Five-time FIDE World Chess Champion plays exhibition match with 50 Singapore students

Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand plays an Exhibition Chess Match against 50 Singapore school children at the Overseas Family School on March 11, 2017.
Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand plays an Exhibition Chess Match against 50 Singapore school children at the Overseas Family School on March 11, 2017.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand crosses the hall as he plays an Exhibition Chess Match against 50 Singapore school children at the Overseas Family School on March 11, 2017.
Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand crosses the hall as he plays an Exhibition Chess Match against 50 Singapore school children at the Overseas Family School on March 11, 2017.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand plays an Exhibition Chess Match against 50 Singapore school children at the Overseas Family School on March 11, 2017.
Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand plays an Exhibition Chess Match against 50 Singapore school children at the Overseas Family School on March 11, 2017.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Five-time International Chess Federation (FIDE) World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand is known for his calm, unassuming manner.

But ask him how he stays so calm and collected, and he says with a grin: "I look calm and collected."

"Most of us try to keep a very blank face. but we're not at all calm," he adds. "We live through what's on the board very closely. It's (like) an arms race."

Mr Anand, 47, who became India's first grandmaster in 1988, said he takes deep breaths during the game to calm himself down.

Preparation before the game, by familiarising oneself with the opponent's playing style, is also key.

The chess champion was at Overseas Family School on Saturday (March 11) afternoon to take part in a simultaneous exhibition chess match with 50 Singapore students.

The event, attended by students aged six to 16, was supported by the Singapore Chess Federation.

To ensure that people of all abilities had the chance to play with the champion, half of the student players were selected by ballot.

Asked what advice he had for children who wanted to become better at chess, he said: "My main advice is the simplest one. Just play often."

He added: "The most important thing you can do in chess is to play against another chess player. Not to get into this habit of only interacting with the computer. You need to play on a chess board and that's when you have doubts.

"At the board, you'll suddenly hesitate between three moves and you will have to make a move. But that hesitation is good, and then you'll check with your computer was that hestitation good and that's where understanding builds."

Mr Anand, who learnt to play chess at the age of six, added that parents should try not to be too pushy. "If you follow them too intensely, it repels them. Chess should fascinate (the child). I don't think you can push someone (into it)."

And one day, perhaps, Singapore too might have its own world chess champion.

Mr Anand said: "You'll have one Singaporean who breaks that barrier and then it will become a lot easier. These things happen like that. In Norway, nobody played chess ten years ago and now suddenly it's the rage and everyone wants to play, then it generates spontaneously. Same thing happened in India.

"After I became a grandmaster, the levels of participation went up a lot and I think nowadays people everywhre are more important to alternative careers or what we used to describe as alternative careers.

"It takes time but I think there will be one Singaporean who'll do incredibly well in chess and then everything will flow from there. Maybe we will find one today."