Tiki-taka meets the chessboard: When Xavi met Magnus Carlsen and co at the Qatar Masters
Between 2008 and 2012, FC Barcelona picked up 14 out of a possible 19 titles, with a style of football that revolutionized the way the game is played and etched their name in the history books as one of the greatest teams to have played the beautiful game. And at the heart of this side was a man named Xavi Hernandez, one of the most iconic football players of our times.
Various analogies have been used to describe the former world champion and two-time European champion. Some have called him a conductor of the orchestra that was on display when Barcelona played while some refer to him as a FIFA player playing with cheat codes! His foresight and ability to read the game were second to none, like a chess champion who can see an endgame 10 moves even before it happens.
Xavi assists the Grandmasters
Xavi, who now plays at Doha-based club Al Sadd SC, graced the ongoing Qatar Masters Open chess tournament with his presence on its third day. The tournament which has the likes of reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Wesley So and Vladimir Kramnik fighting it out for first place, saw another star descend as the footballing legend came down to interact with the players and show some of his moves on the chessboard as well!
The Spanish international, who has a staggering 133 caps to his name, had the honour of playing the first move on behalf of Dutch prodigy Anish Giri in his Round 3 match against GM Radek Wojtaszek. Xavi chose to play 1. e3 as Giri’s first move, not the most popular choice at a tournament of this scale. As soon as he looked away, Giri moved his pawn one square further to begin the game with 1. e4.
While he chose not to go with the Spanish opening given the special guest present, Giri sealed a third win in a row after his Polish opponent resigned after 60 moves. With this victory, he crossed the 2,800 rating barrier as he trapped Wojtaszek’s rook on the c-file, prompting a swift resignation. He now faces Li Chao in Round 4, who is the only other person with a perfect 3/3 record.
Xavi also met Norwegian whiz Magnus Carlsen, who overcame IM Daniil Yuffa after spending nearly 40 minutes on his 13th move. The meeting between the two legends may have a bit awkward though, given that Carlsen is a die-hard Real Madrid fan and once even kicked-off a match against Celta Vigo at the Bernabeu.
He is now placed on 2.5/3 points, after his surprise first round draw against Nino Batsiashvili and will face Jan-Krzysztof Duda in the next round. Indian GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly is also in the running for a top-place finish as he is also placed on 2.5 points and will have to get past some illustrious names to be able to end the tournament as champion.