World Championship: interview with Carlsen

by ChessBase
9/19/2013 – The Russian Internet TV channel Chess TV has recorded two interview for the upcoming World Championship match. We start with the challenger, Norwegian GM Magnus Carlsen, who speaks very frankly about his talents, his weaknesses, preparation and chances – and also reveals to the interviewer which animal he would (definitely) like to be if he were not a human. Like to guess?

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Interview with Carlsen prior to his match with Anand, 2013

Uploaded on 18 September 2013. Interview with the highest rated chess player in the world, challenger for the world championship Magnus Carlsen from Norway, taken after 8th Tal Memorial in Moscow. Most of the questions regard his upcoming (November 2013) match with World Champion Vishy Anand. The interview is conducted in a modern format, with the questions not spoken by the interviewer but shown as text during the entire answer. In our screen grabs below you can read them in the yellow banners.

I give lots of interviews, and I think often the answers are not that similar, since what I answer depends a lot on my mood on that day and whatever thoughts pop into my head. Sometimes there will be some interesting questions asked, and sometimes not. And then I have people who do repair work, to make it more consistent.

I think it’s going to be indeed something special, something unusual, for me and hopefully for the chess world as well. But at the same time it is important to remember that the game is still the same, and as for preparation and everything I don’t think I should change too much, because evidently something seems to be working, most of the time.

I guess my choices often depend on my mood. I try to be emotionally a little distant from what I do, but at the same time fight hard and really care about results and so on. But it’s not always that easy.

At the time it was definitely true that I didn't particularly want to be a part of the Championship cycle. This time in the Candidates I really wanted to play and really wanted to win. So it was a little bit different. I think that the World Championship is not that different from other tournaments, apart for the fact that people spend more time preparing for it. Still I believe that to some extent the achievement of winning more or less every tournament is a greater one than being world champion.

Probably to some extent. But at the same time it is also important to focus on myself. I cannot change the way I play completely because of my opponent. It's better to try and force him to adapt to my style rather than to adapt to his – if that makes sense.

There are different approaches. As you see in [the Tal Memorial] when I beat both Kramnik and Anand the approach was to play something unexpected that I haven't really played before, not necessarily to get a big advantage but to get some playable positions. And in both games I succeeded in getting positions that were playable – against Anand even slightly better – and definitely not comfortable for my opponent. I think that Anand and others are so strong in the opening that it might not make sense for me with my skillset to try and beat him in the opening. I will certainly prepare some surprises and try to outfox him in a way, but I don't think it is very realistic that I can try to beat him in the opening. That's not where my strength is.

I think after [the Tal Memorial] I'll have a little bit of rest, enjoy the summer, and then there will be a longer training session, before the World Cup, and then perhaps another training session later on. As for normal training day, it depends. When I am not at a training session I may not do any chess, apart from playing through some important games and also just thinking about it in my head. In general I think it is important not to overfocus on the match and to keep some kind of balance. That was also important before the Candidates tournament, to have a good training session with some qualified people, but also to maintain a balance – to still have some fun and be relaxed.

I've played some good tournaments and some bad tournaments, but somehow even in tournaments where I don't play very well I still manage to get a more-or-less respectable score. I don't know if it has something to do with youth or other non-chess related reasons. I'll definitely prepare for the Vishy of 2008 when he beat Kramnik convincingly. I don't expect him to be in poor shape, like he was [at the Tal Memorial]. It just doesn't make any sense to me to prepare for that. I think he will be in excellent shape and it will be an interesting match. I might stumble of course at any time, but I hope that I will be in good shape, sharper in every sense – in the opening, in the middlegame, in the endgame, sensing the important moments. I don't see any reason why I should not be in top shape in November.

I don't think it is going to be a decisive factor. I do not have any match experience, true, or very little, but at the same time I've already played in top tournaments for six-seven years now, and I think that should amount to some useful experience. And I've played Vishy so many times as well. You can see, for instance, that when Karpov and Kasparov played their first World Championship match they had actually basically not met in tournaments at all, so maybe that is part of the reason for the difficult transition for Kasparov. I have played Vishy in almost every tournament I've played since I was sixteen-seventeen years old, so we certainly already know each other quite well.

I think it is easy to forget your own analysis, especially if it is done with a computer and it doesn't make perfect sense to you, and you are just memorizing it. I think my memory was very good when I was little, and now over age it's grown a little worse, as the brain grows and there is more information. I was intrigued to find that there was some research published which confirmed this more or less, the feeling I had that when your brain grows your memory worsens.

I think I am not learning too much anymore – in chess I am still learning obviously. There are so many way I can improve, I make mistakes in every game I play. Hopefully I can continue to improve, and I think I'll need to do that to stay on top. Obviously I love winning, but I am just motivated by having fun playing chess, and also learning new things. In general I don't think I will ever lose motivation for chess, until I feel that I've stagnated, that I'm not learning. I think the game is so rich that the possibilities will never be exhausted, at any time soon anyway.

Er... a crocodile. It seems to have a good life. A crocodile just lies there and relaxes, and it can more or less kill any other animal. Crocodile without a doubt.

Source: ChessTV, Russia – transcription by ChessBase

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