WCC2014: Opening Day

Opening Press Conference

The first press conference was done is a very traditional format of a welcoming, introductions, short speeches and a Q&A. FIDE Press Officer Anastasia Kharlovich presided and Polina Tsedenova was the translator. Former World Champion Boris Spassky was in attendance as well as several Women’s World Champions (i.e., Alexandra Kosteniuk, Antoneta Stefanova, Zhu Chen). Speeches were made by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Russian Chess Federation President Andrei Filatov, Chief Organizer Ilya Merenzon followed by the participants Carlsen and Anand.

At the dais were Polina Tsedenova (translator), World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, Russian Chess Federation President Andrei Filatov, Challenger GM Viswanathan Anand, FIDE Press Officer Anastasiya Karlovich, 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov, and the match organizer Ilya Merenzon. Photo by Chessdom.

Both players stated that they were happy to be here despite giving little elaboration. However, when asked who they had on their teams, Anand immediately and crisply answered, “Sasikiran, Wojtasek and Gajewski”. On the other hand, Carlsen answered, “The Dane and the Hammer” referring to Peter Heine Nielsen and Jon Ludwig Hammer. Most certainly there are other helpers offsite. Another former champion Anatoly Karpov gave some laudatory comments, but also came bearing gifts. The former world champion announced that he has donated two authentic chess sets for the winner

Magnus Carlsen held certainly questions close to his vest including what he was doodling on a piece of paper. When asked by a Norwegian journalist whether he felt he was the favorite, he responded, “What do you think?” He continued that such a status was meaningless unless one played well. Photo by ChessBase.

There were questions asked of the panel which included the conditions of the playing venue which revealed there would not be a glass cube as seen in Chennai. Other questions were concerning Anand’s attitude after losing his title and then roaring back to win the Candidate’s tournament. He mentioned that he was indeed depressed after the result, but healed after time passed and decided he would pursue another chance.

Many had speculated that he would retire after his devastating loss. He was also asked about the role of Aruna Anand and he said simply, “Well… she’s kind of a wife” which evoked a 1000-watt smile from the Mrs. The last question of the press conference was interesting which resulted in Carlsen responding, “I’m not a very spiritual person.” Of course, this raises so many other questions that will likely be raised in future interviews.

Opening Ceremony

Arguably the world’s most well-known and well-liked chess couple.
Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich.

Opening ceremonies are usually a gallant show of pomp and circumstance. The pageantry of these events are usually visually stunning with some sort of chess theme. President Ilyumzhinov officially opened the games and there was a proclamation read from Russian President Vladimir Putin to welcome the world championship to Russia.

There was a creative method for drawing colors which apparently entertained both Carlsen and Anand. A famous Russian magician asked both players to draw large balloons from a velvet-draped box. Carlsen drew a black balloon and Anand the white. The magician then grabbed the black balloon and with a pen, burst the black balloon from which a black bird apparently emerged. He repeated this trick and Anand was visibly moved by this hocus-pocus. It was a nice touch that did not take away from the formality of the exercise.

Abracadabra! The players loved it!

Beautiful chess-themed choreography.

Igor Burtman… blow that horn!! 😎
Photos by Anastasia Kharlovich.

There was wonderful entertainment with performances by beautifully-costumed dancers, pop singer Tina Kuznetsova and an interesting jazz performance by a Russian quartet lead by Igor Burtman. The jazz band was led by a saxophonist who was expressive in his playing. It appeared that the audience were not connoisseurs of jazz from the tepid applause given after the first number. However, at the end of their last number, there were shouts of appreciation typically of a jazz set. In a place with a rich history in classical music, this may have been quite a diversion, but many were appreciative.

There were a number of dignitaries in the crowd such as Boris Spassky and several former World Champions. The Russian women received medals of merit for winning the Olympiad. Kateryna Lagno was not present to receive her commendation. It was interesting to see Spassky enjoy the festivities. He has had an eventful life and his last few years have been challenging, but he seemed to enjoy being in good company.

Russia’s Olympiad champion Olga Girya with two former world champions… an ebullient and elegant Antoaneta “Ettie” Stefanova along with Zhu Chen. Photos by Anastasia Kharlovich.

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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