VG Interview with Magnus Carlsen

by ChessBase
1/3/2014 – He comes across as intelligent, level headed, humorous. And quite candid. This latest half-hour interview with the new world chess champion, by VG-TV, is in Norwegian, but it is meticulously captioned in English, and even has one-click jumps to the different sections. So it is well worth while watching – we have prepared a full transcript with strategic screengrabs for you. Enjoy.

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VG-TV Interview with Magnus Carlsen

The interview is in Norwegian but is well subtitled in English. You can watch it on the original VG site as well, which has one-click jumps to the individual sections (bravo!). For those of you who are videomatically challenged here is a slightly condensed transcript of what Magnus says in each section.

1 The good self-confidence

I'm pleased how things have worked out in terms of chess. In Chennai everything went as I had hoped. I won the Candidates and set a new ratings record. There are also a lot of positives concerning chess in Norway. Others are probably better judges of my self-confidence. You don't necessarily notice it yourself. Others can decide...

Do you fear that is the case? – Well, no. But it is good to have self-confidence in your professional career. In other aspects of life it is appropriate to tone it down. Just being myself has served me pretty well. There are times when I might be in a bad mood or tired, when it is inappropriate to speak my mind. But mostly I just try to be myself.

2 Obsessions and superstitions

Do you have any compulsions, things you have to do? Not too many. I played poorly in the first couple of games:

I was given a new pen, and everything went a lot better. – Do you really think that mattered? – No, but it gave me a good feeling. I was asked to sign a book about the Tal vs Botvinnik World Championship match in 1960. Tal was the winner and was 23 years old at the time. He lost the rematch and never won another title. I had to gently refuse the person who asked me to sign the book. I couldn't do it...

I'm probably a bit superstitious in that regard.

3 Still Donald Duck fan

I read a few Donald Duck stories. I took one of the old classics along. – You unwind with Donald Duck??

Do you know many 23-year-olds who are fascinated by Donald Duck? – I know people a lot older who still read it. I'm not mentioning any names, though.

4 The secret behind blindfold chess

You are able to play against 30 people, even blindfolded, and still beat them? That means you're keeping track of 960 pieces and 1,920 squares. What happens in your head when you do that? – It's often useful to see the faces of my opponents beforehand. I arrange them by numbers and know their seating order. I can associate the numbers to faces and the faces to boards. I really only have to keep track of one board at a time. Sometimes I have to dig deep, mentally, to remember the next board.

I wish I possessed that skill, actually. If I could anticipate everything people would do, I would be unstoppable at everything. Alas, I am not able to do it, not even in other sports, like football.

5 Magnus the mystery

How did you become so good? – I wish I had a good answer to that, but I really don't.

But it is fun, too, that nobody really knows why. I now realise that I play better chess than anyone else, that I understand chess better. Other people agree with that. But it's difficult to say why it has turned out like that. How does it fell like to be an enigma? It feels absolutely fine...

6 Has nightmares about chess

Do you have chess nightmares? – Yes, sometimes I'm prevented from getting to a game for strange reasons, or I lose to opponents I'm not supposed to lose to. Lately I've played a host of poor tournaments, but they all occurred in my dreams.

7 Thoughts on the future

How long do you plan to carry on? – As long as I retain my motivation and feel I have stuff to learn. Simen (Agdestein) said that chess really isn't about being the best, but about being the least poor player. Sometimes I feel that even I am miles away, I'm still far away from truly understanding chess. There is still so much for me to learn, there's a lot I don't understand. I am under no illusions. I won't ever play a perfect game. The question is if I can apply my knowledge and develop as a player. Looking at the games I played a couple of years ago, I knew ridiculously little – and I already ranked first in the world at that point. There is great scope for improvement, and that gives me motivation. Whether it is still there when I am 30, 35 or 40 years old, I really can's say.

8 Wants to copy Bobby Fischer

Which chess player, historically, could have beaten you at this point? – Kasparov: at his peak he was an amazingly good player. As a young man he probably wasn't quite that good, but he was incredibly dynamic. He was creative, and he had incredible self confidence. I think he could have given me serious problems.

I also belive that Fischer, when he was at his peak, had a lot in common with where I am now. He was extremely precise at his game, and utterly relentless. He was a true champion, in terms of making difficult things come across as very easy. And he won a lot of games by sheer force of willpower. I often do that too.

... but by way of chess there are a lot of similarities.

9 About the rumors

Many years ago someone actually asked me if I suffered from autism. I thought the question was stupid, so I replied "well, isn't that obvious?" That was silly – I'm obviously not suffering from autism. Later I realised that not everyone shares that view, and I probably shouldn't have made that thoughtless remark. I feel I'm miles away from anyone with autism. I consider myself to have norma social skills and to be functioning normally.

10 Does not want an IQ test

Another word associated with you on Google is "girlfriend". – There's really not much to say on that. – But you'r clearly a major celebrity now. If you are out in town, the ladies flock around you. – Yes, and I enjoy the attention. Can you pull more ladies by telling them you's the chess world champion? Yes, but I don't know whether being a world champion in chess, but being a celebrity certainly helps.

The way it is, with my focus on the game and travelling a lot, it's probably for the best not to have too many commitments at home.

Tell me about your mindset when it comes to losing. – I don't enjoy losing, particularly not at chess. I don't consider losing to be a natural part of my game. If I do lose, something must have failed.

I always believe that I'm the best, and as long as I'm at the top of my game I'm not going to lose. For that reason it's difficult to accept defeats when they do occur.

What kind of things make you cry? When's the last time you cried?

I can't remember. It's a long time ago. But it was close in London. I have to confess that after the 11th round... I was too exhausted to really react emotionally. Also I was probably more angry than sad. It's possible to cry in frustration too, of course.

During your photo shoot for G-Star, alongside super models like Liv Tyler, and others, many men I know would make the most of it and build friendships, or at least acquaintances. Do you text Liv Tyler a lot? – No, I don't. But I know that Espen has received messages on my behalf, congratulating me on the title and so forth.

How do you keep your composure alongside these models? – When I did the G-Star shoots my primary concern was to do a proper job for them, to be professional. But I remember the second campaign where Gemma Arterton modelled. It was the first time I met her, and I thought I wanted to make a good impression. She came in to say hello while they were doing my hair and make-up. I was unable to say a single word. That was a bit embarrassing. At least it's important not to look like a complete dummy. But you did? Yes. It wasn't far off, anyway.

When you were 12 or 13 you said in an interview...

... since there was more money to be made in football. Do you still believe that? – No. The good thing about chess, as opposed to football, is that I'm completely accountable for all my actions. In football you're always part of a team. And there's money to be made in chess as well? Oh yes, I have no complaints about that whatsoever. It's a cliché not to be concerned with the money. Nonetheless it's true to say that I've made more than enough to permit me to live off it. What do you plan to use all the millions on? I might invest in real estate, or my family and such. But for the time being it's resting in my bank account.

Magnus Carlsen, thanks for the chat. – Likewise.

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