Beating Magnus after a month of training?

by Frederic Friedel
11/18/2017 – Max Deutsch is an obsessive learner, a product builder, and guinea pig for a "Month to Master" project: the 24-year-old entrepreneur who lives in San Francisco has shown that he can train himself to memorize a deck of cards in two minutes, hold a 30-minutes conversation in Hebrew and develop perfect pitch, in each case after just 30 days of training. After eleven tasks he set himself for 2017 the twelfth was to beat World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a game of chess. The experiment, described in the Wall Street Journal, took place in Hamburg earlier this month. Tell us what you think.

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Starting on Nov 1st, 2016, Max decided to spend the a year trying to master twelve expert-level skills, devoting one month to each skill and writing daily about the process. He called the project Month to Master (M2M). The reason for this was to that he has, by his own admission, an obsessive personality and enjoys pushing the limits of his brain, body, and genetics.

So these were the challenges, all meticulously described in his Medium blog:

It is of course the last challenge that we are particularly interested in. Max only plays chess occasionally – a prototypical amateur. But he believed that with his one-month preparation regime he could actually beat Magnus. The original idea was to only beat the computerized simulation Play Magnus. But then the Wall Street Journal stumbled across his “Month to Master” and offered to put him in touch with the real-life version. After a month of training he travelled from San Francisco to Hamburg, Germany, to play a game against the reigning World Champion. As our readers probably know Magnus was there for a Play Magnus Challenge – we brought you Scenes from Magnus Carlsen's Hamburg swing last week.

It was undeniably a stunt, but it was also billed as a grand experiment in human performance. Can we hack our brains in a way that radically accelerates the traditional learning curve? So did Max have a chance? "I have agreed to this challenge because I am genuinely curious about what he is able to do in a month," Magnus said before the game. Did he think that Max might beat him? "No – but I have been surprised before."

Here's the massive description of the Wall Street Journal experiment

And here's a six-minute video report by George Downs for the Wall Street Journal:

And finally here is the game we have all been waiting for:

[Event "Wall Street Journal"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.10.08"] [Round "?"] [White "Deutsch, Max"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C60"] [PlyCount "78"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nge7 4. O-O g6 5. d4 exd4 6. Nxd4 Bg7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Nc3 d6 9. Nd5 {Magnus called Max's play up to this move “very, very good,” but called this knight move "questionable". It is not technically a mistake, but definitely "the move of a novice."} Nxd5 10. exd5 Ne5 11. Re1 Ng4 12. Qf3 $2 {The first serious error:} ({It was necessary to play} 12. c3 {to protect the knight on d4.}) 12... Qh4 13. h3 Nxe3 14. Qxe3 $4 {Capturing with the queen simply loses a piece (and a pawn). After this error the games is simply lost.} Bxd4 15. Qd2 Bxb2 16. Rab1 Be5 17. Rb4 Qf6 18. Bd3 Bc3 19. Qf4 Qxf4 20. Rxf4 Bxe1 21. c4 Bb4 22. g4 Bd7 23. Kg2 Rfe8 24. h4 Bd2 25. Rd4 c5 26. Re4 Rxe4 27. Bxe4 Bxg4 28. Kg3 Be2 29. f3 Bxc4 30. Kg4 f5+ 31. Bxf5 h5+ 32. Kg3 gxf5 33. Kf2 Bf4 34. Ke1 Re8+ 35. Kf2 Re2+ 36. Kf1 Rxa2+ 37. Ke1 Be3 38. Kd1 Bd3 39. Ke1 Ra1# 0-1

Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.

We would be genuinely interested to hear your opinions on Max's chess challenge and the other Month to Master feats this very enterprising young man has performed.



Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.