CHENNAI: The shutterbugs were in full flow. The scribes put their work aside for a few minutes and rushed to Hall No.1 at the 44th Chess Olympiad venue in Mahabalipuram. The spectators waited anxiously in their queues, hoping to enter the main arena on time. Some players who were uninvolved in the marquee event’s second round on Saturday wanted to be part of something special.
Any guesses as to what created such a buzz? It was Magnus Carlsen’s ‘magnetic’ presence on the top board of the third table. After missing the opening round on Friday, Carlsen, the undisputed king for nearly a decade now, made his maiden appearance for Norway in the ongoing Olympiad against Uruguay’s Georg Meier.
Sporting a black T-shirt and dark blue jeans for most part of his match, the 31-year-old was unsurprisingly the cynosure of all eyes. Despite being the centre of attraction, Carlsen behaved as if there was no spotlight on him. On multiple occasions, he roamed around the hall and had a look at what was unfolding on other boards. The genius that he is, Carlsen showed off his swagger, a sight to behold.
One young fan, who stood close to this journalist, literally dropped his jaw after watching the five-time world champion from close quarters. Everyone at the hall was so engrossed by Carlsen’s ‘magic’ to the extent that only a little section followed Fabiano Caruana, the top-rated player in the envied USA team.
As soon as Carlsen notched up his maiden win of the competition, scores of spectators and volunteers assembled outside the main hall to catch a glimpse of the Norwegian for one last time on the day.
More than eight years have passed since Carlsen secured his maiden World Championship crown in Chennai, but the craze he generates in this city has only got better with time. It is safe to say that his aura was missed on the opening day.