Greatest moments in Indian sport: No. 4. Anand wins the unified chess title

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The story till then

Viswanathan Anand's ascent was both quick and spectacular. He created waves from his early years, with the world junior champion crown in 1987 establishing his prodigious talent. His maiden world championship title came along in 2000, against Alexei Shirov. Anand was the first Asian to achieve the feat. He was, however, not yet considered a champion in the league of Garry Kasparov or Vladimir Kramnik. The Soviets, particularly, regarded him as suspect.

The moment
The unified world championship in Mexico City in September 2007 was Anand's acid test. It was the first reunified championship since Garry Kasparov broke away from FIDE to create a rival Professional Chess Association (PCA) Championship in 1993. While the first reunification championship match was held in 2006, between Veselin Topalov and Kramnik, the holders of the FIDE World Chess championship title and of the breakaway Classical World Chess Championship respectively, the championship was reunified in its truest sense only the following year, when it was contested not just by two champions. Winning the eight-player tournament with nine points out of 14, a full point ahead of joint-second-place finishers Kramnik and Boris Gelfand, Anand stamped his authority as the undisputed world champion.

The reaction
"Attaining the world title in both match and tournament formats put all doubts and confusions to rest. It meant a lot to me. Suddenly your position in chess history becomes very significant."
- Viswanathan Anand

Expert view
"Anand dented the Soviet belief in the superiority of their players with his performance. He proved that he was a force to reckon with."
- Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay

The story since
Following the 2007 win, Anand went on to defend his title on three subsequent occasions, - 2008, 2010 and 2012 - holding it for six years in all. His convincing victory over Kramnik in 2008 caused the latter and his Soviet supporters to come around and acknowledge Anand's might.

While Anand may not have won a world title since his 2012 victory over Gelfand (there were two successive defeats at the hands of Magnus Carlsen), at 46 he continues to challenge himself and rivals half his age with his self-belief and insatiable drive to excel.

Recommended reading
My Best Games of Chess by Viswanathan Anand