Tension Mounts at World Champs: A Spectator’s Perspective


Photo Maria Yassakova courtesy Agon

We traveled from South Florida to New York City to visit the World Chess Championship underway at the Fulton Market Building in downtown Manhattan.

Excitement overcame us as we waited in line for the first round with more than 200 other chess fans and professionals from around the world.  We heard and saw Russian, Norwegian, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and English chess conversations and spectators from infant to 90+ years old all waiting for the same experience we hoped for.  Media walked down the line asking questions and children played skittles games in the courtyard while they waited for the doors to open.

The doors opened about 1:15pm and the line scrambled into the entry room where security checked our bags and scanned our tickets.  We traveled up an escalator to the main floor of the event.  To the left we found the Chess Shop, Café, and a reasonably large sitting area to play blitz games or analyze the World Championship games themselves. TVs speckled the venue with Judit Polgar already preparing herself for the day’s commentary.  We then visited the “spectators” lounge areas where benches were set up for fans to watch live commentary or just relax while seeing Judit (through glass) doing the game analysis.


The main attraction was seeing the players themselves.  We walked into a dark cave-like room to see an aquarium-type view of World Champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Sergey Karjakin.  We managed to find ourselves in the front of the room and though the one-way glass did hinder our view somewhat, it was incredible to be within 10 feet of the board the players would soon sit at for the majority of the next month.  First the arbiters entered the room, then media, and finally the players.  To our disappointment, the media piled in, in front of the spectators’ view; however we could still see famed actor Woody Harrelson make the ceremonial first move. The remainder of the day we enjoyed traveling between the different spaces and following the game.

For Round 2 on Saturday we had the privilege of accessing the VIP Lounge.  The lounge featured an open Vodka Bar, passed hors d’oeuvres prepared by a “Master Chef” contestant, comfortable furniture, a special viewing area of the players, and of course, a plethora of VIPs.  We had the privilege of meeting many famous chess personalities including WIM Beatriz Marinello (FIDE Vice President); Dr. Frank Brady (writer of Profile of a Prodigy among other wonderful books); GM William Lombardy (former coach of Bobby Fischer); FM Sunil Weeramantry (chess professional and stepfather of Hikaru Nakamura); and of course, Team Magnus and Team Karjakin were in and out of their private rooms in the VIP area.  Henrik Carlsen (Magnus’ father) and Ingrid Carlsen (Magnus’ sister), posed for pictures with fans and seemed very happy with the venue events of the day.

The next two rounds saw continued excitement.  Though the games themselves were long draws (combined 172 moves!), the atmosphere in the building was of pure excitement as we saw Magnus try to press for a win in both battles.


It was the experience of a lifetime to attend such an event as this.  We strongly encourage chess fans across the globe to travel to events like this, The Sinquefield Cup or the London Chess Classic.

Also find Chess Life Magazine Editor Dan Lucas’s thoughts on media and fan experience at the 2016 World Championship.


  1. Great perspective! I’ve been enjoying the event a ton and it pains me that I have to miss the game on Thursday due to an early flight. I agree with Steve – everyone should go to this event if they can. It does not come to the U.S. often. Who knows when it will return. Another 21 years?

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