Rain or shine the game takes the top spot

Henrik Carlsen, father of GM Magnus Carlsen, was happy with the Chennai weather.-K.V. SRINIVASAN

Here are some jottings from P.K. Ajith Kumar.

The rain gods have a whacky sense of humour. The World championship had begun in glorious weather, with bright sunshine and moderate temperature. Henrik Carlsen, challenger Magnus’s father, was pleased about it too. “I was told that it could rain in Chennai in this time of the year,” he said.

The sun was shining brightly when he said that. But it began to rain hard before long. It was still raining when this Diary went to print.

Rani, a great fan of Anand

Cricket is not the only area where Bangladesh could be bad at. Women’s chess too is in a poor shape there, informs Rani Hamid, the first Woman International Master of Bangladesh. She is something of a legend though, breaking through the conservative society to be an international chess player, that too all those decades ago.

Rani is 69 now and came to Chennai to play in the International Woman Grandmaster tournament and the Chennai Open, two of the several side events of the World championship. “I was determined to come because I wanted to see Anand in action,” she said. “I have always been a fan of Anand, ever since I played with him at the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed tournament in New Delhi in the early 80’s.”

Women’s chess is in poor shape in Bangladesh, says Rani Hamid, an International Master.-R. RAGU

She had taken a few other Bangladeshi players along for the WGM tournament. “We hardly have any activity in women’s chess back home, while our male players have it much easier,” she said. “There are talented players, but we need support. Maybe FIDE could do something about it. Then we could emulate the Bangladeshi men; we have five Grandmasters among men, but we don’t have a single Woman Grandmaster.”

Wide coverage

If you thought only India and Norway were interested in the World championship, you are wrong. “I was interviewed by a journalist from Sweden over telephone,” said Ole Strom, a Norwegian journalist covering the match.’ In the press box, you would also see correspondents from neutral countries such as Germany, Spain, Holland, Denmrak, Russia, England and Canada.

Rare chess fans

And it is not just journalists alone who are in Chennai for the match. There are chess fans from countries like England, Malaysia and Singapore. Josh Barber, a London-based lawyer, had booked his ticket much in advance. He is one of those rare chess fans who like to go to the venue of a World championship, wherever it is held.

Josh Barber, a London-based lawyer, is an ardent chess fan. He is one of those rare chess enthusiasts who like to go to the venue of a World championship.-R. RAGU

“I was surprised when somebody from Singapore asked for my photograph,” said R. B. Ramesh, one of the television commentators. “He told me that he had watched me on television back home.”

Friedel who?

No chess enthusiast was seen asking autographs from Frederic Friedel. Many people would have if they had known he was the guy behind ChessBase, the computer programme being used by just about everyone who takes chess seriously the world over.

Dubious moves

The man who gave him the idea to come up with ChessBase, Garry Kasparov, though was swarmed by fans as well as journalists during his three-day stay in Chennai. Some dubious moves by the organisers as well as FIDE also helped the former World champion gain much publicity, which won’t hurt him as he is challenging Kirsan Ilyumzhinov to be the FIDE President.

Fans Queue up for a ticket. The World championship is a big hit.-R. RAGU

There was this reported ban on Kasparov from entering the media centre, to refute which FIDE deputy president Georgios Makropoulos had to conduct a press meet, in which he said there was a request from Team Anand not to allow the former World champion on the front row because it might upset Anand. “I don’t know why he had to make that statement and I am sure Anand was upset by it and that might have affected his performance too,” said a man who is closely associated with Anand.

A day to forget

Anand tasted defeat on the day Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed well short of what would have been an unforgettable hundred in his final Test innings. Looking at Anand’s inferior position in Game Five, someone could not resist tweeting: “Sachin’s gone and probably Anand too!”

Top in Twitter

Chess reigned on Twitter like it never did before, as the World championship held the No. 1 spot in India Trends on a few occasions, even as Tendulkar was playing his last Test. Some of the world’s top Grandmasters, including Kasparov, were frequently on Twitter. Looking at the match, Kasparov came up with his priceless quote: “A strange match but oddly balanced. Carlsen plays without openings and Anand without endgames! Statistically, that’s in Magnus’s favor.”

Big crowds

You could easily follow the World championship online or, in this case, on television. But, big crowds turned up at Hyatt Regency to watch the action, that too paying something like Rs. 2,500. Hardly surprising. This is, after all, Chennai, India’s chess capital. Stars from other sports too were in attendance, such as Vijay Amritraj and S. Raman, former National table tennis champion.

Final standings (Indians unless specified): 1-3: Mary Ann Gomes, Nino Batsiashvili (Geo) and S. Vijayalakshmi 8.5; 4-5: Keti Tsatsalashvili (Geo) and Soumya Swaminathan 8; 6-11: Swati Ghate, Inna Ivakhinova (Rus), S. Meenakshi, Maria Gevorgyan (Arm), Sopiko Guramishvili (Geo) and Nisha Mohota 7.5.