Clash of chess titans comes to India,Chennai awaits Viswanathan Anand

Viswanathan Anand has always maintained that the venue is incidental.

Written by Raakesh Natraj | New Delhi | Published:April 8, 2013 10:16 pm

Viswanathan Anand,the undisputed world champion since 2007,will play his first title bout in India. Anand’s home city Chennai will host his World Chess Championship final against World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen this November.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa announced in the assembly that the state government had set aside Rs 29 crore for the match,which will be played between November 6 and 26. Tamil Nadu’s bid to bring the 2012 final between Anand and Boris Gelfand to Chennai had proved insufficient.

“It (the previous bid) failed to materialise as Russia made the highest bidding for the championship. Since Tamil Nadu came forward to organise the event in 2012,the Word Chess Federation (FIDE) agreed to hold it in Chennai without bidding,” Jayalalithaa said.

Anand has always maintained that the venue is incidental. But he said on Monday that playing in Chennai would allow him to go into the contest with a “very positive frame of mind”.

“It was one thing missing on my resume,playing the final at home,and I am looking forward to it,” he told The Indian Express. Anand has played parts of the championship cycle in India before,losing to Gata Kamsky in the quarterfinal stage in Hyderabad in 1994.

If Carlsen wins,he will become the youngest ever world champion at 22,equalling Garry Kasparov’s record. The Norwegian is also the highest rated player ever,and Anand had told The Indian Express in an interview published April 3 that he did not mind people considering Carlsen the outright favourite.

For a sport struggling for sponsorships,Carlsen,with his precocity and forays into modelling,is arguably the most marketable figure right now,and the final is being billed as one of the greatest in the last half century,on par with the Fischer-Spassky (1972) and Karpov-Kasparov (1984) duels.

Anand said that such a high profile match would spur interest in chess in India. “It is one of the most awaited clashes,and holding the event in India will have a positive effect on chess in the country. I am sure we will be able to see it in the next three to five years,” he said.

Anand became India’s first Grandmaster in 1987. Thirty players have achieved the feat since then,but India has just four in the FIDE’s top 100 list.

Anand won the first of his five world titles when he claimed the FIDE World Championship in 2000,defeating Alexei Shirov. He lost the title two years later but became the undisputed champion in 2007,a year after the unification of the chess world. Since then,he has retained his title after wins against Vladimir Kramnik (2008),Veselin Topalov (2010) and Gelfand (2012).

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