Anand-Carlsen duel fires up chess fervor in India

Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:39am EST
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By Anupama Chandrasekaran

CHENNAI (Reuters) - As India's Vishwanathan Anand squared off against Norway's Magnus Carlsen to defend his title as world chess champion, 11-year-old Shyamsundar and his 9-year-old sister Padmapratibha unfolded their cloth chess boards and sat cross-legged in the lobby of the hotel where the grandmasters were playing.

Their mother, B. Tamilarasi, traveled with them 450 km (280 miles) from Madurai to Chennai, allowing them to miss school to watch the Anand-Carlsen matches and take part in chess games throughout the two-week event.

"When I watched the inaugural ceremony for the World Chess Championship, I dared to think that they too could eye the world championship crown some day," she said.

With India having overtaken France as the nation with the most players rated by the World Chess Federation, the country that invented the predecessor of the strategic game is finally proving to be a hotbed of chess talent.

The enthusiasm for chess ignited by Anand in the 1980s is now a fervor as India hosts the world championship this year.

Anand and Carlsen are playing a total of 12 games through to November 26 on a glass-encased, soundproof stage at a five-star hotel in Chennai on India's southeast coast. Their first two matches, on Saturday and Sunday, ended in draws.

Just 22, Carlsen is considered the favorite after beating Anand in their last encounter in June. Anand, 43, is unperturbed.

"Whether someone thinks you are a favorite or not and what percentage, I don't know what you can do with that information anyway," Anand told a news conference last week.   Continued...

Norway's Magnus Carlsen (R) plays against India's Viswanathan Anand during the FIDE World Chess Championship in the southern Indian city of Chennai November 9, 2013. REUTERS/Babu