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Vishy Anand vs Vajira Perera: The tiger slayer next door

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 09/03/2017

Have you ever heard of Vajira Perera? Chances are less. But he is one of those rare people who has beaten Viswanathan Anand in a tournament game. Know more about the rivalry between Sri Lanka's Vajira Perera and India's Viswanathan Anand and the reason why you worship one guy and have never heard of the other.

Vishy Anand vs Vajira Perera: The tiger slayer next door

Asian Juniors, 1984


Vajira Perera of Sri Lanka was apprehensive of playing the Asian Junior Championship at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu—he was playing the tournament disguised as a Fijian - because of the anti-Lankan sentiments that prevailed there in the 1980s. This, however, did not affect his play as he raced away to share the lead with Anand, both tied at 3.0/3.

A newspaper report by our good friend Venkatachalam Kameswaran, who wrote on Vishy extensively to provide him the much needed recognition.

The two contenders met in the fourth round. Anand lost.

[Event "Asia-ch U20 8th"]
[Site "Coimbatore"]
[Date "1984.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Perera, Vajira"]
[Black "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C70"]
[BlackElo "2285"]
[PlyCount "119"]
[EventDate "1984.??.??"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nge7 5. c3 b5 6. Bc2 d6 7. d4 f6 8. Be3 g6
9. O-O Bb7 10. Nbd2 Bg7 11. Qe2 Qd7 12. a4 Nd8 13. axb5 axb5 14. Rxa8 Bxa8 15.
Ra1 Bb7 16. d5 O-O 17. Bd3 c6 18. dxc6 Bxc6 19. c4 bxc4 20. Bxc4+ Kh8 21. Ra7
Nb7 22. b4 Nc8 23. Ra3 f5 24. Ng5 d5 25. exd5 Bxd5 26. Bxd5 Qxd5 27. Qc4 Qxc4
28. Nxc4 Bf6 29. Ne6 Re8 30. Nc5 Ncd6 31. Nxd6 Nxd6 32. Ra6 Be7 33. Nd7 f4 34.
Bc5 Nf5 35. Kf1 Bxc5 36. bxc5 Kg7 37. c6 Nd4 38. Rb6 Rc8 39. Nxe5 Kf6 40. Nd3
f3 41. Nb4 Ke5 42. gxf3 Nxf3 43. Na6 Kd6 44. c7+ Ke7 45. Kg2 Nd4 46. Rb8 Kd7
47. Kg3 Ne6 48. Kg4 h6 49. h4 h5+ 50. Kf3 g5 51. hxg5 Nxg5+ 52. Kf4 Ne6+ 53.
Kf5 Nxc7 54. Rxc8 Kxc8 55. Nxc7 Kxc7 56. Kg5 Kd6 57. Kxh5 Ke5 58. Kg5 Ke6 59.
f4 Ke7 60. Kg6 1-0


This game came as a jolt to young Anand and the Indian chess fraternity. Perera continued his winning streak to reach a towering 6.0/6 while Anand trailed a point behind. The tournament went over 9 rounds and the rules dictated that in the case of a tie, the result of the direct encounter was considered above everything else; thus Perera was effectively leading by 1.5 points!


But then Perera blundered. In the 7th round, Anand was held to a draw by an Australian player. Seeing this Perera, who had a completely winning position, offered a draw to his opponent from Bangladesh! Lightning struck in the next round as he lost while Anand took his chances to win. In the final round, Perera – needing a win to clinch the title - was two pawns up, but could only draw the game while Anand won comfortably to become Asian Junior Champion for the first time.


Normally the winner of this tournament straight away became an IM, but because less than 14 players took part in the tournament Anand was only awarded an IM norm for this victory.


Postcard and envelopes commemorating the Asian Juniors 1984

Asian Juniors, 1985

In the 1985 edition of the Asian Juniors at Hong Kong, Perera was again pitted against Anand. Uncharacteristic of his style, Anand played the French Defence and was duly pummelled. The position was a rare sight to behold. Anand simply does not lose like that. This game never entered the databases, however, here it is:

[Event "Asian Junior Championship, 1985"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Perera, Vajira"]
[Black "Anand, Vishy"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C06"]
[PlyCount "57"]
[SourceDate "2003.06.08"]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4 8. cxd4
f6 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. O-O Bd6 11. Nf3 Qc7 12. Bg5 O-O 13. Rc1 h6 14. Bh4 Ne4 15.
Nc3 Bf4 16. Rc2 Ng5 17. Bxg5 hxg5 18. g3 g4 19. Nb5 Qf7 20. Nh4 Bb8 21. Bg6 Qf6
22. Qxg4 a6 23. Qh5 Rd8 24. Rc3 axb5 25. Rf3 Qxf3 26. Nxf3 Kf8 27. Qh8+ Ke7 28.
Qxg7+ Kd6 29. Ng5 1-0


Nevertheless, Perera's win once again proved insufficient to derail Anand who ploughed through the field to score 8.5/11 becoming—at 15 years of age—India’s youngest International Master (back then).


Can our Tamil friends point out what is written here? I have no clue.

Many chess players tend to retire from competitive chess when they start working in their profession or begin to study. Vajira Perera had to leave chess due to the lack of tournaments in his country which was suffering from civil unrest in the 1980s.


Anand stayed and played as many tournaments as he possibly can, and as everybody knows, changed Indian chess forever. Becoming a grandmaster - especially in those days – was tough and India had none. The 15-year old Anand set out to fulfil his responsibility.


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All images in this report sourced from Venkatchalam Kameswaran

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