Magnus Carlsen from Norway – is he the Mozart of Chess?
The Big Eight
and…this is my ticket for Saturday!
Click HERE for the Official site. The link will open in a new window.
Standings after round 3
Enjoy the Music of Mozart – Piano Concerto no 20 in D Minor
Pairings for round 4 – Saturday 12th December – I was hoping to see Carlsen vs Kramnik in action, but…you can’t have your bread on both sides buttered…
Howell vs Carlsen – round 3
Denise Frick – South African WIM is taking part in this section
David Howell and Magnus Carlsen round 3 – draw
Howell vs Carlsen – move 48 round 3
Howell vs Carlsen move 60 round 3
Howell vs Carlsen – move 79 – 1/2 round 3
Magnus Carlsen: the rise and rise of chess’s answer to Mozart
If Magnus Carlsen had not had an elder sister, he would never have been gnawed by sibling rivalry, and if he had not been gnawed by sibling rivalry, he might never have become a world-famous chess-player. On such accidents of birth, genius can depend.
“I first tried interesting Magnus in the game when he was four or five,” says Henrik Carlsen, father of the precocious Norwegian teenager, just turned 19, who has been called the Mozart of chess. “But he was too young. It was only when he was eight, watching me play chess with his elder sister, Ellen, that he caught the chess bug in earnest. By the age of nine, he was able to beat me. By the age of 13, he was an international grandmaster.”
Not just a grandmaster, one of the elite of world chess, but at 13 years, four months and 27 days, one of the youngest Grandmasters in the history of the game. That turbulent American genius Bobby Fischer did not become a grandmaster until he was 15 and a half, middle-aged in comparison, while Russia’s Garry Kasparov, often regarded as the greatest chess-player of all time, was 17, practically senile, before he reached the same mark.
It is the sheer precociousness of the young Norwegian – Carlsen is now ranked number one in the world – that has captured the imagination of chess lovers, who will be able to see him in action at the London Chess Classic next week. The comparisons with Mozart are inescapable. Kasparov has now retired from top-flight chess, but is so fascinated by the prospects of this Scandinavian wunderkind that he has signed up as his coach. Imagine being a fly on the wall at their training sessions. The intellectual voltage would kill you.
Carlsen sounds mildly irritated when the Mozart comparison is wheeled out. “I’m not sure why people have to talk like that. It’s not something I ever think about.” But he concedes that the life of a chess prodigy can sometimes be lonely. “I think that’s the price of success in many walks of life. If you want to get to the top, there’s always the risk that it will isolate you from other people.”
Ultimately, it is a love of the game, the Norwegian insists, not some stern work ethic, that drives him on. “I spend hours playing chess because I find it so much fun. The day it stops being fun is the day I give up. Without the element of enjoyment, it is not worth trying to excel at anything.”
As for Carlsen’s genius – and one can hardly avoid the word – there were clues long before he started showing his paces at chess. Before he was two, he could solve jigsaw puzzles with more than 50 pieces. From jigsaws he graduated to Lego, constructing models that would have challenged teenagers. Feats of memory came easily to him. By the age of five, scarily, he knew the area, population, flag and capital of every country in the world.
“Boys are very good at focusing their attention on one thing at a time,” reflects his father. “Girls are better at multitasking. I would not say Magnus is naturally hard-working. In fact, he can be quite lazy at times. But when he is following his intuition and curiosity, there is no stopping him.”
If the life of a child chess prodigy can be quite intense, Carlsen has not been put under relentless pressure by ambitious parents. Instead he has enjoyed a normal, even outgoing, childhood. In 2003, when he was still 12, his parents took him and his sisters out of school for a year, packed them into a minibus and, in the adventure of a lifetime, embarked on a tour of Europe.
The itinerary was partly dictated by the international chess tournaments in which Carlsen was due to play. But there was also time for sightseeing, museum visits, even three weeks on a beach in Crete. What an exhilarating contrast to normal schooling.
You could never call Magnus Carlsen normal, not with his extraordinary talents. But if his natural milieu is the chessboard, there is a part of him that loves the great outdoors, fresh air and physical exercise. Ask him if he would rather have been a world-famous footballer than a chess-player, and his answer might surprise chess fans.
“I would probably have to say yes. Who could resist being a famous footballer? Chess only appeals to quite a small minority. It does not have the cachet of a mainstream popular sport.”
What lessons from his childhood would he want to pass on to his own children, if and when he has them? “I can’t say I’ve given that much thought. I guess what my parents taught me is that, as a parent, you need to be supportive without being pushy. They were very happy to let me play in tournaments and made sacrifices so that I could, but they didn’t force their own agenda on me. They let me follow my own enthusiasms.”