Why we don’t understand Viswanathan Anand’s genius

Rohit Brijnath in Lounge:

He is genius hidden behind a buttoned-down demeanour; he is brilliance locked away. Think of it like this: Eventually it took a supercomputer, in a second attempt, to defeat Garry Kasparov, which suggests only the astonishing computing power men like Anand own. Yet, while we see him win, and we celebrate his win, many of us, who thought Kolkata’s Alekhine Chess Club was a hideaway only for gaggles of geeks, don’t know how, or why, he wins. He is a champion we don’t understand and thus cannot entirely appreciate.

The issue isn’t Anand, it’s just chess. As a sport, it’s a wonderful but opaque and internal activity. While concentration of this type requires physical reserves, it is the essential sitting-still combat. Two men huddled over a board like wartime generals over a miniature battlefield of 64 squares which offer unlimited permutations, yet cling-filmed in mystery. No one moves, only pieces. Even then, only after a while, and there is, presumably, a pleasure in the waiting, in the anticipation, in the expected or unexpected launch of an idea. But we miss this beauty because we’re unsure of the activity in his head, the calculation, the clarity, the jumble of theories, the reaching into memory, the creation of bluff, the studied face, the tiny fidgets (do they read body language? Surely, yes). More

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