chess

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Mind Games -

WORLD cham­pion Magnus Carlsen may dom­i­nate his ri­vals like few be­fore him and have reached un­prece­dented heights in the rat­ings, but un­for­tu­nately this suc­cess has not trans­lated into spon­sors and cash.

Alarm­ingly, no bids have been re­ceived to host the world chess cham­pi­onship be­tween Carlsen and In­dia’s Viswanathan Anand, due in Novem­ber.

And this week came news that Carlsen’s home coun­try, Nor­way, was strug­gling to find the money to hold the Olympiad – the chess world’s equiv­a­lent of the Olympic Games – in Au­gust.

Nor­way’s em­bar­rassed chess of­fi­cials have pe­ti­tioned the govern­ment of the oil-rich coun­try for an ex­tra 15 mil­lion krona – about $2.5m in our money – but were knocked back.

Now the or­gan­is­ers say the event – which in­volves hun­dreds of teams from around the world and enor­mous pres­tige – may have to be scaled back or even can­celled.

The Nor­we­gian govern­ment points out that or­gan­is­ers have al­ready been handed 75 mil­lion krona – about $13m. And with Scan­di­na­vian forthright­ness, the state sec­re­tary for the gov­ern­ing Con­ser­va­tive Party, Knut Olav Amas, told chess play­ers: “When a group gets money from the state, they have to mount an ar­range­ment that fits within the frame­work.” I can imag­ine our own Tony Ab­bott nod­ding his head in ap­proval and mum­bling some­thing about the age of en­ti­tle­ment be­ing over.

Or­gan­is­ers say part of the prob­lem is the sheer pop­u­lar­ity of this year’s event: they ex­pected about 140 teams, but now more than 2000 play­ers from 181 coun­tries are com­ing.

An­other prob­lem is that Nor­way, wealthy though she may be, may have overex­tended her­self chess-wise of late: be­sides the Olympiad, the coun­try is also hold­ing the Chess 2014 Su­pertour­na­ment in June and may be over­dos­ing on the no­ble game.

The funds short­age has cre­ated drama in Europe, but we ex­pect the Olympiad to pro­ceed, per­haps on a more mod­est level, and for a world cham­pi­onship spon­sor to emerge as well.

There were ru­mours that a Nor­we­gian en­ergy com­pany was go­ing to host the Carlsen-Anand match on an iso­lated oil rig in the windswept North Sea, with play­ers fer­ried in and out via he­li­copter. Alas, that turned out to be an April Fool’s Day joke, but we think the idea is crazy enough to be worth con­sid­er­ing.

The thing is, the slightly ro­botic Carlsen doesn’t light up a room like the charis­matic Garry Kas­parov used to, and of­fi­cials might need to think out­side the chess­board to at­tract much-needed cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship.

Here’s a game high­light­ing the at­tack­ing skills of the re­mark­able Hun­gar­ian ju­nior Richard Rap­port:

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