"Magnus": A new book on the World Champion

by ChessBase
12/31/2015 – Did you ever wonder why and how Magnus Carlsen became so good? How he managed to become World Champion in a country without a great chess tradition? In a new book about Carlsen Norwegian author Aage G. Sivertsen writes about Carlsen's way to the top. In the past Sivertsen has time and again shown that he knows how to motivate and how to invite success.

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Aage G. Sivertsen: Motivator, author, chess fan

By Thomas Robertsen

A lot of books have been published on Magnus Carlsen and his career. In October a new one saw the light of day here in Norway and it quickly established itself as something entirely different. Aage G. Sivertsen`s Magnus is not so much about great moves and games as about the story itself.

"Magnus" - Aage G. Sivertsen's book about the World Champion

Sivertsen has followed the World Champion intensively and ringside through major events in Stavanger, London, Chennai, Dubai and Sochi for the last couple of years. In addition he has interviewed and talked to an impressive list of great chess players, including almost the entire world elite and four former World Champions. That provides source material hardly ever seen in any of the books about Magnus so far.

Still, the main source is Henrik Carlsen, Magnus’ father. The countless conversations between Sivertsen and Carlsen senior form the basis of the book, making this also a fascinating story about a father and an extremely talented son.

Every time Magnus wins a World Chess Championship Henrik Carlsen (right)
has promised Aage G. Sivertsen to celebrate with a good cigar.

Who is Aage G. Sivertsen, you may ask. Well, the list of his activities at least includes author, chess organizer and motivator. He is also a former soccer player who played at a decent level and he has been involved in volleyball.

Aage has previously written books about (among other things), the Second World War, Norwegian criminal minds and youngsters with behavioural challenges. Looking at his previously published books, one might wonder how he came up with the idea of writing a book about Magnus.

In 2006 Aage Sivertsen joined the chess club in his home town, Kristiansund. Kristiansund is a small town with 25.000 inhabitants situated on the coast of North-Møre. The club was struggling, with 8-10 active members, at best. Sivertsen quickly became the leader of the board of the chess club, and things started to happen. Aage put money into the club and managed to get several strong Norwegian players, even famous Grandmasters, to visit the Chess Club and to represent Kristiansund.

In 2008 Kristiansund qualified for the Norwegian top series and had the legendary Mikhail Suba in their line-up. It was obvious that Aage was a man who wanted to do something – he was a doer.

When Aage began to direct the Kristiansund Chess Club it had around ten members, five years later it was the fifth largest club in Norway. During this period he managed to get the Swedish International Master and trainer Axel Smith and his wife Ellinor Frisk to move to Kristiansund which had a fantastic effect. They started organized training and the club members became better at chess.

In the introduction to his well-written and great chess learning manual, Pump Up Your Rating, Smith reveals that some of the experiences he made from 2011-12 in Kristiansund went into the book. In this period another very important helper of the club was the strong Russian Grandmaster Evgeny Romanov, who to this day is a close friend of Aage. And in 2012 and 2013 Kristiansund actually won silver and bronze in the Norwegian top series.

But it was probably an event in 2010 that really put Kristiansund on the chess map. Not without personal economic risks Aage then organized a rapid chess tournament, in which reigning World Champion Vishy Anand, Judit Polgar, Magnus Carlsen and Jon Ludvig Hammer took part. Aage had been in contact with Henrik Carlsen for several years wanting Magnus to come to Kristiansund. According to Aage it was due to Henrik Carlsen’s efforts that the tournament materialized. It was an immense success. The reigning World Champion was one thing, but when Magnus Carlsen showed up at a school it triggered scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania.

Magnus-mania in Kristiansund (Photo: Ole Kristian Strøm, VG)

NRK (The National Broadcasting Corporation) broadcasted from the tournament on web-tv which gave a first taste for later and greater chess related things on national television. While in Norway, Anand wanted to make a trip to Spitzbergen to see the light and, hopefully, some polar bears.

Welcome to Kristiansund! Aage G. Sivertsen and the participants
of the Kristiansund Rapid Chess 2010 (Photo: Rune Edøy)

No polar bears in sight, but still a nice trip for Aage G. Sivertsen
and the then World Chess Champion Vishy Anand. (Photo: Private)

Later Aage moved to Oslo, the capital of Norway, where he continued his work for chess. January 2012 he suddenly announced the creation of a group of young talents. They were between 13 and 14 years of age and in had ratings between 2050 and 2200. Evgeny Romanov was hired as head coach and the group met regularly. Romanov also offered individual training sessions with the youngsters. As always, Aage’s main idea was that the collective is greater than the individual and he believed that the juniors would become stronger when they helped each other as a group. As always, Aage was thinking big and the group was dubbed Dream Team. Their motto was “There probably are limits, but we see none”.

Motivation played a crucial role in the Dream Team. In addition to strong chess players who gave guest lecturers such as Peter Heine Nilsen, Aage also brought in motivators like the Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge. However, the most exciting moment came of course when the one and only Magnus Carlsen came to lead a couple of training sessions. Imagine being a young talent and having the World Chess Champion analysing your games!

The Dream Team. A strong collective of promising players with the
World Champion in the middle. (Photo: Olga Dolzhykova)

The Dream Team developed a strong group mentality and several of the juniors represented Norway in the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø two-and-a-half year years later. They have largely kept together and today are part of the chess faculty at the Norwegian College of Elite Sports (NTG) where they all receive expert help and great coaching under the watchful eyes of Simen Agdestein. Three of them have become International Masters and Johan Salomon even made his first GM-norm when winning the International tournament in Sitges in July 2015.

Still, our new national chess hero is Aryan Tari. In the European Team Championship in Reykjavik 2015 he made his final GM-norm and is now a GM-elect. During the last years Aryan had several trainers who all have significantly contributed to his development. One of them is the aforementioned Axel Smith whom Aryan got to thank in the foreword to Smith´s previously mentioned book.

The link between the coaches and the helpers of chess in Norway seems to be Aage G. Sivertsen. He does not want to take credit for anything, but I think many strong chess players in Norway owe some of their success to Aage. He is first and foremost a facilitator and motivator who likes to think big. His reflections about and his approach to chess is very interesting. Many of these reflections can be found in Magnus. Aage himself indicated that translations into several other languages are planned – first into German, than into English.

Aage G. Sivertsen congratulates Magnus Carlsen to winning
the Rapid World Championship in Dubai 2014.

(Photo: Ole Kristian Strøm, VG)

About the author

Thomas Robertsen is a passionate chess enthusiast who follows the great players and tournaments with great interest. He is also very fond of chess history and enjoys reading about the players and tournaments of the past. In the past three years he has been preoccupied mostly with chess administration as a Board member in the Norwegian Chess Federation. Tom also headed the sporting committee which picked players for our national teams in last year's Olympiad. Leaving the adminstration this summer he hopes to get to play more on my own. "I`m not a great chessplayer, but peaked at a decent 2275 a few years ago. Besides playing I hope to get to write more about chess in the near future."

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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