Home/ Industry / Media/  Vladimir Putin’s presence puts Carlsen in a spot

Sochi, Russia: When world chess champion Magnus Carlsen made a bold ideological statement earlier this year on the dispute over Ukraine by refusing to defend his title in Russia, he had not anticipated that it would be none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin who would stand beside him when he completed his title defence.

On Tuesday, the President led the prize-giving ceremony.

It was the Kremlin and the Russian organizers who rescued this year’s world championship after Norway, Carlsen’s country, gave it a miss despite proposing to hold it, president of the world chess federation (Fide) Kirsan Ilyumzhinov proudly said moments before the Russian president turned up. Putin presided over the ceremony, stood by but as if to subtly make a point, asked Ilymzhinov to hand Carlsen the trophy.

Earlier in the day, Carlsen couldn’t hide his discomfort. “It’s a difficult situation," he said, when asked if it was awkward for him to receive the award from Putin. “Russia being the host, it isn’t unnatural," he added. In the end he said he was impressed with the arrangements.

Sochi, a city that “breathes sports", was proud to host the championship, Putin said in his brief address. He congratulated Carlsen on his “well-achieved victory".

In the Mecca of chess, it isn’t the first time the Russian president has given away the prizes for the world chess championships, but never since the Soviet Union broke up, according to Ilymzhinov. “I met him (Putin) last week and got him to agree," he said. Its significance couldn’t have been lost on Carlsen and the western world, which has at various times given refuge to Putin’s detractors such as former world chess champion Gary Kasparov.

And as if the superpowers of the West are already trying to make a point, Ilymzhinov revealed in an interview that the host for the next championship final in 2016 could be the US.

“It’s not official yet, but there is a proposal from Hollywood," Ilymzhinov said.

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Updated: 26 Nov 2014, 12:49 AM IST
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