Chennai: Even as the battle for the priciest title in world chess has been heating up at the ground floor of Hyatt Regency here, the population of chess enthusiasts at the hotel lobby is going up with each passing day. From a problem composer to an aspiring commentator to amateur players, a variety of chess buffs occupy the huge hall on the first floor.
Thanks to the world championship between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, chess is in the limelight like never before in Chennai.
C.G.S. Narayanan, internationally acclaimed problem composer, was delighted to see the chess wave set off by the big match.
“The number of participants in my daily contest here is going up steadily . During the sixth round on Saturday, 68 people took part for the highest figure so far. I reckon the ongoing CM's trophy state level chess tournament is the main reason for the spike in numbers,“ he added.
A giant chess board set up near the reception desk -which is manned by attendants dressed as queens, kings and soldiers -catches the attention of children first. Apart from posing in front of it for photographs, many kids also indulge in a serious game by moving the massive pieces. GM R.B. Ramesh, one of the prominent coaches in the city, often takes time off his duty with the Doordarshan commentary team to see how his students are faring at the `giant' game.
There is a prominent section of fans that stays glued to the TV set telecasting the Anand-Carlsen match live. Finding a vantage point to watch during the finishing stage of the game in weekends is as difficult as beating Carlsen at the board.
Guitar teacher Sekhar Krishnamurthy and his friend Muralidhar .V managed to find enough space in front of the TV on Friday to place a chess board and replicate the moves of Anand and Carlsen. “I'm proud that my city is staging a match of great historical significance. I'm soaking in the atmosphere. I love a variety of indoor and outdoor sports. Bridge and chess are favourites,“ he said, adding that his first love, though, would always be his wife.
The personable man also loves meeting new people. “I'm basical ly a people's person. This event has given me an opportunity to meet chess enthusiasts of all ages. I feel the occasion is right to raise a toast to chess,“ Sekhar added.
Hotel guests who have no connection to the mind game will have a hard time to find places to sit at the lobby during matches because all the chairs, sofas and concrete sit-outs are in sole possession of chess lovers.
The life of Vikrant Varma, 41, revolves around chess, as he is running an academy near New Delhi. The bespectacled man also doesn't miss an opportunity to test his skill in tournaments.
Vikrant, armed with a chess clock, invites strangers to blitz games whenever he's not following the world championship.
“Chess is an addiction for me, in the positive sense. I derive a great satisfaction from playing the game. Chess was the saviour when I battled depression during my stint in an IT company,“ he said.
The primary goal of Vikrant's Chennai visit is to get some airtime on DD Sports. “I have been told that I virtually have no chance of doing commentary here but I'm still hopeful.
Commentary is an obsession for me. Even Anand praised my communication skills once. Pray for the realisation of my dream,“ he added.