Five-time World champion Viswanathan Anand might have lost his crown in his home city, but Chennai won in terms of the conduct of the World championship, attendance and media coverage

Thirteen winters ago, Chennai was proud to produce India’s first World champion in a truly global and competitive sport, as Viswanathan Anand won the World chess title in Tehran. This month, the city proved that it could host a World championship as well as anybody else.

The World title match between Anand and Norway’s Magnus Carlsen was an outstanding success, in terms of its conduct, attendance and coverage. “I would say this was as good a World championship as any,” says Ulrich Stock, a journalist who has been covering World championships regularly for Die Zeit, the most widely-read weekly newspaper in Germany. “The venue, Hyatt Regency, was excellent, food was good and the weather was pleasant. You could not have hoped for more ideal conditions for a World championship match.”

Talking of food, there were concerns that Carlsen might have some problems. So there was even this ‘illness clause’ inserted by Carlsen, which allowed a player to take a two-day break if a player fell ill.

The food, the venue, the attendance, the media coverage… everything was world class, as it ought to be. The only thing that wasn’t of the highest class was the chess. But it too could have been, if Anand hadn’t made those three fatally bad moves in the three games he lost — the three moves that cost him his crown.

But we must not take anything away from Carlsen, for all the mistakes Anand made. As he himself pointed out, he had pressurised Anand to make those errors.

Carlsen was already a big star when he came to Chennai. He was World No. 1 and the strongest player of all time. He was voted one of the sexiest men by Cosmopolitan and had modelled with Hollywood actress Liv Tyler. He became a bigger star, globally, after the World championship. Such was the coverage of the championship.

“This is easily the best-covered World championship of all time,” says Anastaszia Karlovich, FIDE’s press officer. “It was great to see Indian newspapers devoting so much space to the championship. That has never happened before.”

Balanced coverage

Carlsen’s manager, Espen Agdestein, too had nice things to say about the Indian media. “Team Carlsen would like to thank the Indian newspapers,” he says. “I can tell you the coverage in India was much more balanced than what we saw in the Norwegian media.”

Chess is essentially a sport pursued on the computer these days. So it was indeed online that the Chennai World championship was followed the most.

“We have had about 30 million visitors to the official website (chennai2013.fide.com),” says Goran Urosevic, the event’s webmaster. “We had the most visitors from India, followed by the United States and Germany.”

The World championship was the best in terms of television coverage too. Doordarshan, with support from Russia’s ChessTV, had covered the entire match live, with live commentary and analysis, which proved hugely popular.

Then there was the chess fan of Chennai, who came to the venue and bought a ticket for Rs. 2500, when he had so many other options to follow the match. But, then, this is Chennai.