Magnus Carlsen: the cool grandmaster who cries when he loses to himself


The Norwegian brought along designer clothes and interactive apps to chess and in six months time he puts his reputation as the worlds best musician on the line

Wednesday recognizes the start of a six-month countdown to the World Chess Championship in New York, where Russias Sergey Karjakin will try to snatch the name from the champ, Magnus Carlsen from Norway, “whos been” hogging( sorry, holding) it since 2013.

Still, how exciting is it genuinely? You never ascertain defeated chess players falling to their knees and rending their garments. Chess isnt like football not least because it doesnt have anything like the level of money, glitz or fanbase.

Actually, its not as far off as youd think. Chess has exploded in popularity in recent years: between 2009 -2 013 alone there was a worldwide increase of 37% in open tournaments, perhaps the most notable being the Millionaire Chess tournament in Las Vegas, the highest-stakes open tournament in history with$ 1m of awards up for grabs.

Londons 2008 resurgence of chessboxing intertwining rounds of chess and boxing gained worldwide coverage and amassed a live audience of over 35,000, while the website celebrated its billionth play back in December 2014. And when Carlsen and Karjakin go chief to chief in the 12 -round match, it will be for a award of at least 1m( 790,000 ). The match ought to be able to attract a huge global audience via TV and internet. So it is, it seems, kind of a big deal.

To top it off, the defending world champ isnt a geek with the social skills of a handless sock doll. He has an legion of devotees and his own app. Hes even done spot of modelling.

Carlsen became a grandmaster at 13. A few periods before his 22 nd birthday in 2013, he bagged the name of world champ, and retained it the following year at a tournament in Sochi, defeating former champ Vishy Anand. Hailed by some as the best chess musician the world has ever seen, hes appeared on TV, radio, billboards and the sides of buses. Ahead of our meeting, I half expect the 25 -year-old to stride in with an entourage of doe-eyed groupies. Instead he wanders in clutching a sandwich, hands me a paper bag and says: Sorry Im late. I brought you a pastry.

Carlsen started playing chess with “his fathers” at five. He started with one pawn, and I had all the pieces, and when I managed to beat him he got two pawns, and so on, he remembers. So he made it progressively more difficult as I get better. Unlike other grandmasters, it took him until age eight to genuinely engage with the game: I needed to mature a bit at the start. I only wasnt ready. He needed to become a ripen eight-year-old? Well, some people can really focus on chess at a much earlier age, even four or five years old, but I couldnt. Age eight was the right time for me.

Now Carlsen believes hes already reached the crest of his brain power? I still think people can discover at any age Im actually sure about that. Its only that the ceiling is lower for how far you want to go.

During an interview on the YouTube channel SoulPancake, Carlsen told performer and presenter Rainn Wilson that the first line of his autobiography would be: I am not a genius. Hes also claimed on numerous occasions to be somewhat lazy. So what propelled this supposedly lazy, late-blooming non-genius to the top spot in the world? It was no accident that it was me rather than my peers in Norway that built it. They may have had chess train once a week and then a tournament on the weekend, like a normal pastime. But it was something I wanted to do every day, so it was only natural that I outstripped them. How I managed to take the next steps rather than others, I cannot tell you.

Sergey Karjakin( left) and Magnus Carlsen will combat for the World Chess Championship in New York in November. Photograph: AFP/ Getty Images

Now, though constantly thinking about chess, Carlsen simply sits down to practise for around an hour a day not even necessarily at a chessboard, because he can recall the board perfectly in his head.

But Carlsen has also been applauded for inducing chess chill. While playing in Holland, he was spotted on TV by the head of the Dutch garment brand G-Star apparently they guessed chess and style was an interesting and unexpected mixture and was offered a modelling contract. He did kills and wore G-Star clothes during his 2010 -1 1 and 2013 -1 4 plays, as well as be contained in G-Star Raws springtime/ summer campaign with Lily Cole, in 2014. Now, nonetheless, hes very happy only to play chess.

Except hes not just playing chess, hes also connecting with his devotees via an app called Play Magnus: customers play a computer version of Carlsen at different ages( anyone can beat Magnus five the moves are perfectly random ). Does he play himself? Yes, he grins, a little bit. Supposedly thats a win-win situation for him? It doesnt feel like that, says Carlsen, who acknowledges hes both cried and punched walls over chess plays, saying it feelings equally miserable to lose to myself.

Through the app people can win the chance to play Magnus live. Dedicated that hes the best in the world, what attains him want to play ordinary people? After all, you dont ascertain Cristiano Ronaldo going to the park for a kickaround with his devotees. But why not? he asks with a smile. So many people already play chess on their phones and tablets why not give them a face to compete against?

Whether or not Play Magnus is part of Karjakins training regime no one can say for sure, but come November, expect to see one of these dignified grandmasters falling to their knees and rending their garments.

Carlsens 10 tips to master chess

1) Battle for the central squares. One of the laws in chess is that a flank assault is typically to be completed by an attack in the centre and beginners very much like to assault at the flanks and move their rooks out, and against an even slightly experienced opponent that is going to backfire pretty badly, because they will play in the centre and soon they are able to control the whole board.

2) On every move, check whether any of your or your antagonists pieces are unprotected . Its amazing how far that they are able to got to get. Likewise look out for any checks in the position, because if there is a check in may be checkmate.

3) Play white. If you have the first move, the cost of a mistake is much lower. So if you have the first move you can make a mistake and still be in the game. If youre playing black and you made a mistake youre likely going to be out, only because of that half-move advantage.

4) Remember patterns rather than individual moves . Good players actually use their long-term remembrance much more than inexperienced players, who use their short-term remembrance. Good players try to recall patterns, something familiar about this position that can tell you something that helps you. More inexperienced players who dont recognise those patterns have to start anew in every stance. As you get some experience in chess you can easily visualise the board in your chief, and then find far ahead is not very difficult.

5) Dont sit for the full play. Whenever its your antagonists move, as long as you dont leave the playing foyer, you can basically do whatever you crave. You can walk away. In general I dont think you can retain full concentration for very long. I couldnt bear to sit there for seven hours.

6) Dont overthink a move. If Im guessing for more than 20 minutes about one move, its typically a waste. Sometimes you can come up with some amazing solution but most of the time you only end up looping: you consider a move, you reject it, then youre desperate, you come back to the move, you dont recollect whether you are refused it, you were supposed to make a move so you make it then your opponent answers and you recollect whether you are refused it. The longest wait I ever did between moves was one hour and five minutes and the move was horrible.

7) Have a poker face . You cant look too vexed or theyll look for the error youve built. A plenty of the time its about go looking for these opportunities and if you give them a clue, the good players will find it.

8) Dont only play online . Its a good way to start but eventually you need human guidance.

9) Learn some checkmating techniques . Once youve outplayed your opponent and youve grabbed basically all of their pieces, you still need to find a way to checkmate, otherwise the probability in the game ending in a stalemate is pretty high. Its frustrating not to be able to checkmate so knowing some basic techniques, like checkmating with a queen and a rook, is very useful.

10) Learn the scholars mate then let it go. The scholars mate, or the fools mate, is when you bring out your queen and bishop and assault your antagonists bishop pawn in front of the monarch. At a beginners level its the simplest, fastest and most effective way to try and checkmate, but against an experienced opponent it wont run: your pieces will be driven back and your opponent will gain the advantage.

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