Carlsen: Candidates format great, schedule 'surprising'

2/13/2012 – In 2010 Magnus Carlsen, the world's top ranked player, dropped out of the World Championship cycle, criticizing its format. Now that FIDE has announced an eight-player double round robin the Norwegian will participate. But why, Magnus asks, do they have to stage the Candidates in the middle of the high season for chess tournaments? Interview and video of an exciting TV blitz game.

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Magnus Carlsen on the FIDE Candidates Tournament

Frederic Friedel: Magnus, I know that after the Tata Steel Chess event you have been busy promoting the Stavanger 2013 super tournament, and also appeared on a major Norwegian talk show. What are your tournament plans for the near future?

Magnus Carlsen: As you know I’m having a break from chess tournaments at the moment. Normally I would go to Amber, but unfortunately this wonderful tradition ended last year. I’m not sure if Linares will take place this spring. I certainly hope so, otherwise the break will be quite long. I think the Tal Memorial in June could be my next tournament. At the moment the fall and winter are the high season for top level tournaments.

That's exactly when FIDE plans to stage the Candidate tournament this year, isn't it? In October/November. As far as I know the Tal Memorial was moved to June in direct response to this. Would you like to share your thoughts on this with our readers?

Last year I played the Grand Slam Final in Sao Paulo and Bilbao, in September and October, and the Bilbao organiser has already publicized similar dates for the 2012 final. I really enjoyed playing the Grand Slam Final last year. It’s well organized and the combination of Sao Paulo and Bilbao suited me very fine. I have qualified for this year's Final as well, and my plan is to go there. Normally I don’t comment upon FIDE rumours, but news reports indicating that the next Candidates will take place just after the Grand Slam Final worries me. If the rumours are correct, there will be ten days only between the two tournaments, and that is obviously too tight. I know how hard the top level tournament organizers struggle to get everything in place for their event, and the obvious choice for FIDE would be to avoid the fourth quarter for their Candidate events. The Tal Memorial has already been moved, but the Candidates would still have serious consequences for the Grand Slam Final and probably for London Chess Classic as well.

FIDE must have a very good reason to schedule the Candidates in the fourth quarter instead of for instance the late first quarter or the second quarter of 2013. I’m really curious to know what would drive FIDE to schedule the candidates in the middle of the high season of top level tournaments.

Frankly, I sincerely hope that FIDE will reconsider the schedule for the Candidates. Times are tough, financially, in Europe, and every step should be taken to protect and support the efforts of the top level tournament organisers.

Apart from the schedule problem are you satisfied with the format of the Candidates? It is, I believe, pretty much what you proposed to FIDE?!

Assuming it will be a double round robin with eight players I think that is a good format, much better than the 2011 Candidates.

We await the comments of the other six candidates and of the grandmasters
whose tournament schedule may be affected by the Candidates scheduling.


Magnus in a Norwegian TV2 talk show

On Sunday Magnus was on the talk show Senkveld med Thomas og Harald, where he played a blitz game against outdoor man Lars Monsen. The game was played with time odds: Monsen got three minutes, Magnus 30 seconds. You should take three minutes off to watch this interesting game

Click on the above image to watch the video on the Norwegian TV2 web site. Switching to HD and full screen will make the game visually spectacular, but the comments will still be quite unintelligible – unless you are Norwegian.

Lars Monsen became famous as a wildlife expert more than 20 years ago, having spent several years outdoors at a young age. He is the author of 14 books and producer of several TV series on wildlife and wildlife expeditions. His latest series "Ingen Grenser" (Beyond Boundaries) involving the combined effort of a group of physically handicapped travelling 30 days from the Swedish boarder in Femundsmarka to Snoehetta (2286 metres) was a resounding success. Lars participates in sledge races (with dogs) and recently finished Femundlopet (600 km) in temperatures going down to minus 40°C. On a humorous "fact page" (analogous to the ones on Chuck Norris) it says:

  • Wolves make a fire to keep Lars Monsen away.
  • Lars Monsen was bitten by a rattlesnake. After five hours of excruciating pain the snake died.
  • Eskimos have a hundred words for different types of snow. Lars Monsen has a hundred words for different types of Eskimos.
  • Death once had a near Lars Monsen encounter.
  • There are no echoes in the mountains. It's Lars Monsen screwing with you.
  • Lars Monsen went on a Marine Corps survival exercise, and came back fifteen pounds heavier.
  • ... and Lars Monsen is mightier than the pen.

In chess Lars is no patzer. He is one of Norway's top 400 players (amongst 2500 nationwide) and won the 4th highest group in the Norwegian Championship (Elo 1500 to 1750) some years ago, in style. You can see in the game above that Magnus is not taking anything lightly.

Still, as Ole Valaker, a chess journalist who has published book together with Magnus, put it: "To play blitz with Magnus Carlsen is like facing Mike Tyson in the boxing ring. It does not help that Tyson is handicapped with less time. He just needs one blow to take you out." In the game Carlsen-Monsen the decisive moment came when Lars played ...Qd7 (2 minutes and 45 seconds into the video). If he had managed to keep a cool head there and played, for example, ...Qe8 he could have had chances to actually win on time. Magnus was clearly better, but he needed to checkmate his opponent in just 13 seconds.

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