Chennai: The hosting of the World Chess Championship here in the Tamil Nadu capital "will set the tone and herald a new course in the nation's interest in this sport", Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said on Thursday.
She declared open the FIDE World Championship Match 2013 between reigning champion India's Viswanathan Anand and Norwegian Magnus Carlsen.
Jayalalithaa picked up Anand's picture from a bowl, and a black piece from another bowl. This meant the champion would play with black pieces in the first game.
Both the players, FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, state Sports Minister K.V. Veeramani, and All India Chess Federation president J.C.D. Prabhakaran were present at the function.
"This period of time will be hailed in the chronicles of history as the golden era of chess," Jayalalithaa said in her inaugural speech.
India was the home of the world's oldest intellectual game, she said.
"It is an occasion which will set the tone and herald a new course in the nation's interest in this sport, which has been celebrated as the 'gymnasium of the mind'."
"Chess is very close to my heart and I regard this game very highly, both as a player and as an enthusiast," Jayalalithaa said.
Tracing the history of the game, she said the earliest predecessor of the game originated in India before the 6th century A.D..
"We can proudly claim that India is the homeland of this amazing game, which has permeated into all continents down the centuries," Jayalalithaa said.
She said chess has a strong following here compared to other parts of the country "primarily because of the presence of Viswanathan Anand".
The game has made deep inroads into the psyche of people across the world and more so in India as the number of Grand Masters has tripled to 27 now, Jayalalithaa said.
"The number of International Chess Masters in the country has also tripled to 76 and India is in the world top 10 in rankings," she said.
Listing out steps taken by her government to popularise sports in Tamil Nadu and also the game of chess, Jayalalithaa hailed Anand as a modest personality from Chennai.
The chief minister also released a souvenir brought out by the Tamil Nadu State Chess Association and the All India Chess Federation.
FIDE president Ilyumzhinov presented Jayalalithaa with a honorary membership of the federation.