The board is set. The two rival kings are ready. The battle royale is about to get underway. Friday was the last day for Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen to relax a bit, ahead of one of the most-awaited World championship matches in the history.
And it was a quiet day for them, in sharp contrast to the previous day when they had a press conference and the opening ceremony to attend to. “Yes, it was quite a hectic day yesterday,” Espen Agdestein, Carslen’s manager, told The Hindu.
“But Magnus enjoyed the opening ceremony. I too liked it a lot. The music and dance shows were all enjoyable. And it was nice to notice that the Indian audience also liked the Norwegian dance (by Villniss Dance Company).”
The best of all
Aruna Anand, the World champion’s wife who is also doubling up as his manager, too, had a great time at the opening ceremony at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
“I have been to every World championship since 1996 and this is the best ceremony of all those championships,” she said.
“Anand also loved it. You know, Anand’s parents too were at the stadium. So it was even more special.”
The moment Anand made his entry must have been very special, for, such was the response of the packed crowd. You could get an indication of how much Chennai, rather the whole country, loves this genial genius.
“Yes it was lovely,” Aruna said. “It is great that Anand is playing the World championship in Chennai.,” Aruna said. “It means quite a lot to him that the event has come to India.” She said it was nice to reflect that Anand had played a role in making chess what it is in the country today.
“When he started out, he never would have thought the sport would become so big and that India could host a World championship match,” she said.
“Yes, he is happy that he could contribute to Indian chess in his own way.”
Carlsen enjoys a similar status in Norway. And like Anand, he too is beginning to have an impact on Norwegian chess. “We have a population of five million, remember, so we cannot hope to have as many chess players as India,” said Agdestein.
“I know that Anand has inspired thousands of young kids here, and I am sure there would the Magnus effect in Norway, but it will take time. The boy is just 22, remember.”
Predictably, Agdestein was tight-lipped about Carlsen’s strategy for the big match.
When asked about Carlsen’s well-known reluctance to work excessively on opening preparation, which by the way, is one of Anand’s strengths, he said, smiling, “Well, expect for some surprises.”
Could that surprise come in Game One on Saturday? That is an intriguing thought.