Airport receptions can be high-decibel affairs, particularly when the celebrity in question is an elite sportsperson. Chess, though, is a game soaked in silence and its practitioners are happy to insulate themselves from chaos of any variety.
So Magnus Carlsen was appropriately surprised, even slightly amused at the media whirl upon his arrival here on Monday evening. His opponent in the FIDE World Chess Championship, reigning world champion Viswanathan Anand should know a thing or two about such welcomes.
As the 22-year-old Norwegian, attired in a white tee-shirt, was draped with the customary shawl, a faint smile adorned his face. “I am a little surprised at this kind of reception,” he admitted to the media at the airport.
Carlsen had been training in Oman ahead of the big-ticket clash. He expectedly refused to give away anything about his methods. The challenger’s entourage included his parents and two sisters — all of whom seemed equally surprised by the media-flurry.
Carlsen had also ensured his chef accompanied him. Not that he was uncomfortable with the food but “I don’t want to take chances”, he quickly added. He also noted that “playing Anand is the bigger worry, not falling sick”, probably an allusion to the controversial illness clause.
As Carlsen was led to the car, his attention was diverted towards a screaming Indian supporter flashing a sketch of the young wizard. The screams of “Best of luck, Carlsen”, evoked another disarming smile. He could do with all the calm ahead of the contest, beginning on November 9.