Magnus comes to town

by ChessBase
11/19/2004 – He is just 13, and currently the youngest grandmaster in the world. He plays in strong tournaments and had Kasparov on the ropes in a game. Magnus Carlsen, Norwegian wonderboy, is an international chess celebrity. Now a book is out, written by his trainer GM Simen Agdestein and available in three languages, explaining the phenomenon.

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Magnus comes to town

By Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam

On the eve of the Essent tournament in Hoogeveen, on October 16 to be precise, Magnus Carlsen paid a visit to Amsterdam to promote the book his trainer Simen Agdestein has written about his stupendous rise that resulted in his grandmaster title on April 26 of this year in Dubai. At that point the Norwegian prodigy was 13 years, 4 months and 26 days old, so when he arrived in the biggest bookshop of the Dutch capital, the five-storey Scheltema store, he was still welcomed as a 13-year-old who had stunned the chess world in the early months of this year.

Magnus came accompanied by his father Henrik, his second Peter Heine Nielsen, and Simen Agdestein, who gladly accepted part of the signing session. The first copy of the Dutch edition, called Schaakwonder was presented to Magnus by Allard Hoogland, the publisher of New In Chess. Later, he also handed Magnus the English edition of the book, called Wonderboy (subtitle: How Magnus Carlsen became the youngest grandmaster in the world), and informed him that the German edition, entitled Wunderjunge would soon appear as well.

Magnus had no objections to signing Agdestein’s book as well, but first he had to dispose of 15 opponents in a simul that was watched by an enthusiastic crowd. The opposition was of average amateur strength, but at the explicit request of Magnus ("there should be a challenge") two stronger players had been invited. One of them was the champion of the Dutch province of Noord-Holland, 2232 rated Frank van Tellingen. He got a decent position and seemed to be the only player in the company who was not going to lose – until he cracked in time-trouble and Magnus knew he had made a clean sweep of 15-0.

Magnus Carlsen (2583) - Frank van Tellingen (2232) [E69]
Simul Amsterdam, 16.10.2004 [Annotations by Frank van Tellingen]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0-0 5.Nf3 d6 6.0-0 Nbd7 7.Nc3 e5 8.e4 c6 9.h3 Qb6 10.c5!? dxc5 11.dxe5 Ne8 12.e6!? White can also win the exchange with Bc1-g5-e7, but in return Black not only gets a bishop but also a couple of pawns after Qxb2. 12...fxe6 13.Ng5 Ne5 14.f4 Nf7! As was played by Kasparov in a game against Shirov. 15.Nxf7 Bd4+! 16.Kh2 Rxf7 17.e5!

Thus far we were both on known territory. I was convinced that Magnus knew more, but I was on my own now. My first plan was to revive the knight on e8 and play it to d5 via c7. As I later found out this was the plan Kasparov had chosen. But I was afraid that the knight on c3 would get to d6 via e4. That's why I came up with: 17...Bd7 in order to activate the rook.

18.a4 Rd8?! Probably better was 18...a5. 19.a5 Qa6! 20.Na4 Bc8 21.Qc2. White cannot take the pawn 21.Nxc5 because of 21...Qb5! when there is no reasonable solution to the threat Bg1+. 21...Bxe5! 22.Nxc5. Again the queen on a6 plays a role as White cannot go 22.fxe5 Rxf1 23.Bxf1 Qxf1. Magnus looked a bit surprised when I played this, but there is nothing to worry about.

22...Qb5 23.Re1. This wins back the pawn. 23...Bd4 24.Nxe6 Bxe6 25.Rxe6. Now White threatens a6, fracturing Black's pawns, with a serious positional advantage. 25...Ng7 26.Re1 a6! 27.Qe2 Qxe2 28.Rxe2.

Here I was quite content with my position. But from now on Magnus appeared at my board every fifteen seconds and this made me quite nervous. 28...Rfd7. Threatening Qc5 and Bg1+. 29.Ra3. With the idea to attack b7. 29...Bc5. Winning, I thought. 30.Rb3 Nf5 31.Re5. A nice find against the threat Rd1. 31...Bd4 32.Re1 h5?! A weak move based on a trick that doesn't work.

33.Be4. My plan had been to continue 32...Bf2 33.Rf1 h4 34.Rxf2 hxg3+, but now I discovered that this makes no sense as White simply plays 35.Rxg3 and nets two pieces for the rook. In the meantime Magnus had arrived at my board again - help! - so I had to do something and played: 33...Bf2 and after 34.Rf1 Rd1? Magnus wrapped up efficiently. 35.Rxf2 Rxc1 36.Bxf5 gxf5 37.Rxb7 With the back king cut off this ending is hopeless. 37...Rcd1 38.Rb6 R1d2 39.Kg2 Kf7 40.Rxa6 Rxf2+ 41.Kxf2 Rd2+ 42.Ke3 Rxb2 43.Rxc6 Rb3+ 44.Kd4 Rxg3 45.Rc3 Rg8 46.a6 Ra8 47.Ra3 Ke6 48.a7 Kd6 49.Ra6+ Kc7 50.Ke5 Kb7 Black resigned. 1-0.

The real high point of the day for Magnus came in the evening when Allard Hoogland, an ardent Ajax fan, invited him and his following to the football match Ajax-Heerenveen. For the curious: Magnus may know a lot about chess, but his football knowledge is quite impressive, too!

Allard Hoogland, the publisher of New In Chess, congratulates Magnus on his book. Simen Agdestein, contented trainer and coach, and Henrik Carlsen (right), the happy father, fully agree.

The simul and the visit to a soccer match one day before he was going to play in Hoogeveen met with quite a bit of criticism from some of his colleagues and also from some Dutch journalists. Particularly Nigel Short was very outspoken and condemned Magnus’ actions for various reasons. Firstly he found that he should have appeared at the official opening of the tournament that same Saturday, and secondly he believed that it was far wiser to prepare for such a top event by taking a rest. As for his second objection the English grandmaster may have a point, but Magnus’ absence was definitely not something he could be blamed for. In his contract there was no mention of an official opening and the only thing he knew was that he was expected to be in Hoogeveen on Sunday. So, when many weeks earlier the simul in Amsterdam was arranged, his father Henrik had no idea that the organizers wanted to have them in Hoogeveen one day earlier.

No matter what one thinks about the way Magnus spent this Saturday, as far as he himself was concerned, he certainly didn’t seem to mind the program as it combined his two biggest passions, chess and football, as also becomes abundantly clear from Agdestein’s book.

One of the criticisms of the book, apart from rave reviews, has been that it is a bit early to write a biography of a 13-year-old. A predictable reproach, but this is exactly missing the point of the book, which reads like a fairy-tale and depicts the stellar development of a young chess player with an unusual talent and ends with the fulfillment of one of his big dreams, i.e. becoming a grandmaster. On this adventure the reader follows him from his earliest games to his spectacular recent exploits guided by Simen Agdestein, who shows great pedagogical skills and gives the narrative a pleasant pace with his unflagging enthusiasm.

Author Simen Agdestein, trainer of the "Wonderboy"

Chess books tend to be filled with high-quality games that may give the student the idea that perfection is easily attainable, here you also see the mistakes and many of them are much more instructive than brilliant moves by top grandmasters. Apart from that it gives the reader an insight in a remarkable and loving family, who follow Magnus’ chess adventures with great enthusiasm but do not push him in any manner.

Kasparov struggling for a draw in a game against Magnus in Reykjavik

We’re sure that there will be more volumes of Magnus’ biography, but if he decides tomorrow that he no longer wants to play chess, his parents will in no way try to persuade him to do otherwise. However, rest assured, for the moment Magnus’ hunger for chess is still insatiable and in the months ahead we will see where that will lead. Currently he is playing in the Spanish team competition, after Christmas there is a grandmaster tournament in Norway and then it’s time to go back to Wijk aan Zee where this time he will play in a very strong B group.

Magnus Carlsen at Wijk aan Zee 2004

Wonderboy (ISBN 90 5691 131 7, 192 pages, paperback) costs 21.95 Euro (14.95 Pounds, US $24.95). Schaakwonder (ISBN 90 5691 126 0) costs €19.95, Wunderjunge (ISBN 90 5691 134 1) €19.80. All can be bought in bookstores or from your chess dealer.

They are also available in the New in Chess web shop.


Player Final GM norm at
Bobby Fischer 15 years, 6 months, 1 day
Judit Polgar 15 years, 4 months, 28 days
Koneru Humpy 15 years, 4 months, 28 days
Peter Leko 14 years, 4 months, 22 days
Etienne Bacrot 14 years, 2 months, 0 days
Ruslan Ponomariov 14 years, 0 months, 17 days
Teimour Radjabov 14 years, 0 months, 14 days
Bu Xiangzhi 13 years, 10 months, 13 days
Magnus Carlsen 13 years, 3 months, 27 days
Sergey Karjakin 12 years, 7 months, 0 days

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