Mystery before history

Magnus CarlsenMagnus Carlsen arrives in Chennai

Several people regard Magnus Carlsen as the outright favourite for the World Championship title. The destination of the crown might be foregone in some circles, but with the match impending, an air of suspense and intrigue lingers.

It was not until Friday that it came to light that Viswanathan Anand had chosen the quiet retreat of Bad Soden, a German town with a population of a little over 20,000, to train for the match. In the meanwhile, there has been a lot of speculation over where Carlsen had pitched camp. It made sense that the Norwegian would be training at a location with climate not too different from Chennai.

Carlsen landed in Chennai on Monday evening, deboarding from an Oman Air flight which had departed from Muscat. Carlsen confirmed to the reporters gathered at the airport that he had indeed been training at Muscat for a couple of months. Once Carlsen was out of the scrum at the departure terminal, though, the Norwegian's team (including father Henrik, mother Sigrun and three sisters — Ellen, Ingrid and Signe) retreated to another secret location.

Anand and his entourage (including two-and-a-half-year-old son Akhil) had already moved into the Hyatt Regency last week, the venue of the final, and it was expected that Carlsen would follow suit. After all, members of the All India Chess Federation had claimed that entire floors of the hotel had been cleared to accommodate the players and their retinue.

Carlsen, if sources are to be believed, left the airport for a beach resort in Mahabalipuram, and will check in at the Regency only on Wednesday. Apparently Carlsen will use this location as a second base to both cut himself off from the media (just the Norwegian contingent is supposed to number 30; a Norwegian website TV2 quotes Carlsen as saying that he hadn't expected the big fuss at the airport on Monday) and to make use of the open spaces around the luxury resort to indulge in a bit of sport. Floor number six at the Regency, the one assigned to Carlsen, will remain empty for two more days, said an employee of the hotel.

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