As veteran players shine, the one clear message is: Sports can be a Great Leveller and a Slap on Ageism, Racism, Communalism and More Raging Everywhere!
Even as chess fans are digesting the recent sensational exits from the World Cup (Magnus Carlsen in Round 3, Anand in Round 2 and almost all of the big names) there was another shocker at the elite Isle of Man event yesterday, with former world champion Vladimir Kramnik losing to 65-year-old American Grandmaster James Tarjan.
Almost simultaneously, British GM Nigel Short re-entered the 2700 club at 52 after an impressive first three rounds at the Isle of Man tournament. Short’s peak score was 2712 in 2004 but his best career moment was in 1993 when he lost the world champion title match to legendary Garry Kasparov.
Still Going Strong: Viswanathan Anand, 47, is a pale shadow of the champion he was, with sub-par performances at the Tbilisi World Cup championship and so far at the Isle of Man tournament now under way. He struggled against a 20-year-old German, an International Master about 400 points below him. Anand, nonetheless, is still a top-10 player.
Losing to a 65+ GM should not be an embarrassment for Kramnik as Tarjan was a top player in the 70s having won a few Olympiad titles. He came out of retirement in 2014 after a 30-year retirement. Kasparov (54), who also revived his career recently, perhaps drew inspiration from him.
Kramnik, who had lost to Anand in the World Championship in 2007 and 2008, is himself 42 and currently ranked world number 5 with 2803 points against Anand’s 2794.
Mental Stamina, Physical Fitness: Anand’s poor performance at the Tbilisi World Cup prompted calls for his retirement in some quarters. That was silly, he is still a top-10 player.
Chess requires mental agility and stamina, but you will miss out on this without physical fitness. Younger players, therefore, will have an extra edge. Theoretical knowledge, technological advantage, the ability to think deep for creative moves that prop up middle- and end-game strategies, practice, staying calm under pressure and experience are among the various factors that spell the difference between winning and losing.
As the corporate world is witness to blatant ageism, sport is demonstrating to the world the value of individual merit, playing excellence and rich experience. Even in sporting events that require physical strength such as tennis, we have the likes of Roger Federer (36) who can withstand marathon games, sweating it out on the courts for even more than four hours and leaving players much younger at the losing end.
Sports can be a great leveller and a slap on ageism, racism and more!
G Joslin Vethakumar