Israeli chess grandmaster Boris Gelfand landed Friday in Israel to a hero’s welcome, two days after losing the world championship competition in Moscow to India’s Viswanathan Anand.
All those present at the terminal gave Gelfand a round of applause, as dozens of fans who arrived at the airport for the occasion held up signs and presented him with flowers.
Gelfand thanked those present, saying that he was very touched and satisfied.
“I didn’t realize it will be like this,” he said. “I heard that people in Israel closely followed (the competition,) and that the entire nation watched the games,” he said.
The world championship runner-up, who lost the competition in a tie-breaker, expressed his hope that chess will gain greater popularity in Israel following his achievement.
“I was truly excited, and I hope this will elevate chess in Israel to its rightful place,” he said. “I think it’s a very good thing for the public that every child will know what chess is.”
The fans who arrived at the airport to welcome the grandmaster held up large signs lauding Gelfand, with one child dressing up as a chess pawn.
“For me, it was like watching the world championship in karate,” said nine-and-half years old Ido Ernberg. “I like chess much more than other sports; I admire Gelfan and intend to have my photo taken with him and congratulate him.”