From being the man who put India on the global chess map to now seeing players slowly overtake his milestones and cement India’s reputation as a chess superpower, Viswanathan Anand is a content man. The chess Grandmaster, also a member of the jury for the  Sportstar Aces Awards, is elated by the kind of year 2023 turned out to be for the sport in the country. “From the point of view of our chess players rising to the top, we have five people qualifying for the Candidates [April 3–22, 2024]. The FIDE World Cup and FIDE Grand Swiss were some of the most followed events in India because of the possibility of our players qualifying. On top of that, we had multiple good results as well. So, a big year for the sport in general,” Anand said.

Anand isn’t playing as many tournaments as he used to, allowing players to go past him in rankings and try and chip away at achievements that long bore his name.

“I would say I hoped it would happen. The hope was what drove me to start my academy. It’s a nice situation to be in. These things often come to you unexpectedly. It’s hard to predict. I know we have a lot of participation and talent in India, and it’s good that the results are coming in,” he added.

This abundance of talent poses a “problem” to the Aces jury, too, while deciding winners for  Sportstar’s annual sports honours.

“The ‘problem’ is a very pleasant one to have. In every category, we have to wade through names and make some really hard choices. And this is getting harder and harder. We’re not just doing well in sports we’ve traditionally done well in, but we’re also surprising in new sports. The slate is getting bigger and bigger. It’s a sportsperson’s dream to be sitting with others from different areas of sports and discussing it all. But there are times when we wish more than one player could be honoured,” Anand explained.

“The  Sportstar Aces Awards becomes a fossil record, almost, to look back and see how far we’ve come. I enjoy these jury meetings a lot because you get a quick snapshot of everything that is happening in the ecosystem.

“It’s difficult to follow every sport, and it’s difficult to follow every sport with the expertise it very often demands.

“It’s not just about seeing a person’s victory in an event; it’s also about how to rank that triumph in a broader context and what meaning it has,” he added.

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