India's Viswanathan Anand, the world number two, has for the third time won the Chess Oscar, the game's most prestigious annual award.
Anand will receive the award in June in Moscow. The results of the worldwide poll, involving the leading chess writers, critics and journalists from over 50 countries, showed Anand (4150 points) a victor by one of the biggest margins in recent times finishing 1575 points ahead of his nearest rival, Peter Svidler (2575).
Garry Kasparov, currently world number one, finished way behind in fourth position, the first time he has finished outside top three. Vladimir Kramnik was third.
Anand, who has twice earlier won the Chess Oscar in 1997 and 1998, is only the second non-Russian after Bobby Fischer (1970, 71, and 72) to win the award and both now share the record of three Oscars each. "I am absolutely elated to be voted the Best Player for 2003. The Chess Oscar is a vote by the people who follow chess most intently. To be acclaimed by them is a true honour," said Anand from his home in Spain, as he prepared to leave to play professional chess league matches in Germany and France later this month.
"This is my third Oscar in seven years. Being the only non-Russian apart from Bobby Fischer to have ever won the Chess Oscars is something I am truly proud of. In 2003, I felt I performed the best and the Oscar is a satisfying reward for it."
"Winning the Chess Oscars ensures your place among the Legends for the next generation. I think with this third win, my place in that is well secured," added Anand.
Jorge Puig founded the Chess Oscars in 1967 and the first winner was the Danish Grandmaster, Bent Larssen. The awards continued uninterrupted till 1988, when its founder died. Then in 1995, the respected Russian chess magazine, '64' took over the responsibility. In the nine years since 1995, Anand has won it three times, Kasparov five times and Kramnik once. A total of 358 votes were polled from within the most respected writers in the chess community, from over 50 countries, including Russia, Germany, Spain, France, India and China. As many 232 of the voters gave Anand the top spot making it 64.08 per cent for him. The nearest to Anand in terms of first places was Kasparov, who polled 38 first places and Peter Svidler had 35 first places. An additional 61 experts gave Anand the second place, making it a total of more than 91 per cent placing him either first or second.
According to the voting method, each voter has to rank 10 top players of the world and the first in each list gets 13 points, second gets 11 points, third nine points, fourth gets seven and fifth six points and it goes down to tenth who gets one point. Anand's total was 4150, while second placed Svidler was way behind with 2575 and Vladimir Kramnik was third at 2518 and Kasparov came fourth with 2262. Peter Leko was fifth with 1867. Initially the award looked like an image of ever-young Moscow City, but now it is a statue of Enchanted Wanderer, the character of the novel by Russian famous writer Leskov. This image was embodied in bronze by the sculptor A. Smirnov.
In 2003, Anand played two major classical events, winning the Corus Grandmasters event in Wijk Aan Zee and finishing second in Sparkassen at Dortmund. In blind and rapid, he became the first player to win the Melody Amber outright in all three categories blind, rapid and overall and he also won the World Rapid Chess Championships in Cape d'Agde. He also won the Chess Classic of Mainz title for the fourth time in succession and then capped a wonderful year winning the Corsica Masters in Bastia, for the fourth time.
This year in 2004, Anand has already won the Corus Championships in Wijk Aan Zee, finished third in Melody Amber, where he won the Rapid title. Later in the year he is due to play in Dortmund, Mainz and the Chess Olympiad besides a couple of others events.
Final standings and points for Chess Oscar 2003: Anand 4150 points (232 first places from 358 votes). 2. Peter Svidler - 2575 points (35 first places), 3. Vladimir Kramnik - 2518 (20), 4. Garry Kasparov - 2262 (38), 5. Peter Leko - 1867 (3), 6. Judit Polgar - 1528 (7), 7. Alexander Morozevich - 1381 (3), 8. Viktor Bologan - 1359 (12), 9. Nigel Short - 539 (1), 10. Evegeny Bareev 535 (0 first places).