When there's news from Norway...

by Stefan Löffler
11/19/2119 – When Magnus Carlsen decides to leave the Norwegian Chess Federation or gives interviews in Norway or plays for his new club in Norway's second league it is usually Tarjei Svensen who shares the news with the world, via his twitter account @TarjeiJS, which has thousands of ardent followers. STEFAN LOEFFLER spoke with the Norwegian chess journalist about Carlsen, chess in Norway and his wish to be always up-to-date. | Photos: Lennart Ootes

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"I am always online."

When he first heard that Magnus Carlsen wanted to leave the Norwegian Chess Federation Tarjei Svensen was working out in the gym. While Svensen was sweating on the treadmill a journalist called to ask for background information. Svensen continued his run on the treadmill while helping his colleague. But after the phone call had come to an end, he stopped his workout to send tweets about Carlsen's last move to his 14.000+ followers. If you are seriously interested in chess or write about it you cannot ignore @TarjeiJS. Especially, if you want news about Magnus Carlsen.

Tarjei Svensen"For a few hours Carlsen's break from the federation was number one online news here," Svensen says, even though at first it was not at all clear what implications Carlsen's decision might have. Would the World Champion play for the USA at the Chess Olympiad 2020? Would he emigrate? Would Offerspill, the club Carlsen had founded just a couple of months ago, collapse? Or would Carlsen just not be able to play for Offerspill?

None of the above, as it happens! Carlsen will continue to play for Norway, and he will also continue to pay taxes in his home country. "It is a purely symbolic act. It is his answer to the members of the chess federation," Svensen explains. In July these members said "No" to a deal with the sports betting holding Kindred, which had offered to support the chess federation for five years with a yearly sum of one million Euros. Carlsen was very much in favour of this deal, arguing that the money would finally allow to adequately help Norwegian talents that were following in Carlsen's footsteps. But for the majority of players in Norway doing lobby work for commercial gambling and against the state monopoly is a no-go.  

The conflict about the Kindred deal led to break-ups and to bitter complaints about and vicious threats against members of the opposing fractions and it caused a number of officials to resign from their posts. While the wounds are healing Carlsen's announcement to leave the Norwegian Chess Federation seems to fan the flames again. But his timing is actually well-considered. It did not interfere with the Chess960 World Championship which took place in Oslo in October and it did not interfere with a fundraising campaign by the federation which two weeks ago had met with representatives of some of the largest companies in Scandinavia to win sponsors for scholastic and junior chess. Carlsen was ready to headline this event, even without a fee.

In fact, the World Champion has no quarrels with the board of the federation. After all, the board was also in favour of the deal with the Kindred Group that it had negotiated for months in secret. As Svensen reveals, they even knew about Carlsen's plans to leave the federation. In July, a short time after the deal fell through in the general assembly, Carlsen had asked for permission to play as a non-member for Norway and his club. "He is now the only one who has this permission. Even foreigners who play for Norwegian clubs have to be registered members of the federation," Svensen says. Carlsen also took care to get the okay from FIDE for his move.

This well-prepared step is first of all designed to be a signal to the Norwegian club players and their amateur mentality. "And he does not care what this might do for his image," says Svensen. "Magnus has never been a guy who was too worried about what others might think of him." If Carlsen thinks something is funny, he just says it. Even if it might rub others the wrong way. Svensen likes Carlsen's dry humour, including the notorious twitter trash talk with Anish Giri. "From a distance this might seem to be mean because they do not add smileys to their messages. But it all is playful banter and in a good spirit. In fact, Anish and Magnus get very well along with each other."

A couple of days ago Kasparov was in Oslo and gave an interview. "In regard to the Fischer Random World Championship he said that Magnus is sometimes his own biggest enemy. It was not a bad interview but it did not offer anything new." Svensen just tweeted the link to the interview. Last year Carlsen agreed to a long and open interview with two old friends which Svensen later translated into English and published in 60 consecutive tweets. "Magnus once told me: you are tweeting too much."


Svensen regrets that Carlsen tweets less than he used to. Svensen himself has written close to 55,000 tweets and retweets. Since 2013, the year in which Carlsen became World Champion, almost all of Svensen's tweets are about chess. During important chess events he spends many hours on twitter. Svensen sees this as his service to the chess community. He also runs a website of his own, Mattogpatt, where he publishes longer stories about chess. All of this in addition to his job as an editor at an online portal that is aggregating news and stories by other media. News is his life.

"I am always online. I have to know what's going on."


Stefan Löffler writes the Friday chess column in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and succeeds Arno Nickel as editor of the Chess Calendar. For ChessBase the International Master reports from his adopted country Portugal.
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Talhaunted Talhaunted 11/21/2019 10:54
If Carlsen was completely comfortable with the Federation, would he choose to leave it? Don't you owe us a better explanation?