Open Road Press

Chess Heavyweights Duke it Out

Last month, the Boston area–and all of New England–was abuzz about the Red Sox finishing as baseball’s best. The celebration was heightened due to the terrorist event that struck the city at the start of the season. Most people globally take note of the World Series, which enjoys a storied tradition in a sport that perpetually vies for the title America’s pastime. And, now, sports fans everywhere are prepping for another championship, anticipating their favorite team competing in the National Football League’s post-season tournament. The conference winners will participate in what has become seemingly the world’s largest celebration, the Super Bowl, as evidenced by past, record-setting, television audiences worldwide.

There’s another popular championship currently underway, the 2013 World Chess Championship from Chennai, India. With millions across the globe watching live or on-demand video coverage over the Internet and television, homeland–and hometown–hero, 43-year-old Viswanathan Anand is fighting to make an adoring crowd of fellow countrymen proud. Anand has reigned as World Champion since 2007.

Unlike its prominent team sports counterparts, chess’s Super Bowl is not an annual event. It comes roughly every other year, when the “Candidates Tournament” qualifies a challenger to the current World Champion. This year’s comer is 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen, a dashing Norwegian–and part-time model–with no lack of confidence. After seven games in this year’s 12-game match, he has the Champ on the ropes, showing why he is the highest-rated player in the world with a gaudy rating nearly 100 points higher than the incumbent–and the highest rating in history.

After four early draws, Carlsen won games five and six. After today’s draw, his two-game lead represents a large margin with only five games remaining. Most grandmaster battlefields are typified by draws. If the challenger can muster just four more of those, the crown will change hands…and countries. Youth will be served.

As a competitive chess player myself, I’ve found the coverage of this year’s match fascinating. A made-for-computer application if ever there was one, grandmasters provide expert analysis while each player studies the board. Rather than staring at thinking heads and a static position for hours on end, you get engaging coverage. A graphical analysis board used by the commentators to demonstrate likely variations of moves accompanies a live shot capturing the competitors’ over-the-board demeanor. The analysts were not always “on their game,” as the challenger found creative moves beyond the more logical ones. In the sixth game, Carlsen played a move in the endgame that befuddled the grandmaster analysts. His move led to a brilliant victory.

Five minutes after the game, the large throng of online viewers are escorted into the live press conference, where chess journalists ask the competitors about certain moves, with post-game emotions still brimming to the surface. Again, the visual production team is well prepared. A graphical board demonstrates the analysis to help viewers follow the chess discussion.

You can watch history in the making live or on-demand by clicking here.

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