When Magnus Carlsen entered the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium here on this warm Thursday afternoon, the crowd erupted. It is not every day that you see such a noisy reception for a chess player. But, of course, the world gets a player like the Norwegian genius only once in a generation.
A little later, another gentleman entered, from the other gate of the stadium. It now looked as if the cheers that Carlsen received were just a trailer. The crowd indeed went wild at the sight of Viswanathan Anand.
You could not have hoped for a more enthusiastic beginning for the World chess championship, which was inaugurated by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa; she has been instrumental in bringing the prestigious event to India for the first time ever. The stadium was packed long before she had arrived, well in time for the ceremony.
Carlsen gets white
After inaugurating the World championship, she also picked the colours for the first game: Carlsen will have the white pieces.
Earlier, in her speech she recalled how her Government decided to spend Rs. 29 crores so that the World championship could be brought to India. “When the World chess federation (FIDE) president Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov met me in 2011, he requested me to hold the World chess championship in Chennai,” she said.
“I immediately agreed to do so at a cost of Rs. 20 crore. However, it failed to materialise as Russia made the highest bid for the championship. As a goodwill gesture towards the interest expressed by the Government of Tamil Nadu in holding the event, FIDE agreed to hold the 2013 World championship match in Chennai without any bid.”
The reaction of the crowd on Thursday showed how much that meant to Chennai. Earlier at the press meet at Hyatt Regency,
Anand too had expressed his happiness at playing the match in his hometown.
In her speech, Ms. Jayalalithaa said Anand had emerged as a role model for all the aspiring chess players of India. “Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand is, quite simply, the greatest sportsman India has ever produced,” she said. “He is the epitome of chess in India.”
After the inauguration, there was a cultural show. And it proved quite entertaining too.
There was Bharatanatyam on the 64 squares of a chessboard, choreographed and performed by actress and danseuse Shobana, along with her troupe. Its pulsating music was composed by A.R. Rahman.
There was also another group Bharatanatyam performance led by Urmila Sathyanarayanan. A veena recital led by Veena E. Gayathri brought an end to the cultural show.
Before that though there was this scintillating dance show by Villniss Dance Company from Norway. The acrobatic, graceful show had the audience spellbound.
It truly was an inaugural ceremony to remember.
Among those particularly impressed was B. Adhiban, one of India’s most promising young Grandmasters.
“I have never seen anything like this in chess before,” said Adhiban, who has been spoken of highly by Anand.
“It was a wonderful programme and it is nice to see a chess championship having such an opening.
“I had some trouble getting into the stadium and I am glad I did.”