Viswanathan Anand proved critics wrong - and how!
Viswanathan Anand has never believed in verbal volleys. Not even when he was being dismissed as 'not World Champion material' or when he was written off by his peers after losing his World Championship title to Magnus Carlsen last November. The Indian has always let his performance on the chequered board do the talking.
India's Viswanathan Anand. Pic/Getty Images
When the FIDE Candidates 2014, featuring eight contestants, commenced at Khanty-Mansiysk, the ratings, the critics and the chess elite never once mentioned Anand, at 44 the oldest man in the tournament, as a contender.
Nevertheless, Anand won the tournament emphatically - winning with a round to spare. He thus earned the right to challenge reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen for the title in November this year - Anand's 10th appearance in the world title match.
Anand remained the only unbeaten player in the event which is spread over 14 rounds with each player taking the other seven players twice. The former World Champion registered three victories, 11 draws. He was never in trouble against any opponent, stretched to a certain extent perhaps by Sergey Karjakin in Round 13.
In fact, the tournament saw an all-round performance by Anand where he played impressively, paced himself beautifully, never let the pressure get to him and took practical draws when needed.
The first round victory against his nemesis Levon Aronian set the tone, pace and the rhythm for the tournament.
Anand has always relished good starts throughout his career and this time too he ensured that he stayed in the lead throughout the event. En-route, he defeated his one-time Challenger Veselin Topalov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
He missed a victory against Dimitry Andreikin in a complex position but by then had enough points in his kitty to not let it matter.
The toughness of the event can be gauged from the fact that other than Anand, the other players could just about manage a fifty percent score and that the tournament was replete with upsets.
A beaming Anand summed it up with: "I am happy with the outcome. I didn't know what to expect from myself before the competition."