Magnus in Chennai, doing a 'recce'

by ChessBase
8/19/2013 – That's WW2 military slang for reconnaissance. World Championship challenger Magnus Carlsen from Norway landed in Chennai on Sunday to get a feel for the venue of the November championship. It's a maiden visit to the city, and he's loving every bit of it, revealed his manager Espen Agdestein. Out of caution Magnus has brought his own chef. First reports in the Indian broadsheets.

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Just over three months remain for the World Chess Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen to get underway. The city’s chess community is looking forward to the upcoming challenge. As V. Hariharan, the AICF Secretary, put it, “the match itself is an education. Both being such accomplished players, there is so much to gain by closely following the moves. If experience and expertise are Anand’s plus points then Carlsen can be tricky for he draws you to unexplored areas,” said Hariharan.

Magnus Carlsen feeling at home on enemy turf

It's a maiden visit for world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen to the city, and he's loving every bit of it, reveals his manager Espen Agdestein. The Grandmaster from Norway, who arrived in the early hours of Sunday with his entourage for a three-day recce visit ahead of his World Championship match with Viswanathan Anand, is staying at the Hyatt Regency, which will be the venue for November's grand duel.

Speaking to TOI, Agdestein said that the first visit of the venue has been a satisfying one. "So far, things look good and we are pleased with facilities on offer here. It was imperative that Carlsen got a first-hand feel of the atmosphere, the sights and sounds here ahead of the Championship. For a first visit, he is taking it well and enjoying the experience here."

The 22 year-old is slated to play simultaneous chess with 20 children in the city on Monday, before addressing the media. He is also set to meet chief minister J Jayalalithaa the same day. "We would want to discuss about the venue with the chief minister and also the sporting facilities and options available for relaxation in the city since the November event is a 20 odd day affair. It's important that Carlsen keeps himself mentally fresh during the Championships. If you feel good and strong, it helps you concentrate better."

Team Magnus arriving in Chennai for recce

In a separate article The Times reports: "No, this is not world No. 1 and World Championship challenger Magnus Carlsen's new chess trick. It's just that his chef Magnus Forssell is travelling with him. Carlsen will be in Chennai for three days doing a recce of sorts. And going by his decision to bring in his cook, it can be safely assumed that he won't be experimenting too much with food during his November stay."

King's gambit

One of the several bleary-eyed commuters who stepped out of the departure terminal at the Chennai international airport early Sunday morning was 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen. A few officials of the All India Chess Federation formed the perfunctory waiting party that had come to the airport to greet him. Moments later, Carlsen was whisked away to his hotel. Had he arrived at a more reasonable hour, there might have been garlands and shawls, banner-holding school children enjoying a few minutes of sanctioned truancy. These details apart, his reception would not have changed much in scope or in reverence. The Norwegian chess player, currently visiting Chennai to get a feel of the city that will host his World Chess Championship final against Viswanathan Anand in November, is not likely to receive more than obligatory attention in India.

It is difficult to imagine the superstar of any other global sport — a Messi or a Federer — making such an underwhelming entry or commanding so little attention in public. But that Carlsen, "the Mozart of chess", the world number one and the sport's highest-ever rated player, could arrive without turning too many heads is no cause for wonder.

Chess, as portrayed in popular culture, is still the preserve of the eccentric and the precocious. The sport's inability to powder up and flash a smile in front of a televised audience has ensured a crippling degree of anonymity and, consequently, the absence of lucrative TV rights deals. Institutional sponsors have tended to stay away. Even an elite player may not have his lapel adorned by the logo of a benefactor.

Enter Carlsen. In him the West has, potentially, its first world champion since the brilliant and enigmatic Bobby Fischer. Carlsen has recently displayed the same level of mastery over his contemporaries that Fischer did in his prime, and unlike the American, Carlsen has the bankability, age, looks and sophistication to propel him to the forefront of a rigorous marketing campaign. Not only has such a campaign made him the poster boy of chess, it has also set his cash register ringing.

Carlsen made more than a million dollars last year (a figure that is sure to go up in 2013) and over 70 per cent of it came from sponsorships and endorsements. In comparison, Alexander Grischuk, the current world number four, is estimated to have earned $1,85,000 last year in prize money. The Russian is without a sponsor. After a decade of trying to set its house in order and courting prospective patrons, FIDE, the world chess federation, seems content to drift in Carlsen's slipstream.

The only thing missing from Carlsen's resume is the world title. A championship final for the first time in India could trigger a second wave of interest in chess in the country, but a win for Carlsen will be at least as salubrious for the sport at the global level. Or so the marketing pitch goes.

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