No firecrackers were burst, nobody hit the street in celebration. But Viswanathan Anand’s successful quest for a fifth world championship was as keenly followed and dissected by the city’s chess fraternity as every delivery of last Sunday’s IPL 5 final.
Over 50 children assembled at a Park Street address on Wednesday to watch the live webcast of the tiebreaker between Anand and Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand in Moscow. The rapt audience barely blinked throughout the four-and-a-half hours of Rapid Chess, getting up from their seats only during the short breaks between the four games.
Class IV student Moloy Deb Roy occupied a front-row seat and scribbled on his green notebook after every move made by the Grandmasters. “I had last come here to watch the second of the 12 games played earlier. I was away and couldn’t come for the other matches,” said Deb Roy, who trains at the Alekhine Chess Club.
“We have to study each move of the players as part of our training. That’s why I am carrying my notebook,” said Moloy, a student of South Point.
The Rapid Chess tiebreaker was held after 12 full games between Anand and Gelfand failed to produce a winner. In Rapid Chess, four games are played with players getting 25 minutes each in a game. That Anand has an excellent record in the format fuelled anticipation of his victory in Wednesday’s tiebreaker.
Seated a few chairs away from Moloy was Sourjyendu Malaker, a Class VI student of Vivekananda Mission in Behala. A regular in the city’s Rapid Chess tournaments, he was glued to the screen throughout, as much to learn from every move as in the hope of seeing Anand win the championship.
“Anand is one of the best players of Rapid Chess. It’s a learning process seeing him play,” Sourjyendu said.
So is Anand his favourite? “No, I like Garry Kasparov’s attacking style,” he said.
But Sourjyendu, runner-up in the under-9 category of the 2010 West Bengal Age Group Chess Championship, does count playing against Anand as the highlight of his nascent career. The Class VI student had been picked along with a few more talented participants in The Telegraph Schools’ Chess Championship to play Rapid Chess against Anand at Gorky Sadan last December.
The organisers of Wednesday’s Park Street event said the tiebreaker drew more people than the previous 12 matches because Rapid Chess was more exciting to watch than a normal game. “The moves are made faster and that makes it interesting throughout. Also, everyone knew that the winner would be decided on Wednesday,” said Atanu Lahiri, winner of the 1999 Commonwealth Chess Championship.
Atanu explained each move to the young players watching the webcast.
Students at Future Hope Chess Academy, on Rowland Road, too had logged in for a live webcast of the tiebreaker. A projector fitted to a laptop beamed the feed live on a wall.
Surojit Mayra, Juman Ali, Mongal Hembram and Abdul Khan watched the match with their teacher. “They were very keen to follow the final and stayed back after school. They kept asking questions,” said Sayan Mukherji, a former chess player.
As the last game began, the quartet predicted that Anand would win. “Gelfand is under tremendous pressure. He has to win this to stay afloat,” said one of the boys.
Anand had won the second game and needed only a draw to win the championship.
When the final game ended in a draw, children at the Park Street address hugged each other. “There was so much celebration that we had to stop the interactive session midway,” said Lahiri with a smile.