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Kasparov and Carlsen on Norway's NRK talk show

9/22/2009 – Nobody watches long interviews on the Internet any more – Google and YouTube have satiated us pretty much. But sometimes you have to make an exception. Here are Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen talking about their cooperation to make the latter the number one in chess. The discussion on Norway's NRK Nett-TV talk show is charming and insightful. Video and full transcript.
 

Fredrik Skavlan, 43, is a Norwegian TV personality, who started out as a journalist and cartoonist for several Norwegian newspapers, also illustrating children's books on the side. He currently hosts an award-winning show on NRK Nett-TV, and last Friday had Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen as his guests. We are told (by Tarjei Svensen of Oslo) that the show is actually recorded in Stockholm, Sweden and aired on Swedish national broadcaster SVT. Skavlan's talkshow has been the most watched show on the main Norwegian TV channel NRK for years, until it was taken off and moved to Swedish national TV. Last year it become the most watched program in Sweden as well, so for this season NRK and SVT decided to co-operate. This was the first program in the new season, and SVT aired it at 9 p.m., while NRK aired it 25 minutes later. You can watch the show here:


The interesting part (for us) begins from about 42:00 minutes into the video


The section begins with some stock footage of Kasparov winning the 1985 match
against Karpov and getting the World Championship title, one he retained for fifteen years.

Velkommen, Magnus Carlsen og Garri Kasparov!

After that the guests are introduced and the talk show with Garry and Magnus can begin.

Skavlan: You retired after twenty years as the number one chess player in the world.

Kasparov: Eventually we all retire…

It was four and a half years ago. But what made you decide to be a trainer for this young Skandinavian talent Magnus Carlsen?

Kasparov: I would say the world class talent, don’t limit him to “Skandinavian”. After I stopped playing professional chess I still kept my passion for the game. I thought I had to look for other things to expand my horizons, but I never wanted to leave the world of chess completely because I saw that I had not accomplished everything. Chess had failed to make the same breakthrough as football in the 60s and 70s, or tennis and other sports that became professional. Perhaps one of the reasons was that our game lacked a western-born star since Bobby Fischer.


13-year-old Magnus Carlsen playing Kasparov back in 2004

I met Magnus five years ago for the first time. We played in Reykjavik, and it was amazing. He was just thirteen years old, and I experienced great trouble by the way – survived by a miracle in game one and won game two. At some point I thought I could do some good for him. We had common chess friends and we established communication and eventually came to the conclusion that it could benefit both of us and the game of chess.

And your aim is to make him the world’s best chess player?

Kasparov: He’s on the way there, but obviously we all need advice. I got advice from the great Soviet champions like Mikhail Botvinnik, when I was young, and I think that my advice and help might contribute to his eventual success.

(To Magnus) Do you feel sure that you won’t disappoint him?

Magnus: You never know. But I feel certain that I have the potential to be number one for many years, and I will do everything to work towards that goal, and not let him down.

How does it feel to have Garry Kasparov as a trainer?

He has the most knowledge of chess in the world – of openings, of psychology, the feeling of playing at the top level for twenty-five years. It’s doesn’t get better than that in the chess world. It is a challenge of course…

Are you a little afraid?

(Kasparov answers) Look, we all are afraid. Probably to have a little fear is part of human nature. What is very important is that the fear will not take over.

I have this idea that there is there is something called Russian discipline? Am I right Alexander?

Alexander: Absolutely. And I kind of recognise myself in you, Magnus, when I was young [laughter].

Alexander Rybak is 23, originally from Minsk in the Soviet Union. He is now a very popular Norwegian singer, composer, violinist, pianist, writer, and actor. He represented Norway in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, and won the contest with 387 points — the highest tally any country has achieved in the history of Eurovision — with "Fairytale", a song he wrote and composed. You can watch it in the YouTube video above.

Kasparov: A small correction: it is not Russian discipline, it’s the discipline of people who grew up in a non-free world, in totalitarian countries where your choices were highly limited and you had to work really hard. You could do music, you could so sports, you could do science. Everybody wanted to be successful, and since you did not have political or business opportunities – law was almost non-existent – so anybody who had talent would work really hard.

That was probably an advantage, not only of people from Russia, but from China, from other countries where they needed to show their best to get to the top. In the western world lacked the same kind of determination because they had other options, they always thought they would have other opportunities. I hope that Magnus is now learning that there is only one spot: number one. Everything else is irrelevant.

You know there won’t be much time for dating...

Magnus: Yes, there is a very strict regime on that.

Maybe it is difficult to combine chess and dating?

Kasparov: For the undisputed number one there will be more options…

If you and I sat here at a chessboard would we the same thing, or something different?

Magnus: It depends: would the pieces be in the starting position? If it is an empty board I think we see the same thing. But if it is a certain position I will immediately start to look for opportunities. It happens automatically.

Kasparov: Even if you show a position from the middlegame to Magnus or to myself we may reach different conclusions, because everybody uses their own technique . In tennis you have different styles – some players have a very powerful serve and rush to the net, some play from the back line. It’s the same in chess – you have more aggressive players, more defensive players. But the style doesn’t differentiate the strength. What helps us is that we both belong to different schools of thought. I am more an aggressive player, Magnus is more of a Karpov-like player, which again helps us to work.

How do you keep your mind sharp? Are you still playing a lot?

Kasparov: No, I am not playing at all. But in order to work with Magnus I need to keep my mind sharp. I am quite happy now because chess helps me to feel fresh. We have players like Korchnoi and Smyslov who played for a very long time, to their 60s and 70s. But obviously now chess is getting much, much younger. Before I left chess I made a joke that I had to face players who did not yet have the right to vote. Now the average age of top chess players is, what, 25? Maybe even less. I think it is the dynamic of our society. You need more information, you need more energy, you have to work with computers, so by the age of fifteen today a player can learn more about chess than Bobby Fischer in his entire life.

When you are not playing chess you are a political activist in Russia, and Putin’s opponent…

Kasparov: …which in Russia is the same. Political activist must be Putin opponents.

What about Putin, do you think he is a chess player?

Kasparov: Putin has always claimed to be a good judo fighter. He always relies on brute force. I would compare him to a godfather who runs a casino and always benefits from our doubts, fears and emotional weakness. In the end I hope that all godfathers will end their days where they belong.

Transcription by ChessBase

Media blitz: Kasparov and Carlsen in Oslo
17.09.2009 – A scheduled training session with Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen was used as an occasion to meet the Norwegian press. The two sat down for a friendly game against Education Minister Solhjell, and all three answered questions for a Channel 2 journalist. The government is set to back their brightest chess star, said the Minister, and his country's bid to host a Chess Olympiad. Video report.

Breaking news: Carlsen and Kasparov join forces
07.09.2009 – It was the best-kept secret of the year: Magnus Carlsen, at 18 already the fourth highest ranked player in the world, has won the legendary Garry Kasparov, arguably the greatest player in chess history, as his personal trainer. The goal is to make Magnus the world's number one in the course of the coming year. The Norwegian newspaper VG has broken the news.
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