On 20th February World Champion Magnus Carlsen played a simul against 70 readers of the "Zeit", one of Germany biggest and most influential weeklies, which celebrated its 70th birthday. But before he was playing the simul - which Carlsen won 68-2 (67 wins, one loss, two draws) - he met with journalists from another magazine: two kids from "Dein SPIEGEL", a news magazine for children, published by "DER SPIEGEL", the other big German weekly next to the "Zeit".
In every issue of "Dein Spiegel" children interview politicians, CEOs of big companies or personalities from the world of sports. In the current issue Luis and Henrike, both 13 years of age and members of the Hamburger Schachklub, the biggest chess club in Hamburg, interview Magnus Carlsen. The World Champion gave the young journalists 30 minutes of his time - adults often have only ten minutes to interview the number one in the chess world.
At the beginning of the interview the young journalists were very excited - after all, you do not often have a chance to talk with a World Champion. Moreover, the interview had to be conducted in English. But the excitement quickly vanished. Carlsen was in a calm and excellent mood, and after the interview he even gave the young journalists a little chess task to solve. After that he said: "Hey, we still have time. How about a game?"
The three played two against one, Henrike and Magnus against Luis. Henrike and Magnus had the white pieces but were not allowed to consult with each other. However, after about 20 minutes Carlsen's manager started to become impatient - the simul was to start on time. Because the position in their was equal the players then soon agreed to a draw.
Magnus Carlsen, 25, is the world's best chessplayer. With Henrike and Luis, both 13 years of age, he discussed whether chess helps to get better in school - and for which soccer club he would be ready to miss an important chess match.
„Dein SPIEGEL“: Magnus, when you were a child, did you cry after losing a chess game? And if yes: when did you stop doing so?
Magnus Carlsen: Who says that I am not crying today?
Well, we do not believe you do.
Okay. I think, I was 16 when I last cried after losing a game. But you should not be ashamed of that. The tears only show that you are ambitious and that you want to achieve something.
You support attempts that chess is taught in schools. What would we get out of that?
For instance, chess teaches you to concentrate. Your memory gets trained. And most of all you learn to think quietly about a problem first before doing something. I do not say that chess should be a compulsory subject in schools. In Norway, where I come from, many schools have chess project groups. That is entirely sufficient. If children have an opportunity to learn the game, a lot of them will continue with it. After all, chess is fun.
Did chess help you to get better at school?
If you really occupy yourself a lot with chess I can only guarantee for one thing: you will get better at chess. That's what happened to me back then. My results in school suffered a bit because I was often away to play in tournaments. However, I could always catch up.
Can you understand that children prefer to play on their gameboy or at the playstation? That is not so demanding.
My parents did not want my sisters and me to play at the computer. At any rate, we did not have a gameboy or anything similar. Today, a lot of children have such things. But to my mind it is better to have some time to think when you play.
You do have your own App: „PlayMagnus“. The program imitates your playing style. One can even adjust whether one wants to play against the 8-year old, the 10-year old or the 20-year old Magnus. How does this work?
The programmer gave the computer thousands of my games to analyse. Now the machine knows my style pretty well.
And who wins if you play yourself in the App?
I think, the App is stronger than me. If I take a lot of time, I might have a chance. But if just play quickly on my mobile, I lose against my computer-I.
There are only very few top female players. Why do men play better than women?
With children, there first is no difference. Boys and girls are equally strong. Unfortunately, girls often stop to play when reaching teenager age. Maybe competitions are no longer that important for them. I would be happy if more girls played.
How many hours per day do you play?
When I was a child: for hours on end. I had a table with my chess set and my chess books. Often, I also had lunch or dinner at that table - while my family was sitting at the "real" dinner table. Today, I do not play much. But I almost always think about chess.
You also like to play soccer. In how far are chess and soccer similar?
In both games the question is: which part of the playing field does your opponent control? If your opponent is strong in the middle, you have to attack on the flanks.
Let's say, you had the chance to play in the team of Real Madrid. Would you be ready to miss an important chess match for that?
Definitely. After all, you always want to try what you are not particularly good at. And Real is my favorite club.
How many moves do you calculate ahead during a game?
Sometimes only one. But if it is important I can calculate far ahead. Maybe 20 moves or more. But the number of moves is not important - important is to find the best move.
Do you dream of chess at night?
Sometimes. But these are always terrible dreams in which I lose an important game.
The diagram above shows the task Magnus Carlsen gave his young interviewers
to solve. White plays and mates in two moves. (Solution at the end of the article)
All photos: © Dein Spiegel
Translation: Johannes Fischer
"Dein SPIEGEL" is aimed at children between the age of eight and 14. The magazine explains news from the world of adults in a way that is suitable for children, for example the refugee crisis or climate change. The magazine describes how the government or Youtube work. Regular part of the magazine are also comics, and stories about animals, stars, and sport. "Dein SPIEGEL" appears once a month with a circulation of about 85,000 copies. The title story of the current issue invites children to test how well their way in traffic.
Solution of the chess task: 1.Qg8+ Rxg8 2.Nf7#