Seventy-five year-old Laxman Purushottam Khadilkar, a former National ‘B’ chess player, suffered a mild heart-attack a decade ago. But, that hasn’t stopped him from playing in local tournaments in and around Pune.

In the city to watch the World championship clash between two of the world’s best players, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, Khadilkar says the organisation is excellent. “Only, it (ballroom) is too cold.”

Having played with some of India’s finest players such as Manuel Aaron, Ravi Sekhar, T.N. Parameswaran, V. Ravikumar, Arun Vaidya, M.T. Babur, Roktim Bandyopadhyay and Hari Om Sharma in the 1960s and 1970s, Khadilkar feels the epic clash between Anand and Carlsen will be very close.

“Take it from me, Anand will win by a point,” he says.

Khadilkar, whose highest rating is 2,175, remembers playing with Anand in 1988 in a simultaneous game with 25 players.

“Anand had come to Mumbai after becoming a GM. He played a match in my friend’s Housing Complex in Pune. He drew only one game against Sajandas Joshi,” says Khadilkar.

When Anand won the Goodricke International tournament in Kolkata in 1992 along with David Norwood and Daniel King, Khadilkar was the arbiter.

He recalled the “Tamil Nadu circuit” in those days with fondness. “There used to be tournaments one after the other. There were events in Palani, Coimbatore, Madurai and Chennai,” Khadilkar said. Khadilkar participated in the Mayor’s Cup International tournament in Mumbai early this year, where he “played badly and lost around 75 points”. But he made up for it by winning prizes in local tournaments in the veterans’ category at Pune and Baramati recently.

Chess has given him relatively good health. “Yes, it has played a part in my healthy life. I do go out for walks. When I sit before the chessboard, I forget everything. Only after the match, do I start worrying about other things,” said Khadilkar, whose grand uncle is V.K. Khadilkar, the first Indian to play in the British championship in Southampton in 1924.

What Khadilkar cherishes most is the friendship he has forged out of chess. “I may not have been a top-rated player in my career, but I have friends all over India.”