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Indian chess had Midas touch in circa 2008|
21 Dec 2008
Indian chess players appeared to have the midas touch in circa 2008 as they bedazzled the world, digging gold almost everywhere on the planet.
The highlight of the year was of course Viswanathan Anand's brilliant defence of his World Championship title against Russia's Vladimir Kramnik in a 12-game match at Bonn, Germany.
Anand thumped Kramnik by a huge 6.5-4.5 margin, making the World Championship a lop-sided affair when it was supposed to be "a battle of nerves".
With this, the Indian ace became the first person to win the title in three different formats - knockout (2000), tournament (2007) and match-play (2008) - silencing his critics as he claimed place among the all time greats of the world.
Anand's juniors also followed his footprints as 19-year-old Abhijeet Gupta and 17-year-old Dronavalli Harika were crowned the Under-20 girls' and boys' world champions respectively in Gaziantep, Turkey. India became the first country to boast of two champions in the same edition.
Colts also made their presence felt in the world as Padmini Rout, Vidhit Gujrathi (both Under-14), B Adhiban (Under-16), and Sayatan Das (Under-12) reigned the world in the age-group categories in Vietnam, making it perhaps one of the best year for the country in the sport.
India finished with four gold, two silver and two bronze medals
Youngsters also fetched the Youth Olympiad Trophy for the second time on the trot and clinched the yellow metal in the Asian Junior championships in Goa through Mary Ann Gomes and Ashwin Jayaram.
The only world title missing from India's kitty was in women's division as Koneru Humpy, though starting as top seed and favourite, missed out on the glory in Nalchik, Russia.
India also flopped in Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany but it was not in the medal race anyway in the absence of Anand and Humpy in the team. Yet, the women's team had some consolation when Mary Ann Gomes fetched an individual silver at the Chess Olympiad.
India also struck gold in the World Blind Olympiad as Srikrishna Udupa from Karnataka won an individual medal in the event.
Anand, who moved out of the top-3 positions in the FIDE rankings after over a decade, also won the 13th Grenkeleasing Rapid World Championship and the Mainz title. Anand has won at the Mainze 11 times in it's 13 years of existence and the last nine times have been on the trot.
He also continued to reign at Morelia-Linares competition impressively defending his title by drawing the 14th and final round game with Veseline Topalov to finish with 8.5 points in this Category 21 Tournament.
World Junior Championship also ended dramatically as it started as Abhijeet Gupta defeated David Howell, the youngest Grandmaster of England while Delhi's Parimarjan Negi won the silver medal.
Dronavalli after her draw against Katerina Nemcova secured the world title with a full point gap.
Padmini, who won the under-14 world title with a round to spare, has won several age group internationals but this title is her biggest so far.
"It feels good!" she said when asked about the result. The silver were clinched by SP Sethuraman in the under-16 boys and R Preethi in the under-18 girls while bronze came through girls' under-12 contender Bodda Pratyusha and Debashis Das in the boys under-16.
Humpy's consolation was she became only the second woman player in the history of the game to cross the 2600 ELO mark after Judit Polgar and also maintained her second rank in the world after the Hungarian.
Not a very remarkable year for Negi, but he still managed a hat-trick of titles in Luxemberg and USA earlier in the year.
In between, S Arun Prasad, a former Asian junior champion, became the 18th Indian Grand Master.
India's achievements on the 64 square in the year gone by, makes one believe that world does not visualise only reclusive Russians now whenever they imagine a chess player.
Among the low-points, the chess world lost legendary Bobby Fischer, who revolutionalised the game while also breaking the Russian dominance in the game by winning the title in 1972.
Vishwanathan Anand with World Championship throphy. (AFP Photo)