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: