Home Columns Anantha Narayan The sixty fifth square

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    There are not too many people who respect chess players. Consider this: after the fourth move on a chess board, more than 288 billion positions are possible. That’s as many as the total number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy! For a mind to see through these many permutations and combinations, you either need to be Vishy Anand or Magnus Carlsen. So they deserve at least 22 yards of more adoration than your over hyped master blasters.

    Now that we’ve drawn your attention to the duo battling for the FIDE world chess championship, it’s perhaps the right moment to reflect on what it takes to be the king of kings. It’s certainly not skill. Vishy and Magnus have oodles of it. It can’t be knowledge as both players have access to more information than Deep Blue or Deep Thought. Experience, obviously cannot be the telling difference, as Anand is learning the hard way.

    So what is the X-factor that decides who will wear the crown? I have a theory. I call it the 65th square. And it’s got a lot to do with the names of the players.

    Allow me to amplify my thoughts. The chess world has always been dominated by people with names that have a direct link to the game. The champion from 1921 to 1927 was Jose Raul Capablanca. His Spanish name translates to ‘Powerful god with the white cape’. The key words of note are ‘white’ and ‘power’. Bobby Fischer (considered by many to be the greatest chess player who ever lived) literally works out to ‘the fisherman who will shine’. His legendary track record of fame corroborates the name meaning. Garry Kasparov decodes to ‘speared wiseman’. Veselin Topalov (‘cheerful rook’) has an even closer connection. Likewise, Vladimir Kramnik is ‘the shopkeeper ruler’, Ruslan Ponomariov is ‘Lion of the Sea’, Rustam Kasimdhzanov is ‘generous warrior’, Alexander Khalifman is ‘the defender who leads’, Boris Gelfand is ‘fighter elephant’ and Vasily Ivanchuk, ‘the king who believes’! Going by this, Viswanathan Anand (‘blissful lord of the universe’) holds a significant advantage over Magnus Carlsen (‘the great independent man’). Only time will tell if it’s good enough to checkmate the Norwegian Harry Potter.

    Anantha Narayan


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