The Canberra Times
May 13 2012
CHESS with Ian Rogers
ONE OF the most remarkable features of the $US2.5 million World Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand, which began in Moscow on Friday, is the venue.
World Championship match
sponsor Andrei Filatov.
Anand and Gelfand are playing in the Tretyakov Gallery, the most important gallery for Russian art in the world, with 160,000 items.
Chess tournaments have been held at galleries before -the Australian Masters was once held at the Westpac Gallery in Melbourne - but world title matches are almost always hosted in theatres, where facilities for thousands of spectators plus hundreds of press people are easier to organise.
The venue was the choice of the sponsor, Andrei Filatov; a billionaire who went to university in Minsk with Gelfand and later made his fortune in the freight forwarding business.
In a telephone interview before the world title match began, Filatov explained that he believed that chess and art are the perfect match and that the match was as much promotion for his beloved Tretyakov Gallery as it was for chess.
"I feel deep inside me the desire to promote Russian artists, who are unknown to the world. Compare Chagall and other [great artists] who emigrated from Russia. They are well known and their works sell for millions of dollars. Yet these people who did not emigrate, they are just as great, if not greater. Nobody knows about Soviet impressionism but thanks to this match it is hoped that millions will learn about it. Chess is a tool to promote this great art.
"Any activity with a fair share of creativity is an art, and chess is included; the best games are pieces of art," added Filatov.
Filatov also believes that the relationship between chess and art can be symbiotic. "Most of the great museums are government-owned. If a chess competition is held in a museum and it creates a lot of publicity and millions learn about the museum through the match, so naturally the government becomes more interested in supporting chess."
Filatov also tackled head on the issue of whether his sponsorship and the venue will be an advantage for Gelfand, who grew up with Russian as his native tongue. "There is no hiding the truth that Boris influenced my decision to become involved," he said. "Gelfand and I are old friends. But both Anand and Gelfand are great players and gentlemen and we will make sure that Mr Anand is treated fairly and with all the respect he deserves."
Filatov admitted that his decision to sponsor the world title match was not based on commercial considerations: "I played chess but I didn’t have enough talent to be a chess professional, though my dream was to play in a world championship. I never dreamed that one day I would be a sponsor of a world championship! I believe this could be an incredible step forward for the development of musea and culture."