By Prarthana Mitra
Chess grandmaster Vishawanathan Anand is no stranger to titles and awards, or to making history. Over his career spanning two decades, Anand has established himself as one of the contemporary pioneers of the game, winning numerous laurels for India at international chess tournaments.
On September 10, he earned another honour to his name, this time from the land of most of his rivals. The Russian consulate of South India conferred the prestigious “Order of Friendship” on Anand, 48, for his contributions to the betterment of relations with the Russian Federation and its people. The award seeks to acknowledge the work and efforts put in by artists, sportspersons and public figures, to foster a healthy Indo-Russian relationship.
Consul General Sergey Kotov handed the state decoration to him, in the presence of P Balakrishna Reddy, Sports Minister of Tamil Nadu, and Gennadil A Rogalev, the Director of the Russian Centre of Science and Culture.
For Anand, Russia holds a special place because it is where his career took off. He delivered a short keynote speech after the felicitation, recalling some of his fiercest competitors Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik, all Russians who taught him a lot about the game and have become companions more than rivals. He was also reminded of all the time he spent practising and playing at the Russian Centre, his trips to Moscow in 1986 and 2012 where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin and Boris Gelfand.
After a difficult 2017 after a relatively stable 2016, Anand is back in top form and continues to the best chess player in our country’s history. In 2016, he had two very high finishes—the second place in St Louis, and the third place in London, at the Champions Showdown and London Chess Classic tournaments, respectively. Shaking off a slew of defeats, he won the World Rapid Chess title in Riyadh in December 2017.
Previous recipients of this legendary honour include Nelson Mandela and Bengali neorealist filmmaker Mrinal Sen, the only other Indian to have been decorated with the Order of Friendship.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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