Remember the Christmas eve of 2000? That was the night India celebrated arguably its greatest sporting moment, as Viswanathan Anand was crowned the world chess champion in Tehran.
On another winter night here at the Hyatt Regency some 13 years later, came Norway’s tryst with sporting history when Magnus Carlsen took the world chess crown, interestingly enough, from Anand. And there was a large Norwegian contingent to celebrate this historic moment with the 22-year-old wonder boy here.
Among them at the crowded Norwegian lounge was Simen Agdestein, who coached the young Carlsen at the Norwegian College of Elite Sport, where he made his serious opening moves in the same year that Anand began his reign as the king of world chess.
“This has to be the biggest moment in Norway’s sporting history,” says Simen, who is also probably the only GM to score a goal in international football. “We have had other heroes in different disciplines, especially in winter sports, but when you consider that chess is played all over the world and the rich history of the game, this should be Norway’s greatest achievement. There will be celebrations back home,” says Joran Jansson, the Norwegian Chess Federation president, who was also there at the Norwegian lounge, where happy men and women congratulated each other.
“Twenty per cent of all Norwegians were watching some of the games live on television.”
The world championship has indeed been big in the Norwegian media. “We have had two channels covering it live and several newspapers, channels and websites sending their own correspondents,” says Torry Pedersen, Editor-in-Chief, VG, Norway. “Chess has been on the front page too.”
Carlsen’s sponsors too landed just in time for what turned out to be the last game.
“Just about all his main sponsors are here,” says Odd Harald Hauge of Nordic, one of the sponsors. “We wanted to be with Magnus on this great occasion.”
There were about 50 delighted Norwegians, including Magnus’s father Henrik, here on Friday night. And there are five million back home to make this a night to remember for Norway.