We have all heard of fans travelling the globe to see their favourite teams playing spectator sports like football and cricket.
You wouldn’t usually find someone doing the same for chess. Even the most fanatic of chess fans would simply follow the game on the internet. Little wonder, because, visually, nothing much happens in a game of chess: two guys sit across a table and push small pieces across the board at frequent intervals, showing very little emotion.
But Josh Barber, a London-based lawyer, has been religiously watching the world championship matches by going to the venues.
On Saturday, he was at Hyatt Regency to watch the opening game between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen. “I have been exchanging emails with the organisers for the past few months, so I could buy a ticket,” says Barber. “I was glad I could buy this ticket worth Rs. 2,500.”
The first time Barber watched Anand play in a world championship final was in 1995. “I had watched the game in which Anand beat Garry Kasparov in the PCA World Championship; you may remember it was the first decisive result of the match,” he says.
“Anand was fantastic in that game, but unfortunately he lost the match. I like Anand a lot; he is such a genial person. He is really a class act.”
Barber, who plays chess at the club level, says Anand might find it tough against Carlsen here. “Carlsen is a special player,” he says. “There is something magical about his chess. And he is really a superstar who has done wonders for the image of chess as a sport.”
Barber had seen Carlsen winning the Candidates tournament — the qualification event for the world title match — in London earlier this year.
“I was there when Vladimir Kramnik shocked Kasparov to win the Braingames World Championship in 2000 in London,” says Barber. “It feels great to have been able to attend another great match, here in Chennai.”