Chess Superstar Battles Chess Sex Symbol

The World Chess Championship, underway in India, features a faceoff between the sport's heavyweights. Guest host Don Gonyea can't help but inject politics to his conversation with NPR's Tom Goldman, as this week President Obama used sports metaphors to talk about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

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DON GONYEA, HOST:

And now, it's time for sports. Today, we're starting not at Mile High Stadium, not at center ice, but at the Hyatt Regency in Chennai, India, where the world chess championships are underway. That's right, chess. Tom Goldman joins us now, to bring us up to speed on all the action. Tom, welcome.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Don. And can I just say, the uninitiated may scoff at your use of the word "action" for a chess match, but I have initiated myself. I have watched this championship match online, as millions around the world are doing, and there is plenty of action. The tension's palpable. And it's created, Don, by - as one reporter put it - the competitors; intellectual precision, or the rare and dreaded mistake. Good stuff.

GONYEA: Right. All right. So set us up for this. How far into the tournament are we, and who are the players to watch?

GOLDMAN: The championship is between 43-year-old Viswanathan Anand - the commentators call him Vish. He's held the title of world champ since 2007. He's nicknamed the Tiger of Madras; a hero in his native India. And he's squaring off against 22-year-old challenger Magnus Carlsen, of Norway. He looks like Matt Damon. He's been called a sex symbol by chess standards, mind you. And "Sports Illustrated" has a picture of him playing volleyball with his shirt off, sporting some pretty well-developed abs.

But to the games. They play 12 games. You win a game, you get a point. If it's a draw, each player gets a half-point. The first to get six and a half points wins and today, Carlsen has won Game 6. So he has what's considered a pretty commanding lead, 4-2, but the match could last until the 28th of this month.

GONYEA: OK. We will watch it. We will watch it closely. Tom, I know this is a sports segment, right? And we've started with chess but since I usually cover politics, I cannot resist playing this clip from President Obama, from earlier this week. He is talking about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If I fumbled the ball, you know, I'm gonna wait until I get the next play, and then I'm going to try and run as hard as I can - and do right by the team.

GONYEA: Sports metaphors in politics, or is this - common as kissing babies on the campaign trail. But what if professional athletes start using political metaphors to talk about the big game?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, exactly. Or sports reporters - two can play this game, President Obama. So how about this one: We've got a big NFL game coming up tomorrow night in Denver - the Broncos versus the Chiefs. Don, it's incumbent upon the Chiefs to filibuster with the ball in order to keep Denver's red-hot quarterback, Peyton Manning, off the field. How about you?

GONYEA: OK. You know, Tom, Tigers manager Jim Leland didn't like that call. If I can read his lips, he's explaining to the umpire that his strike zone looks a little like a gerrymandered congressional district.

GOLDMAN: Oh, well done, well done.

GONYEA: All right. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

GONYEA: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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