Ten non-professionals took on Viswanathan Anand in a friendly game of chess for charity
The death toll kept mounting. A massacre, with no real hope of survivors either.
Hardly surprising when you pitch the reigning World Chess Champion against ten non-professionals. Sure, the game, organised by Global Adjustments, was friendly, with the proceeds going to charity. But really, who goes in to play a grandmaster without desperately hoping to win?
Viswananthan Anand is the only player in the history of chess to have won the World Championship in three formats — Knockout, Tournament and Match. Anand and his wife Aruna, his unofficial manager, were led onstage while the ten players took their seats for the simultaneous game. (Anand took the white chair, Aruna the black.)
The players were a motley crew — there was the U.S. Consul General, several CEOs, and a twelve-year-old girl. Once the game began, Anand moved silently and swiftly from table to table, while the players (some with resignation writ large on their faces about six minutes into the game) entered the moves in their scorecards.
“Can you really remember so many games?” asked Ranjini Manian, founder of Global Adjustments. “Probably more,” he said after a moment's thought, with the detached air of someone stating a cold, hard fact. “And do you usually give your opponents time to move a piece or two before you move in for the kill?” “No, trust me, it's not that easy,” he said, while everyone laughed a so-says-the-six-time-World Champion laugh.
Simultaneous games are, as the name suggests, when one player, usually a chess master, takes on multiple players. The master usually plays the same colour on all the tables, because otherwise, two tables could technically force him to play against himself.
“Remember Sidney Sheldon's book ‘If Tomorrow Comes'?,” he asked, while demolishing somebody's carefully-built defence. “It's a book that always makes us chess players squirm.” Based on the same principle of chess, the story follows a woman who challenges two grand masters to a game of chess, and simply goes on to play one's moves against the other. She wins. “They really shouldn't have wagered so much,” he shakes his head.
Fourteen minutes into the game, the first player has slapped himself on the forehead. One down.
“Have you ever given the game away, because someone was playing really well?” A pause. Then, “No,” he laughed. “I have a feeling they want an honest game, not…sympathy.”
He did offer a draw to a four-year-old in Spain though. Twice. Only because the organisers of the game asked him to. The boy refused both times.
About twenty minutes into the game, there were audible sighs and much hair-pulling. Ten minutes later, six tables were empty. Did it look easy? Ridiculously so. We think he was being kind.
One of the last four left was the twelve-year-old girl, Meyyammai, probably the only one who never looked worried during the game. She wasn't a regular player, but really wanted to beat the grandmaster at his game.
U.S. Consul General Andrew Simkins had a different take. “It would have been embarrassing to win — because I know it would have been a complete fluke!” he laughed.
After the game, they settled down for a ‘Fireside Chat' (slightly puzzling, as the term refers to a Presidential address to the nation), Aruna asking the questions to a man she's known since she was a child. “Chess is not about being a cold, calculating machine at all. What your opponent is feeling affects you as well. When you play Kasparov, he's constantly fidgeting, taking off his watch, putting it back on. It makes you feel a little more confident — but it's only after you play him several times that you realise that he's restless even when he's winning,” he said, laughing. He likens playing a computer to “hitting a brick wall harder and harder and harder. There are no emotions betrayed, so it can get intensely frustrating for the human counterpart.”
The grandmaster and his manager reside in Spain. In case you're wondering, they have played each other. It ended in a draw.