Bengal’s own grandmaster, Dibyendu Barua, explained to the two visitors how the Gariahat Chess Club got a facelift last year. “Earlier, people would sit on the iron railings with the board in between,” Barua said as Nakamura looked in disbelief.
The chess club under the flyover was decked out in balloons to welcome the grandmasters. Youngsters and senior players had started gathering since 3.30pm, an hour before the two arrived.
Mehul Gupta, 14, and Ritabrata Chakraborty, 13, were among those in the crowd. Both take chess lessons at the Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy and had come armed with a notebook to take autographs of the grandmasters.
“Liren is one of the best players. I want to see him play in person,” said Mehul, a Class VIII student of St Lawrence High School. His wish was fulfilled.
Aronyok Ghosh, a budding player from Bengal who has made a mark in the circuit, had a chance to take on Liren in a game of rapid chess. The match ended in a draw after over 50 moves in less than five minutes. “He must have been very tired,” was Ghosh’s candid admission.
The second edition of the Tata Steel event is now part of the Grand Chess Tour. The five-day meet in Calcutta will determine the top four spots for the GCT Finals slated in Olympia London from December 2 to 8. “The Grand Chess Tour coming to Calcutta and grandmasters coming to Gariahat for two consecutive years are a fabulous boost for young chess players in the city,” said
Sayan Mukerji, the vice-president of the Bengal Chess Association.
Grandmaster Wesley So had played in the previous edition of the tournament and dropped in at Gariahat Chess Club as well.
Two of the world’s top chess players pored over a checkered board under the Gariahat flyover on Wednesday evening, often wondering how one could concentrate in the middle of the cacophony.
Ding Liren and Hikaru Nakamura played for a few minutes in the middle of incessant honking of buses and cars and the din of hawkers and pedestrians synonymous with Gariahat.
“You cannot shut out the noise. You have to learn to accept it and go on with the game,” a veteran at the open-air Gariahat Chess Club told Liren, the 26-year-old Chinese grandmaster, ranked third in the world according to the International Chess Federation.
Liren and Nakamura are in the city to take part in the star-studded Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and Blitz 2019, to be held at National Library from November 22 to 26.
Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand will also be part of the meet.
Liren, the 2018 Chess Olympiad gold medallist, beat Magnus Carlsen this August to win the Sinquefield Cup in St Louis and strengthen his challenge for the Norwegian’s global crown in 2020. “I could have never imagined people can play chess in this situation. This can happen only in movies,” Liren told Metro.
Nakamura, the Japanese-born US grandmaster who had won the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid Championship last year, was impressed, too.
“You have to see this to believe it. I have played in many countries. But this is a unique experience,” said Nakamura, who was ranked one in the world in 2014, when FIDE began publishing its official chess ratings.
Ding Liren plays a game of chess with Aronyok Ghosh, a budding player from Bengal, on Wednesday evening. In the crowd are Hikaru Nakamura (hand on chin) and Dibyendu Barua (centre) Picture by Gautam Bose