The amused-look on the faces of Ding Liren and Hikaru Nakamura said it all.
In chess terms, one is the strongest Chinese and the other, the strongest of Japanese origin. The duo stared at the worn-out chessboard on which they were expected to play a rapid game for the benefit of at least a 100-plus crowd under the Gariahat flyover in Kolkata.
Indeed, it was one-of-a-kind experience for these illustrious practitioners of the cerebral sport. The blaring traffic passed from left, right and above.
In the presence of Grandmaster Dibyendu Barua and Woman Grandmaster Tania Sachdev, members of the Gariahat Chess Club, aspiring young chess players, their parents and coaches, were almost falling over Liren and Nakamura to get up-close to the action. Within minutes, they drew and went on to play quick games with a few of the youngsters.
For Liren, presently ranked third in the world, the experience was “very different.” For someone who has maintained his rating above 2800 since September last year, keeping his smile intact with growing number of requests for selfies and autographs was not difficult.
“It is great to see people play chess without letting anything bother them. I haven’t seen anything like this. Unlike the noiseless ambiance where chess is played, this was fun,” he said.
Unlike Liren, Nakamura had very little to be excited about in 2019. But this experience of playing chess, with blaring horns and moving traffic providing the background music, brought repeated smiles on his face.
“It’s incredible to find so many people eager to see us play. Last year, I remember, the crowd for the tournament was huge,” said the champion of the 2018 edition of the Tata Steel rapid and blitz
Commenting on his modest form this year, Nakamura said: “No doubt, I’ve struggled. The quality of my games has been good but it does not show in results. So, moving ahead, I need to prepare better so that I get the desired results.”
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