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General Dec 20, 2013 | 3:17 PMby Colin McGourty

The wrong pieces in Chennai?

Carlsen captures a piece in the final game of the 2013 World Championship match | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

Chess sponsor Oleg Skvortsov was in Chennai for the start of the recent World Championship match and spotted a factor he thinks may have been overlooked – Magnus Carlsen was more familiar with the chess set used as it was first put into action in the London Candidates, the tournament from which the Norwegian qualified to play Viswanathan Anand.

Oleg Skvortsov has emerged to become one of the world’s top chess patrons in recent years and in January 2014 is organising the Zurich Chess Challenge, where Carlsen and Anand will meet for the first time since their match (for more on that all-star event see our earlier report). 

In his latest interview with Vladimir Barsky at ChessPro the Russian businessman shared his impressions from talking to Anand after the first game:

Anand easily drew with Black and in general the start of the match gave no sign that it was going to end so painfully for him. At that point Vishy made a composed and self-confident impression. I then watched the subsequent events from Moscow and Western Europe, where I had to fly on business.

Vishy Anand and his team inspecting the venue before the match | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

He goes on:


Agon founder Andrew Paulson (left) with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov before the London Candidates tournament. Paulson is quoted in a recent New York Times profile as saying: "So far, I’m an interesting, intelligent, romantic story... There's a huge upside for any partners. A, they're getting chess, and B, they're getting me." | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich 

I’ll tell you something else which amazed me. Before the start of the match Anand and Carlsen inspected the playing venue and chose their table and chairs. And then it turned out they were going to play with the same pieces that were used in the last Candidates Tournament in London. That set is almost the only thing that the company Agon has managed to do for the chess world.

In the opinion of many participants in the London tournament those pieces were a failure. The bishops and pawns are elongated and in general the pieces recall some of the “Star Wars” characters. They’re inconvenient to play with, particularly in time trouble. Moreover, it seemed to me that Anand had never played with those pieces, while Carlsen, judging from his photographs on Twitter and Facebook, had trained only with those pieces.

I’m not claiming that situation somehow affected the outcome of the match, although in such a significant matter no detail is irrelevant! If you start playing tennis not with your favourite orange racket but with a yellow one, then it probably won’t be pleasant. Or if its weight differs even by 5-10 grams from what you’re used to. Perhaps it was an oversight on the part of Anand’s assistants. However, there was no last-minute change to the pieces.

Full interview at ChessPro (in Russian)


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