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Saturday, July 14, 2012

40 Years Ago, a Match Took the World by Storm

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The World Chess Championship match between Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union and Bobby Fischer of the United States - played in Iceland against the backdrop of the cold war and often called the match of the century - began 40 years ago last week.
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Position after 19 … bc5; click to replay
The showdown itself led to an explosion of interest in the game, and when Fischer won the title he became an international celebrity outside of the chess world.

The same cannot be said for the current world champion, Viswanathan Anand of India. Yet judging by the number of clubs, school programs and Web sites that are devoted to chess, the game has never been more popular.

In the United States alone, hundreds of thousands of children belong to chess clubs, and hundreds of schools have made the game part of their curriculums. And last year, in Armenia, chess became a compulsory subject in all primary schools.

Modern chess has also produced its own celebrity: Magnus Carlsen, 21, a Norwegian who, while not the world champion, is ranked No. 1 by the World Chess Federation.

Carlsen is the best player since Fischer who is not from Eastern Europe, and the news media has been paying attention to his rise. He was featured this year on “60 Minutes” and was profiled in Time magazine in 2010 and in The New Yorker in 2011. He also has been a spokesman and a model for the G-Star Raw clothing line.

Carlsen will not get a chance to take the world championship until 2014, when Anand will have to defend his title against the player who wins the Candidates’ Matches. Those matches will begin in London next March, and Carlsen is the favorite.

He has already claimed one world championship at a fast time control, capturing the blitz title in Moscow in 2009. But last weekend, at a tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan, he missed adding the rapid chess title to his list of honors. He finished second to Sergey Karjakin, 22, although Carlsen had defeated him in a Round 10 match.

In that game, Carlsen sidestepped the main line of the Berlin Defense with 4 d4, hoping to unsettle Karjakin. That did not work, and chances were equal for most of the game.

Carlsen’s opening came after Karjakin played 41 ... Bd4, when 41 ... a5 would have been better. He did not play 49 ... Rh5 because 50 Ke6 would have given Carlsen an even more decisive advantage.

Karjakin blundered again with 53 ... Rc4. If he had played 53 ... Bf6, it would probably have been good enough to achieve a draw. He resigned after 58 Rf8 because he would not have been able to stop Carlsen from promoting a pawn after 58 ... Kf8 59 h7 Re5 60 fe5 Kg7 61 e6



Source : The New York Times