No one's drawn blood yet but with each game Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen seem closer to doing that. What made Wednesday's scrap special was that for more than three hours, there were champions of three generations in the hall.
There was Carlsen and Anand locked in a
battle that GM Nigel Short tweeted had "burst into flames". And there was Garry Kasparov a little distance away in the audience. It was Kasparov who generated maximum heat before the players drew focus on themselves.
Unlike Tuesday's guest appearance, Kasparov stayed for nearly three hours and 40 minutes. Not long after he had settled behind the hospitality area wearing a grey jacket, Fide deputy president, Georgios Makropoulos, told the media that Team Anand had requested Kasparov not be seated in the front row because it would distract the defending champion.
A sensational statement if any and when this was put to Anand, he looked surprised and said, "I have no idea about this."
Even in the darkened interiors of the hall, you could make out the silhouette of the broad shoulders of a man as brilliant as he is controversial. For most of the time, according to those inside, Kasparov saw the game on the giant screen on his left, the head slightly tilted.
On the 18th move, as Carlsen moved a bishop, Kasparov hunched over the railing. He was seen stroking his lips as if in deep thought. Kasparov spoke to no one and rarely looked in any direction apart from the players and the screen, said a member of the audience HT spoke to. "He seemed engrossed. If only we knew what was going through his head," said the spectator.
Going by eyewitness accounts, Kasparov was the most still among the three.
The youngest was also the most restless. Carlsen repeatedly left his seat, often bounding away after a glance towards the audience. He would often shift in his seat, sometimes glower at the clock and slouch over the board. His restlessness at times makes it difficult to reconcile his passion for a sport as physically passive as this.
The thoughtful gait, glass of water in right hand, the ponderous sip from a cup of tea, chin perched on right hand, Anand seemed so much more sedate. Even when he was "making one illogical move after the other" in an opening Anand described as "horrible." (READ: No white in shining armour)
Carlsen said it was a pity to have spoilt such a chance for victory and praised Anand's fighting instincts. But this was the first time Chennai saw him beaming almost. "Think such a fight is good for the game," said Carlsen.
Fittingly, given the warmth the players have shown off the board, it was Carlsen who sought to put the lid on the controversy over Kasparov. "This match will be decided by what happens on the board, not off it," he said.
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