Gukesh Ends Anand’s 37-Year Reign As India’s Official Number 1

Gukesh Ends Anand's 37-Year Reign As India's Official Number 1

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For 37 years, Indian chess has had one unwavering constant: the legendary GM Viswanathan Anand is king. With the release of FIDE’s latest official rating list on Friday, that has now changed. There is a new kid on the block.

GM Gukesh D, the 17-year-old prodigy from Anand’s home city of Chennai, had already overtaken his mentor in the live ratings, but after September’s list was finalized on Friday it became official. Gukesh, Anand’s protege born 20 years after he first became number-one, is the new top dog.

India’s top 10 in the January ratings list. Photo: FIDE.

The teenager also now sits at number-eight in the world rankings with a FIDE rating of 2758. Anand, meanwhile, has a rating of 2754 and is one place below Gukesh on the world list.

Anand first took India’s top spot way back in January 1986—the month NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated after launch—with a rating of 2405, overtaking his rival and friend IM Dibyendu Barua. From that point on he never looked back. A year later Anand became India’s first GM, while Barua achieved the title in 1991.

Anand went on to become FIDE champion from 2000-2002 before claiming the undisputed title in 2007 and holding it for six years until he was defeated by GM Magnus Carlsen in 2013. By then, Anand was 43 years old, but his chess career was far from over and his reign at the top of Indian chess continued unbroken.

Only once during those 37 years span did Anand appear close to losing his official number-one spot. In March 2016, GM Pentala Harikrishna became the Indian number-one on the live rating list, but did not sustain that position long enough to make the official, published list.

In the run-up to these latest ratings being released, Anand spoke to IM Tania Sachdev for the 2023 Julius Baer Generation Cup broadcast about the prospect of handing over the reins to Gukesh.

He said: “I feel very proud, and definitely I was able to give Gukesh a lot of suggestions, a lot of advice. I’m not really his coach, but I interacted with him at lot and things like that. With Pragg as well I’ve interacted quite a bit.

“Clearly, they have their own long-suffering parents,” he joked. “They have their coaches, things like that, but we’re able to chip in so I feel very proud.”

It’s still a shock to realise that something you expected to happen eventually, and you never define eventually in your mind, eventually means eventually, when it finally happens.

– GM Viswanathan Anand

Anand added that he has been waiting for a long time for this to happen. “And that’s the thing about being semi-retired, that you’re much more detached from it personally. But it’s still a shock to realise that something you expected to happen eventually, and you never define eventually in your mind, eventually means eventually, when it finally happens. You feel funny in your own skin, let’s put it that way.”

Watch Anand’s full interview here:

As for Gukesh, who became a grandmaster in 2019 aged just 12 years and seven months, this achievement has been a long time coming. The prodigy has been under Anand’s wing for the last two years and in July became the youngest player in history to have a published rating above 2750. It came after he beat Anand in their first-ever tournament encounter, on day three of the SuperUnited Rapid and Blitz Croatia 2023.

The latest FIDE rating list shows the resurgence of chess in India. Three other Indians occupy spots in the world’s top 30: the recent World Cup finalist GM Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu, who gained 20 points to reach the world’s top 20 for the first time, GM Vidit Gujrathi, and GM Arjun Erigaisi.

GM Fabiano Caruana (2786) gained four points to move ahead of fellow American GM Hikaru Nakamura (2780), regaining the number-two spot behind Carlsen, who also gained four points to rise to 2839. GM Wesley So lost 16 points to slump from eighth in the world to 10 on the list.

Meanwhile, there was also a changing of the guard in England’s rankings. The Russian-born GM Nikita Vitiugov now occupies the top spot after transferring his registration from the Chess Federation of Russia to the English Chess Federation.

Vitiugov, the 2021 Russian champion, immediately overtakes GM David Howell and sits at world number 25 with a rating of 2719. Howell, the three-time British champion, said on the platform X:

Howell has been battling the veteran GM Michael Adams for the top spot for years. Now Vitiugov has leap-frogged them both—another big boost for English chess, coming soon after a recent government investment in the sport.



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