x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A new face of chess

Magnus Carlsen's entry marks the beginning of a new era in chess.

The 1972 World Chess Championship between Bobby Fischer, the American challenger, and Boris Spassky, the defending champion from the USSR, was a gripping encounter. Staged in Iceland – an appropriate venue given the frosty exchanges played out between the pair – the eyes of the world watched every move of their months-long contest.

The passing years have brought many more champions, but a new order appeared to emerge in the chess world on Friday, when Magnus Carlsen, from Norway, stole the world title from Viswanathan Anand, the Indian champion who had held the title since 2007. And Carlsen’s victory, in Chennai, might just mark the dawn of a dynamic new era in the sport to rival the Fischer-Spassky moment.

The Norwegian’s youth, charisma and distinctive style have helped him to become an unlikely poster-boy of chess in the modern era. He’s even secured a lucrative modelling contract and has been known to hang out with the American actress Liv Tyler, which is in marked contrast to the sport’s often unflamboyant and unflattering reputation.

Carlsen’s win also suggests a shift away from Russian champions. Once the undisputed kings of the sport, only one of the last six champions has hailed from the country.