Fabiano Caruana -- the American helping make chess cool

Caruana (right) plays world champion Carlsen over 12 matches in London this month.

(CNN)Chess is brutal. Chess is now cool.

Sitting barely a meter away from each other in a London amphitheater under the intense glare of spotlights and spectators are two twentysomethings who were once both prodigies.
They are competing in a too-close-to-call title fight for the World Chess Championship. They are, it has been said, making being smart "sexy."
On one side of the board is reigning champion Magnus Carlsen, a 27-year-old Norwegian who, aged 14, was described by the Washington Post as the "Mozart of chess." He models for G-Star, has endorsed Porsche, beaten Bill Gates in nine moves and 12 seconds, and is the highest-rated chess player in history. Forbes estimates his net worth at more than $8 million.
    Aiming to topple one of the greats is challenger Fabiano Caruana -- the first American to compete for the world title since Bobby Fischer in 1972. He is the world No.2 and is described as having superhuman powers of concentration. By the end of this month he could be world champion.
    Chess has not been this fascinating since Fischer, the first western world champion in the modern era, took on Soviet Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War in 1972 in what was seen as a clash of east versus west, a battle between capitalism and communism.