Within the next few hours, the world’s highest rated player, Magnus Carlsen (Norway), will make his first move against five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand and the Battle Royale will begin. The players have been preparing for this moment for months and must have taken tremendous efforts in order to overcome their mighty opponent.
The World Championship match is an energy draining exercise. It goes on for days and the players, their seconds (trainers) and relatives are under pressure throughout the duration. Someone not familiar with chess may think that this is equivalent to a busy day in office. But it is not so!
See what former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik, who played many world championships from 1948 to 1963, had to say. The legend said that he felt that each world championship match shortened his life by 10 years. But he added in the same breath, “Which player will not gladly give up 10 years for a chance to grab the World title?”
I remember that the World Chess Federation (FIDE) had to step in and stop the match between Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov after 48 games when it realised that Karpov, who weighed 58 kilos before the match, had lost 10 kilos during the marathon. After that match, FIDE fixed the number of games per match. Anand and Carlsen will play a 12-game match.
The organisers, meanwhile, must be a worried lot as they have just learnt that former World Champion Garry Kasparov will be visiting Chennai on 11th November. Garry speaks his mind and though he is darling of the media for the same reason, the players and the organisers are always afraid of his sharp tongue. Both Anand and Carlsen had been at the receiving end of his criticism.
While both Anand and Carlsen have been cordial to each other so far, 80 years ago when former World Champion Dr Alexander Alekhine played Grandmaster Efim Bogoljubov, he would crack jokes at the cost of poor Bogoljubov.
Take this for example: “I died and went to pearly gates,” said Alekhine. “I was asked whether I am a chess player. I said, ‘yes!’. Then I was asked to report to hell. Suddenly I saw Bogoljubov entering heaven. So I said, ‘see, there goes Bogoljubov, a chess player.’ The gatekeeper looked at me and said, ‘No, he is not a chess player! He only thinks that he is!’”
At least you will not hear such sarcastic comments during this match. Hopefully Anand and Carlsen will maintain the high standard of the game for which they are famous. Today is the day the drama will unfold in front of millions of chess lovers across the globe.
The author is a chess mentor and a Dronacharya award winner.