A not-so-serious look at the game of chess

Published: 12 November, 2013 16:58 IST | Hemal Ashar |

All eyes are on Chennai as Norway's Magnus Carlsen challenges India's Viswanathan Anand for the World Championship of Chess. Here, we commit sacrilege in the eyes of the oh-so-solemn chess follower and wonder why chess, the game of the serious 64 squares, cannot give you a little chuckle

Just because chess is such a serious pursuit does not mean one cannot get a little trivial around the game. With India’s Viswanathan Anand and Norway’s Magnus Carlsen ensuring all eyes on Chennai as they battle it out for the World Chess Championship, here is some inexplicable, ridiculous tripe about the game and its players. Certainly not worth the cerebral pedestal that the game is put on. After all, who, with any kind of brain writes this kind of stuff? Maybe, somebody with a single digit IQ, like this columnist, perhaps, who is wondering…

Cartoon/ Amit Bandre

>> Whether a chess player can make a movie called Hum Aapke Hain Pawn where Madhuri Dhak Dhak Dikshit draped in a purple spangled sari, can dance to: Didi tera dewar deewana…

>> Whether Michael Jackson’s ‘It don’t matter if it’s black or white’ can play as an anthem at the World Chess Championships with Carlsen and Vishy doing the moonwalk to their table?

>> Why a chess player ignores a dietician’’s advice and always goes for seconds?

>> Whether you know that Vishy is a resident of Spain and he was earlier. contemplating living in the Netherlands before Spain threw down the red carpet for Chennai’s brainy son?

>> Whether Vishy’s little son Akhil is cheering him from the sidelines shouting: ‘my papa cleverest’ like children in an ad shout: my papa strongest…

>> Whether you read a report which stated that Carlsen had called Vishy “fond of good food and lazy” in the past?

>> And talking about food, good, bad or otherwise, one can wonder whether Magnus Carlsen (22) is younger and hungrier than the 43-year-old Vishy?

>> Whether some amateur chess players give excuses for losing that are just Vishy-washy

>> Whether Vishy was wife Aruna’s knight in shining armour?

>> Whether Ekta Kapoor should make a serial on previous chess champions given her propensity for the letter K like KKKKarpov and KKKasparov

>> Whether chess players will always be for the monarchy --the King and Queen are terribly important to them?

>> Whether you need to be wary of chess players because they really have some smooth moves, baby

>> Whether one cheque tells another rakishly: world chess is on, time for some chequemate, forget the cash because money can’t buy you looooove?

>> Why chess games do not have cheerleaders like they do in the Indian Premier League (IPL) cheering wildly between games with a band playing at every cool move between squares?

>> A nattily dressed Vish can be Swish Vish and a handsome Vish is Vish the Dish

>> Whether chess champs should endorse Moov ointment, since they have all those slick moves?

>> Whether a boring chess player is simply a square?

>> Whether chess champ Vishy Anand when he was single and ready to mingle, sang to the ladies: Rook-ja o jaanewali rook-ja, main toh raahi teri manzil ka…

>> Why you are not ashamed of following the all-important World Chess Championship and instead reading tripe like this,anyway?

The men and their moves: Officials watch as India’s Viswanathan Anand (l) and Norway’s Magnus Carlsen (r) compete in their championship match in Chennai. Pic/AFP

Proud to be Indian
Rather uncharacteristically, Viswanathan Anand had found himself in a controversy over citizenship, which was resolved eventually, after some media attention. A rewind to the time the icon had spoken out about when he felt proud to be Indian and his unique relationship with Spain When Viswanathan Anand was asked at which juncture did he feel the most patriotic and when did he feel most moved at being an Indian, one would have thought he would have said, after winning a title. Yet, Anand being Anand, he had said, “It is easier and more tempting to typecast winning times as magical moments but there was one particular incident which touched, humbled and made me feel honoured as an Indian. It was in 2001 at the World Chess Championship knockout preliminaries at Moscow when I was playing Vladislav Tkachiev (USSR-born) and made a spectacular Queen move. The crowd bursting into a spontaneous applause, bang in the middle of the game, which is so much against the unspoken and understood chess rules. This was Russia, this was the Kremlin, the spectators were Russian who revere the chess title like anational treasure and instead of rooting for their own, they defied chess decorum and clapped impromptu for an Indian. I think even I had started smiling, then.”

Political moves: A picture taken on November 26, 2007, shows former world chess champion turned opposition activist Garry Kasparov (R) grimacing as he sits between Russian police officers in a courtroom in Moscow, two days after his arrest for scuffling with riot police during a protest a week ahead of a legislative elections. Kasparov has applied for Latvian citizenship, his representatives in Latvia said last week. Pic/AFP

Excellence Explained
In 2009, India had a bull run in sport, with several achievements coming our way on the international stage. At that time, Viswanathan Anand had written an exclusive piece for the paper on what world domination means. Here are some excerpts: “The spurt in sporting achievements in recent times by Indians naturally invokes interest even if one is not dedicated or addicted to sports. I follow football and tennis regularly but when an Indian is getting noticed internationally, be it any sport, I start following the news closely.

Political chess: Chennai, India : Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa (C) poses with Norwegian chess player Magnus Carlsen (2R) and Indian world chess champion Viswanathan Anand (l) ahead of the World Chess Championship. PIC/AFP

To be taken seriously as a sporting nation, we have to try for absolute dominance in the sport. However to sustain such efforts, it is imperative to understand that winning is not the end. It is always the beginning of a new and more difficult journey. Of course, when you have achieved something, it has to be cherished and acknowledged but one also has to understand that ultimately it is only the challenge, enjoyed en-route to the victory, which can only give you true satisfaction.

Walkin’ through: Norwegian chess player Magnus Carlsen (r) follows Indian children onto a stage in Chennai on November 7, 2013, ahead of a tournament against Indian champion Viswanathan Anand. Pic/AFP

To be a world-class sportsperson, dedication is needed and this has to come from within. The aim should always be in excelling and enjoying your skill and potential. If your sport has to be pursued abroad, then you have to be prepared to travel, train, adjust and even sacrifice. In 1984, when I played the World Sub-Junior Championships, I was down with jaundice and throughout the event; I played looking downwards so that my yellow eyes would not be seen. Funnily, it was there that I met Alexey Dreev, Jeron Piket and Vassily Ivanchuk for the first time. I never really worried about hotels or food when I travelled in my earlier days. I had a Walkman, which I would plug in and shut off other things for hours.”

Anand hi Anand
Several years ago, Viswanathan Anand was asked amount the tension and the rush of emotions at a World Championships. At that time, he was set to defend his world title in Bonn, Germany. He had said to news agencies at that time, “There was a cold shower when I lost my first game in the Wijk Aan Zee and then I drew some 5-6 games after a gap of couple of months. So it is very important to have memories and experience and the feel of the tension of the big chess events. “You remember big match tensions... experience becomes important. It’s a bit like stock market as match can turn either way, so the emotions, anxiety, experience and all these things become important,” Anand had said on the sidelines of an event in India.

Home, Spain home
Collado Mediano a small Spanish town, about 50 km from Madrid has been Anand’s second home for nearly 20years now. Adopted as the ‘Hijo Predelicto’ (famous son) by the town people, his photographs adorn the walls of several shops and he is an idol for people there. In 1995, Anand had decided to base himself in the Netherlands in Europe as travel to Europe from India for tournaments sapped him of vital energy, time and expense. At that time, chess enthusiasts from Collado Mediano laid out a red carpet welcome for him and he bought a house in Spain instead. Anand a bachelor then, was warmed with offers like a local baker offering to cook for him and his seconds before tournaments, as did the Indian embassy there. Anand was touched when the mayor and people from the town received him at the airport when he returned to Madrid after winning his first World title in 2000. The Government of Lanzarote in Spain had conferred the Jameo de Oro (given to illustrious personalities with extraordinary achievements), the highest civilian award for foreigners on Anand in 2001.

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