Magnus in the New Yorker

3/14/2011 – Normally we would not make such a big thing out of it, but this is one of the most prestigious magazines in the world, and the story is nine pages long, and exceptionally well-written – great for a lay audience. The author, D.T.Max, met up with Magnus Carlsen a number of times, and also queried other players (Anand, Kasparov). The article is not free online, so go buy the magazine this week.

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Profiles

The Prince’s Gambit

A chess star emerges for the post-computer age.

by D. T. Max
March 21, 2011

ABSTRACT

PROFILE of Norwegian chess star Magnus Carlsen. Writer describes a match between Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik at the London Chess Classic in December. In the match, Carlsen had recovered from a situation that the Russian champion Garry Kasparov called “impossible” to force a draw.


The New Yorker article with a stunning full-page photo of Magnus on the second page

Carlsen, who had just turned twenty two weeks earlier, is largely self-taught, and can play various styles of chess. He has been a full-time chess player since he was fifteen, and spends more than a hundred and sixty days a year on the road. When he is not travelling, he lives in a house with his family in an affluent suburb of Oslo. Carlsen left school two years ago without formally graduating.

Tells about Magnus Carlsen Against the World, an event staged by Carlsen’s sponsor G-Star at New York Fashion Week. Carlsen played against a team of three grandmasters. Many people in the chess world considered the contest vulgar. At the trophy presentation, Liv Tyler, another G-Star endorser, gave Carlsen a silver plaque.

Most grandmasters start chess extremely young, but Carlsen did not, though he had shown unusual mathematical aptitude as a little boy, which is often found in chess talents. He was more engaged by soccer and skiing. When Magnus was eight, his father made another attempt to engage him in chess and this time, he recalled, he found it “just a richer and more complicated game than any other.” Tells about Carlsen’s development as a chess player. He has a prodigious memory for board positions and moves. He studied with Simen Agdestein, a top Norwegian grandmaster at the time, and later with Kasparov.

Briefly discusses the history of chess, which was brought to the West by way of Persia sometime between the eighth and tenth centuries. Describes the approach to the game developed by the Soviets and also tells about the development of computer chess programs. Mentions Kasparov’s loss to the I.B.M. mainframe Big Blue, in 1997.


New Yorker writer Daniel T. Max interviewing Vishy Anand at the London Chess Classic

Carlsen said that for him, great chess playing is less the “scientific search for the best approaches” than “psychological warfare with some little tricks.” Describes Carlsen’s performance in the 2011 Wijk aan Zee tournament in Holland, where he lost his confidence. He told the writer, “Suddenly, I started to get these doubts. All of a sudden, my fighting spirit was almost gone.” Carlsen was already thinking ahead to the Amber chess tournament, which is being played this month, in Monaco. The games there do not affect anyone’s official ranking, since the participants play either rapid or blindfold chess; all the same, he said, “I really, really want to win and restore the power balance.”


...or simply buy the March 21 issue at an international newsstand


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