Ian and Cathy Rogers at the media room of the world chess championship match on Friday. (HT Photo)
Chess is like an underground activity back home, said Ian Rogers, Australia's first Grandmaster.
"It is not just invisible, it is disliked by administrators even though there is a huge interest, especially among children. For the first time since 1972, this world championship match is getting no regular coverage in the Australian media. So, the answer to your question would, unfortunately, be no," he said.
A GM since 1985 and Australia's No.1 for over 20 years, Rogers was replying to HT whether he should be called the Viswanathan Anand of his country. "What Anand has done to chess in India is fantastic. I have been recognised about twice on the street and on one occasion, it was by a person from the Philippines," he said.
Rogers also explained why he thinks Magnus Carlsen's a product of Australia's disinterest.
"Simen Agdestein stayed with an Australian who was keen on setting up a residential academy but found no takers in the government. Agdestein took the plan and gave it to Norway's college for top athletes and Carslen was one of the first trainees," he said.
Australia's disinterest, though, has not stopped Rogers from living his life around chess, a sport that's also given him a mate. "Chess has an all-pervasive influence on our lives," said international arbiter and Fide Master Cathy Rogers, Ian's wife since 1984.
They had an initial disagreement about the first meeting before Cathy settled it, saying it was in 1974 or '75 in Sydney when she was an organiser of the Australian championship and "Ian a player."
"We were friends for 10 years and I started travelling with him in 1983. In some countries, we did say we were husband and wife before we got married," said Cathy.
All around the world
Till Rogers retired in 2007 because of a medical condition, travel meant to Yugoslavia "because they would host some 25 grandmasters' tournaments in one year", rest of Europe and Asia.
Like Anand, who was based in Madrid for the European circuit, Rogers still has a home in Amsterdam though the couple now spend more time in Australia. The first stop in India was in 1988 for a tournament in Kolkata which Rogers won, said Cathy.
When not coaching, Rogers writes for magazines, meaning he schedules his life and travel around tournaments. Trained as a lawyer and having worked for two years, Cathy provides the visuals that go with Rogers' words.
As we speak, Rogers, 53, monitors the second day's play at the Wankhede. The interest in cricket is more than cursory. Australia opener Chris Rogers is a cousin. "I am glad for his call-up but it is also proof that Australia's problems are not just because they are a team in transition," said Rogers.