Magnus and Matt
Nancy Carlsson-Paige is a professor of early childhood education at Lesley
University where she has taught teachers for more than 30 years. Since the mid-1980’s,
she has written and spoken extensively about the impact of violence, especially
in the media, on children’s lives and social development, and how children
learn the skills for caring relationships and positive conflict resolution.
Nancy is the author or co-author of five books and has written numerous articles
on media violence, conflict resolution, peaceable classrooms and global education.
Her most recent book is called Taking
Back Childhood: A Proven Roadmap for Raising Confident, Creative,
Compassionate Kids. Nancy is an advocate for policies and practices that
promote children’s well being and encourage skills and attitudes that
further peace and nonviolence. You can read more about her work on her home
There is another thing of interest about Nancy: in her college days she used
to be an avid tournament chess player, one of the ten best female players at
the time in the US. Of course chess had to take second place to her academic
career, but of course anyone that strong will never fully lose interest. Which
is why she keeps visiting our newspage, "at least once a month in normal
And so it was that she noticed the picture of Magnus Carlsen in the Spiegel
interview. "This lad looks just like my son," she thought, "especially
when he was around the same age." It was also Magnus' demeanor that caught
her eye. A feedback letter to us started the investigative wheels in motion.
To cut a fairly long story short: it turns out that Nancy's father, Sven Henrik
Carlsen, hails from Norway and is the older brother of Magnus' grandfather Kurt
Magnus Carlsen (father of Henrik). However, Sven Henrik was an adventurer and
left Norway at an early age, much to the disapproval of his family. He ended
up in the United States and changed his name to Carlsson, ostensibly to anglicize
it. But in reality it was in order to sever connections with the rest of his
family back in Norway. That is why the relationship was not immediately obvious.
We now come to the identity of Nancy's son, the second cousin of Magnus Carlsen.
It is none other than Hollywood blockbuster star Matt Damon, actor, writer,
and philanthropist, who is twenty years Magnus' senior (Sven Henrik was sixteen
years older than his brother Kurt Magnus).
Matt Damon came to fame as the star of the movie Good Will Hunting,
which he wrote together with Ben Affleck (to whom he is also related). It is
about a mathematical prodigy from South Boston who works as a janitor at MIT.
The film was a financial success, earned two Academy Awards, and launched Damon
and Affleck into prominence.
Come to think of it, a number of readers had noticed the resemblance between
Magnus and Matt. In October 2009, for instance, Daniel Brandao of Florianópolis,
Brazil, wrote us: "It's very amusing to see chess players on TV shows,
like other stars of more popular sports. Maybe in Norway, Ukraine or Armenia
people are already used to see chess as a sport, but for chess players from
countries where chess is not taken so seriously by outside-chess people, these
things are really pleasant. By the way, is there any relation between Carlsen
and Matt Damon??" We are ashamed to say that we did not follow up on such
clues but had to wait for Nancy Paige-Carlsson's letter before we investigated
In the meantime contact had been established between the cousins and Matt has
invited Magnus to visit him on the set of his next film about a Shogi champion
who inspires a nation to put aside its differences and unite in celebration
of his sport.
In return Magnus has invited Matt to visit this year's Arctic
Challenge tournament in Tromsø.