Magnus Carlsen in the International Herald Tribune

by ChessBase
9/4/2008 – The 17-year-old chess player Magnus Carlsen appears to spend his time after school much as any typical teenage boy would. He vanishes to his small, sparsely furnished bedroom at the top of a yellow clapboard house in this suburb of Oslo and settles in front of the computer. "Maybe I spend too much time chatting with people," he said with a smile. Interesting IHT story.

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Magnus Carlsen, chess prodigy from Norway

Article by Dylan Loeb McClain

He should not be too hard on himself. When he is chatting, Magnus is also playing chess. His online practice sessions have helped propel him to No. 6 in the official world rankings, and he could become No. 1 if he wins the Grand Slam Chess Final Masters, a tournament with top players that begins Tuesday in Bilbao, Spain. Given his meteoric rise from No. 63 two years ago, it is not unreasonable to expect him to reach the top spot within the next year, becoming the youngest player to do so.

Not only has he gained acclaim in Norway, a country of four and a half million that is not known as an incubator for chess, but prominent players have also given him a vote of confidence. A competitor at Bilbao, Viswanathan Anand of India, the world champion who is also ranked No. 1, has publicly anointed Magnus the future world champion, and so has Garry Kasparov, Anand's predecessor.

While Magnus is aware that he is earning a reputation as the future of chess, he does not show it. In person he is a bit shy, speaks softly and laconically and tends to avoid eye contact. He deflects comparisons with the best players, including Anand. "Anand is a much better player than me," he said.

Magnus' style of play and sang-froid are unusual. Since he began playing at the age of 8, he has favored tactically complicated positions, creating situations in which he is comfortable, and his opponents, even the best ones, often wilt. He is also mentally tough. He said that sometimes during games he loses his concentration, but then he silently scolds himself, saying: "You are not going to lose this game like an idiot. Try to pull yourself together."

Some chess players are devastated by losses, letting them infect their mood and their subsequent play. Losing at chess does not bother him that much, Magnus said. "I get more upset at losing at other things than chess," he said. "I always get upset when I lose at Monopoly." So much so that his sisters team up to beat him. [14-year-old sister] Ingrid said her brother often teases her, almost to the point of bullying, something that he admitted with a devilish grin. "What kind of brother would I be if I didn't tease her?" he asked.

"Magnus seems to be fortunate enough to have the right characteristics to be considered normal despite the fact that he has some traits that might lead others to call him abnormal," his father said. "Most people like him." That includes his rivals, particularly Anand. Earlier this year, at a tournament in Mexico, Magnus and his father went to dinner with Anand and his wife, Aruna. At the table, according to Magnus and Anand did a verbatim recitation of a Monty Python skit in which the pope, played by John Cleese, chastises Michelangelo for embellishing his painting of the Last Supper.

Among the world's top players, another thing that sets Magnus Carlsen apart is that he still a student, though "he is not really interested in school," his father said. For the last three years Magnus has attended the Norwegian College of Elite Sport, a school for gifted athletes. Since many of the academy's students compete, they use the Internet to keep up with class work. Students take academic classes as well as specialized ones in the discipline in which they excel. This year Magnus's courses will include Norwegian, Norwegian dialects and modern history.

Whatever its benefits, his education is probably not the key to his future. Regardless of the outcome of the tournament at Bilbao, which ends Sept. 13, if he continues to be a top player well into his 30s, Magnus could earn millions, as Anand has and as did Kasparov, who retired from chess in 2005 at 42. Last year he spent more than 200 days on the road playing, and earned $250,000 after expenses, his father said. Given his results this year, his earnings will surpass that.

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