Chess fans flood world title match, but have trouble seeing players
Organizers were caught off guard by the unexpected turnout, which led to long lines, rare glimpses of the two World Chess Championship contenders and ticket refunds for some.
NEW YORK – Chess fans from far and wide flooded into the sold-out World Chess Championship match in New York City Saturday and they were surprised — and many were furious — at how little they actually saw of the two grandmasters competing for the title.
The larger-than-sold-out crowd at Saturday’s second round of the 12-game match overwhelmed the accommodations at the Fulton Market building in the South Street Seaport area of Manhattan. That led to long lines and frazzled nerves among attendees who paid $75 for a ticket.
“This is the worst-organized event I’ve been to in my life,” said Carl Fisher of Brooklyn. “It’s a terrible disgrace.”
Fisher said he had been standing in line for more than an hour to get into the one room from which fans could see defending world champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Sergey Karjakin, who were playing inside a glass-partitioned, soundproofed room.
The viewing room for fans has room for perhaps a few dozen at a time of the hundreds of attendees. For those not in the viewing room, there were two large lounge areas with bench seating or seating at tables, some of which had chess boards and pieces. But there weren’t enough seats for everyone, and the spectators’ only view of the two players in those rooms was by watching them on TV screens.
“I paid $75; may I please have a chair?” Anatoly Shpirt demanded in an exchange with event organizers. They directed him to rows of chairs that had been hastily added and which quickly filled up.
Shpirt, 60, is a Russian native who lives in New Jersey, and who has attended two world championship matches in Moscow, where there was theater-style seating so all ticket holders could eyeball the players on stage continuously.
“I think it’s a ripoff,” said Shpirt, whose wife was with him. “Here, it’s like being in a fish market … Definitely professionals should organize this match, not amateurs.”
At one point early in the game, more than 130 people were standing on line, awaiting their chance to get into the viewing room, Fisher among them.
“I’m 82 years old and there’s no place to sit,” Fisher said. “I should get my money back.”