Anand was born on 11 December 1969 in Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, India in a Tamil Brahmin family. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Chennai, (formerly Madras), where he grew up. His father, Viswanathan Iyer, is a retired General Manager of Southern Railways, and his mother Susheela, housewife and chess/film/club aficionado and an influential socialite. He has an elder brother, Shivakumar who is a manager at Crompton Greaves in India and an elder sister Anuradha who is a professor at the University of Michigan. Anand is 11 years younger than his sister and 13 years younger than his brother.
He was taught to play chess by his mother and a close family friend named Deepa Ramakrishnan. He described his start in chess in a conversation with Susan Polgar:
I started when I was six. My mother taught me how to play. In fact, my mother used to do a lot for my chess. We moved to the Philippines shortly afterward. I joined the club in India and we moved to the Philippines for a year. And there they had a TV program that was on in the afternoon, one to two or something like that, when I was in school. So she would write down all the games that they showed and the puzzles, and in the evening we solved them together.
Of course my mother and her family used to play some chess, and she used to play with her younger brother, so she had some background in chess, but she never went to a club or anything like that.
So we solved all these puzzles and sent in our answers together. And they gave the prize of a book to the winner. And over the course of many months, I won so many prizes. At one point they just said take all the books you want, but don't send in any more entries.
Anand was educated at Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School,Egmore, Chennai and holds a degree of Bachelor of Commerce from Loyola College, Chennai.
In August 2010, Anand joined the Board of Directors of Olympic Gold Quest, a foundation for promoting and supporting India's elite sportspersons and potential young talent. On 24 December 2010 Anand was guest of honour on the grounds of Gujarat university, Ahmedabad, where 20,486 players created a new world record of simultaneous chess play at single venue.
Briefly, Anand lived with his wife Aruna in Spain and they have one son.
His hobbies are reading, swimming, and listening to music. He is married to Aruna Anand and has a son born on 9 April 2011. Anand's son is named Akhil and in the Tamil tradition will be called "Anand Akhil" (no surname). The family is now based in Chennai, India.
Anand has been regarded as an unassuming person with a reputation for refraining from political and psychological ploys and instead focusing on his game. This has made him a well-liked figure throughout the chess world for two decades, evidenced by the fact that Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, and Magnus Carlsen, of whom the former two were rivals for the World Championship throughout Anand's career, each aided him in preparing for the World Chess Championship 2010. Anand is sometimes known as the "Tiger of Madras".
Anand was the only sportsperson to have been invited for the dinner hosted by the Indian PM Manmohan Singh for US President Barack Obama on 7 November 2010.
Anand was denied an honorary doctorate from University of Hyderabad because of confusion over his citizenship status, however later Kapil Sibal, Minister of Human Resource Development apologised and said "There is no issue on the matter as Anand has agreed to accept the degree at a convenient time depending on his availability". According to The Hindu Anand finally declined to accept the doctorate.
Anand's rise in the Indian chess world was meteoric. National level success came early for him when he won the National Sub-Junior Chess Championship with a score of 9/9 in 1983 at the age of fourteen. He became the youngest Indian to win the title of International Master at the age of fifteen, in 1984. At the age of sixteen he became the national chess champion and won that title two more times. He played games at blitz speed. In 1987, he became the first Indian to win the World Junior Chess Championship. In 1988, at the age of eighteen, he became India's first Grandmaster by winning Shakti Finance International chess tournament held in Coimbatore, India. He was awarded Padma Shri at the age of 18.
"Vishy", as he is sometimes called by his friends, burst upon the upper echelons of the chess scene in the early 1990s, winning such tournaments as Reggio Emilia 1991 (ahead of Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov). Playing at such a high level did not slow him down, and he continued to play games at blitz speed.
In the World Chess Championship 1993 cycle Anand qualified for his first Candidates Tournament, winning his first match but narrowly losing his quarter-final match to Anatoly Karpov.
In 1994–95 Anand and Gata Kamsky dominated the qualifying cycles for the rival FIDE and PCA world championships. In the FIDE cycle (FIDE World Chess Championship 1996), Anand lost his quarter-final match to Kamsky after leading early. Kamsky went on to lose the 1996 FIDE championship match against Karpov.
In the 1995 PCA cycle, Anand won matches against Oleg Romanishin and Michael Adams without a loss, then avenged his FIDE loss by defeating Gata Kamsky in the Candidates final. In 1995, he played the PCA World Chess Championship 1995 against Kasparov in New York City's World Trade Center. After an opening run of eight draws (a record for the opening of a world championship match), Anand won game nine with a powerful exchange sacrifice, but then lost four of the next five. He lost the match 10½–7½.
In the 1998 FIDE cycle, the reigning champion Karpov was granted direct seeding by FIDE into the final against the winner of the seven-round single elimination Candidates tournament. The psychological and physical advantage gained by Karpov from this decision caused significant controversy, leading to the withdrawal of future World Champion Vladimir Kramnik from the candidates tournament. Anand won the candidates tournament, defeating Michael Adams in the final, and immediately faced a well-rested Karpov for the championship. Despite this tremendous disadvantage for Anand, which he described as being "brought in a coffin" to play Karpov, Anand was able to draw the regular match 3–3, forcing a rapid playoff. However, the rapid playoff was won 2–0 by Karpov, allowing him to defend his FIDE championship.
World Chess Champion
FIDE World Champion 2000
After several near misses, Anand won the FIDE World Chess Championship in 2000 for the first time after defeating Alexei Shirov 3½–0½ in the final match held at Tehran, thereby becoming the first Indian to win that title.
He failed to defend the title in 2002, losing in the semifinals to Vassily Ivanchuk. The 2002 FIDE world championship was ultimately won by Ruslan Ponomariov. Anand tied for second with Peter Svidler in the FIDE World Chess Championship 2005 with 8½ points out of 14 games, 1½ points behind the winner, Veselin Topalov.
World Champion 2007
In September 2007 Anand became World Champion again by winning that year's FIDE World Championship Tournament held in Mexico City. He won the double round-robin tournament with a final score of 9 out of 14 points, a full point ahead of joint second place finishers Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand.
In 2000, when Anand won the FIDE World Championship, there was also the rival "Classical" World Championship, held by Kramnik. By 2007, the world championship had been reunified, so Anand's victory in Mexico City made him undisputed World Chess Champion. He became the first undisputed champion to win the title in a tournament, rather than in matchplay, since Mikhail Botvinnik in 1948.
In October 2007, Anand said he liked the double round robin championship format (as used in the 2007 championship in Mexico City), and that the right of Kramnik to automatically challenge for the title was "ridiculous".
World Champion 2008
Anand convincingly defended the title against Kramnik in the World Chess Championship 2008 held 14–29 October in Bonn, Germany. The winner was to be the first to score 6½ points in the twelve-game match. Anand won by scoring 6½ points in 11 games, having won three of the first six games (two with the black pieces). After the tenth game, Anand led 6–4 and needed only a draw in either of the last two games to win the match. In the eleventh game, Kramnik played the Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defense. Once the players traded queens, Kramnik offered a draw after 24 moves since he had no winning chances in the endgame.
Anand vs. Kramnik, 2008 World Ch.
Anand (2783) – Kramnik (2772), Wch Bonn GER (11), 29.10.2008 (final game):
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qc7 8.Bxf6 gxf6 9.f5 Qc5 10.Qd3 Nc6 11.Nb3 Qe5 12.0-0-0 exf5 13.Qe3 Bg7 14.Rd5 Qe7 15.Qg3 Rg8 16.Qf4 fxe4 17.Nxe4 f5 18.Nxd6+ Kf8 19.Nxc8 Rxc8 20.Kb1 Qe1+ 21.Nc1 Ne7 22.Qd2 Qxd2 23.Rxd2 Bh6 24.Rf2 Be3 ½–½
On his winning the championship his mother—and his first coach—said "To me, it was like the first chess match he won in a school tournament. It's just the same, only the degree has changed."
Responding to Anand's win, Garry Kasparov said "A great result for Anand and for chess. Vishy deserved the win in every way and I'm very happy for him. It will not be easy for the younger generation to push him aside... Anand out-prepared Kramnik completely. In this way it reminded me of my match with Kramnik in London 2000. Like I was then, Kramnik may have been very well prepared for this match, but we never saw it." In 2010 Anand donated his gold medal to the charitable organisation "The Foundation" to be auctioned off for the benefit of underprivileged children.
World Champion 2010
Prior to the World Chess Championship 2010 match with Veselin Topalov, Anand, who had booked on the flight Frankfurt-Sofia on 16 April, was stranded due to the cancellation of all flights following the volcano ash cloud from Eyjafjallajökull. Anand asked for a three day postponement, which the Bulgarian organisers refused on 19 April. Anand eventually reached Sofia on 20 April, after an exhausting 40-hour road journey. Consequently, the first game was delayed by one day.
The match consisted of 12 games. After 11 games the score was tied at 5½–5½. Anand won game 12 on the Black side of a Queen's Gambit Declined to win the match and retain the World Championship. In game 12, after Topalov's dubious 31st and 32nd moves, Anand was able to achieve a strong attack against Topalov's relatively exposed king. Topalov subsequently resigned.
World Champion 2012
As a result of Anand's victory in the World Chess Championship 2010, he defended his title in the World Chess Championship 2012; the location of the event was the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. His opponent was Boris Gelfand, the winner of the 2011 Candidates Matches. The match was tied 6–6 after regular games with one win each. Anand won the rapid tie break 2½–1½ to win the match and retain his title. After a shocking loss in the 7th game to Gelfand, Anand came back strongly with a win in the 8th game taking only 17 moves to destroy Gelfand - by far the shortest game in World Chess Championship history! After Anand's victory Russian president greeted Anand and Gelfand by calling both to his official residence.
World Championship 2013
As a result of Anand's victory in the World Chess Championship 2012, he will defend his title in the World Chess Championship 2013.