How chess champion Viswanathan Anand lost 10 kgs

Sep 30, 2015, 08:35 IST | Manisha Mohite

'Kgs lost: 10. Weight: 'Happy with the Scales'. The chess champ whittles down, to become fitter and have more stamina for his matches

Manisha MohiteFeta Cheese or the Fegatello Attack? Undoubtedly five time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand would not only instinctively reach but relish the Fegatello or the so called ‘Fried Liver Attack’, a popular opening in a chess game.

A self-confessed foodie, Anand enthusiastically tucks into various cuisines like Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Lebanese, Italian or Continental but unhesitatingly states his preference for anything South Indian.

Viswanathan Anand (l) with Aamir Khan
Viswanathan Anand (l) with Aamir Khan

Despite his love for food, the 45-year-old Indian maestro has surprised everyone with a leaner frame over the past couple of years, having shed around 10 kgs. On being asked whether he was following a weight loss regime, Anand said, “I have not undergone any weight loss program, nor am I starving. It is just healthy eating and a fixed fitness routine,” he finished with a shrug.

Also read: A biopic on Viswanathan Anand?

Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap (l) and Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand recently in Mumbai
Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap (l) and Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand recently in Mumbai

Nevertheless there has been speculation whether his leaner frame has made him meaner on the chess board in the past one year where he has displayed more appetite to go for the ‘kill’ and succeeded in breaching the 2800 ELO mark again.

Anand consciously decided to shed weight in 2013 in Germany where he was training for the world title bout with Magnus Carlsen. “The idea was to be fitter and have more stamina.” Prod him about his food habits, and it is apparent that he has decided on what he terms as “healthy” food to keep him moving.

Anand and wife Aruna (r) with a cheetah at Mokolodi, Botswana. Mokolodi is a nature reserve. Botswana is located in Southern Africa. Vishy seems to be telling the cheetah, “one day I will become as lean as you”. Yeah, you go Vis
Anand and wife Aruna (r) with a cheetah at Mokolodi, Botswana. Mokolodi is a nature reserve. Botswana is located in Southern Africa. Vishy seems to be telling the cheetah, “one day I will become as lean as you”. Yeah, you go Vis

Typically, Anand’s day starts with a good breakfast comprising muesli, fruits and nuts. Lunch is a totally South Indian affair, comprising salads, lots of vegetables, curds. He has cut down on rice. Dinner is again vegetables with rotis, salads or a pasta.

Not only has Anand, dubbed as the ‘Man in Blue’ (his trademark blue shirt) lost weight but has been maintaining the loss. So did that mean a new wardrobe? The enthusiastic followers would like to see the Indian in a new colour or attire but Anand disappoints, saying, “I just needed new belts.”

Anand’s wife, Aruna, who also enjoys different cuisines is quick to add, “We satiate our taste buds at home during dinner by cooking pasta, Lebanese, Mexican or different types of salads. We are fond of feta cheese.” She adds that Anand has cut down on fats and his snacking habit, which has contributed to Anand’s slimmer silhouette.

The general perception is that chess is a lazy game, where silent, non-violent duellers fence on 64 squares. They have computer like calculations, sit comfortably and coolly on cushioned chairs for close to seven hours. That kind of duel, it seems to some, does not require the physical fitness so necessary for athletes.

Anand quickly dispels the notion. He says, “These days, the trend is long drawn out games stretching six to seven hours and it is here that physical fitness plays an important part, if you have to retain freshness and clarity in your calculations.”

Anand spends a couple of hours at the gym daily coupling cardio with weights and stretching. To break the monotony, he cycles once weekly, he also swims once a week. In fact, when Anand was based in Spain, he used to cycle everywhere, even for his grocery shopping at times. Now, he has moved to Chennai but his matches take him everywhere, so in a very tangible sense he is a citizen of the world.

During the World Championship in Moscow in 2001, Anand’s car was caught in a traffic jam and with just minutes left for the game, Anand abandoned his car and sprinted into the playing hall to start a crucial encounter. In fact, Anand also negates the theory that fitness for him is a recent fad. “I have been following a fitness regime since 1994 but it is only now that people are noticing it.”

Anand has always been non-fussy in his food habits saying, “We eat everything that is available and edible,” a far cry from world champions who fly out with cooks in their teams during the long and gruelling World Championships.

Vegetarian by choice, Anand does though relish sea food and lists ‘El Conquistador Morelia, (Mexico) as one of his favourite restaurants and Chilaquiles and Mexican Chipotle sauce as one of his favourite foods. Does food influence the quality or strength of a game? Anand says, “I think when you perform well you always have pleasant memories.

During the World Cup in Shenyang in 2000, food wise it was tough. We yearned for something as simple as a cup of coffee. Now in retrospect, the memories are always very pleasant.” When asked if he looked specially for Indian food when overseas, Anand says, “We (his family) don’t really look for Indian food abroad but sometimes it is a nice touch! In 2008, in Germany our hotel made nice dosas on the last day after I won the title.”

Also read: Viswanathan Anand draws with Magnus Carlsen to finish 9th

Anand’s lifestyle also changes during events. It is then that he replaces long walks with gym routines. He prefers light meals like salads and foods with less spice. He generally, like most chess players, prefers a banana yoghurt before the game and these days is seen sipping green tea during games. When Aruna is asked whether Anand has a gym at home, the response is instantaneous “No! Akhil (their son) is a gym in himself.”

The writer has reported on all World Chess Championships featuring Anand from 1997. She is a former Karnataka state chess champion.

Berlin Bound
Viswanathan Anand is currently training for the World Rapid and World Blitz Chess Championship scheduled at Berlin, Germany from October 9 to 15. Magnus Carlsen, defending champion is also in the fray.

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