not a career option. "You could join a PSU and maybe find a niche or a public sector bank so that you get some support in that sense. You have a stable job and you could play chess. But it was quite limited and the second thing is, of course, computerisation, telecommunications all that also changed chess." Asked if chess players are super intelligent, Anand said, "Chess players are fairly intelligent. You can see these players, even if they quit chess and go and do something else also, they do it quite well." He also said playing chess helps a person in other ways, like improving memory and concentration.

The Chennai-based chess ace, renowned for his fast style of play, said he was the world's best rapid player till he was about 40-years-old before the new generation took over. "I'm sure there's a generation in cricket that still looks down on one-day and say it's not the real thing. Equally, there's a generation now (in chess) which just doesn't understand, even that there was once a question. "So, the generation after that is quite hard to compete with. I've had one or two glorious moments like the World Rapid Championship in 2017 which I won. When I won that nobody could expect it and least of all, I didn't expect it," he signed off.

With inputs from PTI

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