Kolkata: The pink ball of test cricket could bounce real close to the black and white chessboard as two of the top knights of world chess gear up for a tough match in Kolkata later this month.
Former world champions of the game, Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand, will set foot inside the clubhouse of Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata when India plays Bangladesh in the first day and night test match.
The duo may also toll the traditional match bell during one of the five days of the historic match even as they battle it out on a separate pitch within the iconic premises of the National Library.
Both Carlsen and Anand would be in town from November 22-26 for the 2019 edition of Tata Steel Chess India – Rapid and Blitz, which is part of this year’s four-continent Grand Chess Tour and the penultimate leg of the eight-leg Tour before the finals in London. Kolkata is the only stop in Asia for the world’s premium chess tournament circuit. Incidentally, the dates for the tournament coincided with the India-Bangladesh test match.
“Personally to me, the Chess Tour event is much bigger than the pink ball match for the sheer grandeur that would be brought to the playing tables,” Chanakya Chaudhary, Vice President, Corporate Services of Tata Steel said.
The chess tournament would draw eight of the top 15 Grandmasters of the sport including Ding Liren, Anish Giri, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura besides Carlsen and Anand. Two other Indian Grandmasters, Pentala Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi, would also get a shot at the winner's trophy as wildcard entrants.
But what is likely to steal maximum excitement for chess lovers of the city is the fight between the two world champions, Carlsen and Anand, who would be playing each other in a tournament for the first time on Indian soil. For Anand, the tournament holds added significance since he is looking to seal his berth in the finals besides defending his championship title in the Blitz category of the tournament.
Anand, with 32 GCT points, is currently at number six position in the overall tour standings after grabbing an impressive third slot at the recently-concluded Superbet Rapid and Blitz Championship in Bucharest, Romania. The Kolkata tournament would hence be extremely vital for Anand who is looking to seal his berth in the final four to compete in the finals in London starting November 30.
Of the record $1.75 million prize fund which the participants would fight for in the 5th edition of the GCT, the Kolkata leg would offer a whopping $150,000 to its participants which is a three-times jump compared to last year.
“Not just this year, we hope to make Kolkata a permanent stop for the Grand Chess Tour. I hope the GCT bosses would like the facilities we would have on offer for this tournament,” said Jeet Banerjee, Director, Gameplan Sports, tournament organiser and official branding partner of the Tour.
That goal, if realized, would mean sublime joy to the city’s and even the country’s chess buffs.