Magnus Carlsen on Golden Goal

10/19/2009 – Johan Golden is a Norwegian TV host and a colorful figure in the country's comedy, musical and political scene. In his show Golden Goal he recently had a special guest: Magnus Carlsen, Norway's chess wonder and one of the greatest sports heros the country has had. A light-hearted trademark Golden exchange (in Nowegian) ensues. We bring you a video and English transcript.

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Magnus Carlsen on Golden Goal

Magnus Carlsen interviewed by Johan Golden on Norwegian television. The segment aired October 15, 2009. It is in Norwegian, but contains English subtitles, which can be see when you click on the pop-up menu on the bottom right of the Flash player. A link to the video is given at the end of this transcript.

The host of the show, Johan Golden, 35, is a Norwegian comedian, musician, politician and radio and television presenter of the program Golden Goal. His father is from the Caribbean, and he often describes himself as a negro, putting him into the center of debates about the use of this word. Golden stood for the 2001 Norwegian parliamentary election, and his personal slogan was "Your slave in parliament".

Last Friday he won the Grand Slam Chess tournament in China, in what surely is the achievement of the year for Norwegian sports. Today he is with us, please, welcome Magnus Carlsen... Have a seat. The applause is very well deserved, welcome, and congratulations.

Thank you.

So tell me… what is it like to be 18, travel to China, blow those old-timers off the board, grab a million, and head back home?

It might have been more gratifying had I done it in Norway.

You are charmingly modest.

No, seriously, it's been fun. I hadn't expected this. That is, I had hoped to win the tournament, but to win it like this was beyond all expectations.

What about the way you won did you enjoy the most?

Well, my game was very tight, I scored really well. I won comfortably. Everything came together for me.

It's been scientifically proven that you are extremely good. Most people can only claim excellence, but in your case there is now a scientific proof. Someone has figured out that it has been ten years since chess was played as brilliantly as you did in China. You’re also the youngest player to ever reach 2800. Are there any records left?

Sure, there are many records left, such as the youngest world champion ever.

You are well on schedule. I think there is no arguing for that.

Perhaps, but I don’t think about it much. I try to stay focused on actually becoming the world champion, rather than when.

I agree completely. Though won't it be fun when it happens? As in, say, next year? Oh, I won't pressure you. How much of the progress you’ve made recently is due to your work with Kasparov?

He’s has had a major influence on me. But let me stress that I started working with him earlier this year, without immediate results. But now that it’s public, my opponents might be worried that I’ll play his openings, employ his style. Not only would they have to fear me, they'd have to fear him as well.

That's clever. You’re getting help from some tag team player, who’s not really playing at all.

Yeah, announcing I’m working with Kasparov may be nearly as effective as actually working with him.

So you’re collaborating, and you had some sort of a chess camp in Russia and Croatia for a few weeks. Here is a picture:

To me it looks more like a LAN-party, with some dude who is slightly too old. Like, don't go at home with the guy in the tank top. Do you teach Kasparov anything while you’re working together?

Our playing styles are very different, so there’s a lot I can teach him. At the same time he has much to offer.

Do you argue at all?

Well, we play blitz sometimes, for practice. Neither of us – he especially – likes to lose the games.

But you beat him?

We’re fairly even. There are many interesting games.

Again you are very modest. You could say, "Shut up old man! I am younger and better." You gave an incredible performance in China, but there’s one thing I have been pondering – your outfit. You played in a kimono. Was it mandatory?

We had to show up in Chinese – perhaps I shouldn’t use this word – costumes. But since we had to wear Chinese clothing, I thought I would go all the way. It is also a scientific fact that it is a good idea to wear red. In wrestling, for instance, the red wrestler tends to defeat the blue wrestler.

The opponent sees red, like a bull, and becomes enraged?

That may be.

Or since red is the color of love, the player across the board might get amorous? Something you should keep an eye out for. Those guys are a bunch of old pigs. Are there rules for what you can wear? Or you can show up in some psychedelic t-shirt, covered in confusing circles to the point where the other guy gets a headache and can’t concentrate?

Certain players – such as Topalov… He has worn colorful shirts deliberately. But in most tournaments, there’s some kind of a dress code.

How about way too much of a foul aftershave?

I haven’t experienced that.

You haven’t been around players who reeked?

Well, yes. But not like that.

Who was it?

I don’t wish to reveal that information.

You became the youngest grandmaster in the world at thirteen. That was in Dubai. We have some pictures from the event:

You look pretty happy of course, but then you start thinking...

"What the hell is Ben Redic Fy Fazan doing here? Where is Ludvig?" [movie reference: Flåklypa Grand Prix]. Were you frightened?

I don’t think it occurred to me then. But it’s something you think back to, and wonder what you were doing.

We asked our viewers to submit questions for you. One of them sent us this – his name is Eirik: Do you get lots of women, when you play chess?It’s not exactly the best sport for scoring girls, or am I wrong? Is he wrong? Or do you get a lot of groupies in the chess scene?

No, he is not entirely wrong.

Not entirely, I see. There is room for more. How long can a game of chess last?

There are time controls, so a game is never longer than seven hours. I have played seven-hour games a few times in the past.

How taxing is that?

It is very draining. If you lose a seven-hour game, you don't want to play chess ever again.

The little pieces can just take off? I’ve heard the world record is twenty-four hours and thirty minutes? That’s completely ridiculous.

Yeah, but that was back when they still adjourned games. You would play for four hours, have dinner, play some more, go home. And start back up the next day.

Sounds like abolishing that practice was good idea.

Yeah, towards the end of the tournament you would have people with fewer games than the rest, and so on. It’s good thing they stopped.

When did you realize you were just super good at chess?

I don’t think I’ve ever used those exact words to describe myself.

Well, it’s about time. You’re ranked second in the world. It should dawn on you that you are at the very least OK.

I started playing later than most of my peers, at about eight or nine. So when I still beat them, it got me hoping I could become the best player in Norway.

You’ve managed that. And you will become the best in the world as well, or so we hope. Let me wish you good luck with the rest of your career. I hope you do exceedingly well. I’d like to give you this t-shirt. Feel free to wear it while playing. There’s a picture of you, with the caption: “Watch your lady, I’ll get her with my tower. (And the horse, too)” [Watch your queen, I’ll get her with my rook (and the knight)].

Magnus Carlsen!

Watch the video in YouTube


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