Mag­nus Carlsen and Sergey Kar­jakin are the two best chess play­ers on earth. Sasha Chapin watched them face off at the 2016 World Cham­pi­onship, and found that in this most supreme bat­tle of wits, win­ning is every­thing

Sharp - - ED­I­TOR’S LET­TER - Il­lus­tra­tions by Evan Kamin­sky

Mag­nus Carlsen and Sergey Kar­jakin are the two best chess play­ers on earth. Sasha Chapin watched them face off at the 2016 World Cham­pi­onship.

FOR 19 DAYS IN NOVEM­BER, 10,000 spec­ta­tors gath­ered in New York City to watch two men fight in a sound­proof room. They were bril­liant men, with un­usu­ally pow­er­ful minds. They were si­lently tor­tur­ing each other, both com­ing dan­ger­ously close to men­tal col­lapse. The re­ward was world supremacy, as well as the lion’s share of 1.1 mil­lion Eu­ros. Wel­come to the World Cham­pi­onship of Chess.

The con­tes­tants were Mag­nus Carlsen, the cham­pion, and Sergey Kar­jakin, the chal­lenger. One of the room’s walls was glass, and, on the other side, in a dark cor­ri­dor, stood a crowed that skewed white, male, paunchy, and be­spec­ta­cled. If there were blaz­ers, they were ill-fit­ting. They were pos­sessed of the stiff pos­ture you might ex­pect from wit­nesses at an ex­e­cu­tion. But the staid si­lence was preg­nant with a po­tent mix of two emo­tions. The first was awe at merely be­ing in the pres­ence of such lu­mi­nous minds. The se­cond was jeal­ousy — know­ing that you couldn’t do what they were do­ing.

Un­like, say, mixed mar­tial arts or NASCAR, ev­ery chess fan is a chess player. And chess is a bru­tal sport. Be­ing a se­ri­ous player re­quires hun­dreds of hours of seclu­sion — while other peo­ple are dat­ing, you’re un­lock­ing the mean­ing of phrases like “the Nimzo-in­dian De­fence” or “the Phili­dor po­si­tion.” While other peo­ple are drink­ing and danc­ing, you’re play­ing in small week­end tour­na­ments in church base­ments.

The learn­ing curve is much steeper than with other sports. Achiev­ing very ba­sic com­pe­tence is hard. Be­com­ing a mid­dling player takes at least five years of con­stant train­ing. If you get all the way up there, life is good — year-round, you fly to tour­na­ments in Bil­bao or Azer­bai­jan, stay­ing in lux­ury ho­tel rooms while com­pet­ing for prizes in the low six fig­ures. But there are few re­wards for the vast ma­jor­ity of the more than 65,000 tour­na­ment play­ers reg­is­tered with FIDE, the World Chess Fed­er­a­tion. Most of the spec­ta­tors present at the Cham­pi­onship spent soli­tary years chas­ing unattain­able dreams, and out­side of the top 10 play­ers in the world the money is scant or nonex­is­tent. Aside from the sat­is­fac­tion of oc­ca­sion­ally mak­ing a bril­liant move, they get noth­ing.

By “they,” I also mean me. I sup­pose I was first drawn to chess be­cause it gave me a chance to, fi­nally, be the bully. Af­ter be­ing blud­geoned by my phys­i­cal bet­ters in high school, I could sit down at a board and make an­other smart kid feel stupid. All of the un­pleas­ant­ness of my awk­ward ado­les­cence — the jeers, the mis­matched socks, the brown-bagged bologna sand­wiches — dis­ap­peared as I trav­eled to a di­men­sion of pure thought where I could kick your ass.

And I did, in fact, kick a small amount of ass. For ex­am­ple, I could prob­a­bly make mince­meat of the chess hus­tlers that hang around in sketchy parks. I could def­i­nitely, eas­ily beat you. On my high school chess team, the Pawnish­ers, I was a se­cret weapon — in­con­sis­tent, but oc­ca­sion­ally ca­pa­ble of up­set­ting much stronger play­ers. I be­came just good enough to re­al­ize I was never go­ing to be great. My style was play­ing very bor­ing, safe ma­neu­vers un­til my op­po­nent got tired and made a mis­take. When I played against peo­ple who didn’t make ter­ri­ble mis­takes, I was out of luck.

Even­tu­ally, I couldn’t stom­ach my medi­ocrity. Also, my pain-in-the-ass ge­nius brother was bet­ter than me, which was hu­mil­i­at­ing. So I went and pur­sued other things that teenagers do, like sex and drugs. But I al­ways liked chess bet­ter. It had a pu­rity, an ex­ac­ti­tude. Un­like most hu­man af­fairs, chess doesn’t rely on chance, or charm, or the right set of so­cial con­nec­tions. You make a good move or you don’t.

That’s a beau­ti­ful clar­ity. Al­though I make my liv­ing as a writer, I’d trade any writ­ing abil­i­ties I have for first-class chess ge­nius with­out a se­cond thought. Chas­ing the ex­ac­ti­tude of chess seems more sat­is­fy­ing than play­ing among the va­garies of lan­guage. So I came to the Cham­pi­onship to ex­pe­ri­ence, first-hand, the in­tel­li­gence I couldn’t at­tain. And al­though the bi­o­graph­i­cal de­tails would vary, I think ev­ery­one else was there for the same rea­son.

Be­yond the dark cor­ri­dor, we col­lected in a larger view­ing gallery, con­sist­ing of a large clus­ter of ta­bles, each equipped with a chess set. You need a board when you watch chess be­cause peo­ple ob­serve the game the way chil­dren watch Spi­der-man car­toons, leap­ing off couches and kick­ing imag­i­nary foes, tak­ing in the ac­tion on the screen by mim­ick­ing it. Un­like in real-time rock ‘em sock ‘em sports like hockey, chess al­lows you to play the very same game you’re watch­ing at the same pace it’s be­ing played — you can re­con­struct the po­si­tion the play­ers are deal­ing with, and at­tempt to think the thoughts they might be think­ing. Four or five peo­ple sat around each board, de­bat­ing about which move the po­ten­tial cham­pi­ons should make.

We were usu­ally wrong. Af­ter all, they were about 70 times bet­ter than we were. That fig­ure may sound like a car­toon­ish, hy­per­bolic num­ber picked out of the air to prove a point, but it isn’t. In Fe­bru­ary, in Ham­burg, Mag­nus Carlsen played a match with 70 other play­ers at once. For six hours, in a sprawl­ing play­ing hall, he strolled from board to board, de­liv­er­ing killing blows at each one af­ter con­sid­er­ing the po­si­tion for mere sec­onds. His com­peti­tors were all about as good as I am, or bet­ter, and they all had hours in which to con­tem­plate their moves. Mag­nus won 68 games. One was a draw, and one was a loss — there are two ama­teur play­ers out there who can say they held off one sev­en­ti­eth of Mag­nus’s mind.

HEN I AR­RIVED, half­way through the best-of-12 tour­na­ment, things were go­ing strangely. Ev­ery­one had been ex­pect­ing a walkover, a long, sav­age beat­down by Mag­nus, widely con­sid­ered the great­est of all time. The sports bet­ting web­site Pin­na­cle gave Mag­nus a 78 per cent chance of vic­tory.

Partly, Mag­nus’s dom­i­nance stems from sim­ple men­tal fire­power. Mag­nus has one of those brains that came from a dif­fer­ent fac­tory than ours did. When he was five years old, just for fun, he mem­o­rized the vi­tal sta­tis­tics of ev­ery coun­try in the world — pop­u­la­tion, area, flag, cap­i­tal city. At around that time, his fa­ther taught him the rules of chess, and, though dis­in­ter­ested at first, he started study­ing the game so he could beat his sis­ters. Nine years later, he mys­ti­fied the chess world when he drew a game against Garry Kas­parov, the high­est-rated player in the world at that point. Chess, like math, or dance, is a mode that some minds fuse with ef­fort­lessly. Mag­nus has what­ever that is. He first be­came World Cham­pion at 22 — the youngest in his­tory.

And, like many ge­niuses, he gets away with be­ing lazy. When he’s not play­ing in a tour­na­ment, he gen­er­ally reads comic books, plays soc­cer, and hangs out with his friends. This is ab­so­lutely in­fu­ri­at­ing to peo­ple like me, who have to di­gest moun­tains of chess books to be even a lit­tle good. “When I am feel­ing good, I train a lot,” he

says. “When I feel bad, I don’t bother.”

His style is cold, clean, and un­yield­ing. While some play­ers are swash­buck­lers, en­gag­ing in wild at­tacks that might end with spec­tac­u­lar vic­tory or de­feat, Mag­nus slowly ad­vances down the board, plac­ing his pieces per­fectly, con­trol­ling more and more squares, un­til you can’t move your pieces any­where. He dis­plays lit­tle weak­ness while ex­ploit­ing your ev­ery tiny mis­take. He’s in no hurry. He’s the chess equiv­a­lent to a Ter­mi­na­tor.

Also, he’s, well, sexy. He looks like Matt Da­mon, or at least like Matt Da­mon’s more thug­gish half-brother. He’s mod­eled with Liv Tyler for G-star Raw. He dresses with the sub­tle taste we’d ex­pect from any ac­com­plished Scan­di­na­vian. Like Muham­mad Ali, his ar­ro­gance is in­fec­tious. As you’d imag­ine, many young play­ers have Mag­nus fever. As teacher and grand­mas­ter Ale­jan­dro Ramirez told me, “He’s re­ally bring­ing back cool to the game of chess.”

This is no­table, be­cause, while chess is big­ger than it’s ever been — there are 600 mil­lion chess play­ers, from six-yearolds to ag­ing mas­ters, ac­cord­ing to FIDE — it’s still not ex­actly main­stream. It’s sort of a par­al­lel world. FIDE has made meek steps to change this, like hold­ing the Cham­pi­onship in NYC, be­stow­ing it with a VIP cock­tail lounge, and bring­ing in nerd celebrity Neil de­grasse Tyson to com­men­tate. But there’s no get­ting around the cen­tral prob­lem, which is that other sports are much more im­pres­sive. Think of a per­fect par­a­bola traced by the legs of a gym­nast, or the crack of a base­ball bat send­ing a ball on a tour of the up­per at­mos­phere. Even novice view­ers can ap­pre­ci­ate the spec­ta­cle, the phys­i­cal­ity. There’s no phys­i­cal­ity in chess, no ob­vi­ous sex­u­al­ity. The play­ers just sit there.

But Mag­nus’s good looks and bizarre level of tal­ent make him a star — he’s the jock hero of the losers, the cere­bral in­tro­vert whose dreamy face made it into the New Yorker. He’s the kind of per­son I dreamt of be­ing when I first learned the word check­mate. He won’t just beat you beau­ti­fully; he’ll look beau­ti­ful while do­ing it.

But, seven games in, Mag­nus didn’t look beau­ti­ful. Ev­ery game had been a draw. He seemed like a cat won­der­ing whether he felt like a meal of mouse meat — he wasn’t seiz­ing on the small op­por­tu­ni­ties he usu­ally used so well. At the press con­fer­ences that fol­lowed each game, he an­swered ques­tions with nervy mono­syl­la­bles. His lack of suc­cess was puz­zling to the world chess elite. His op­po­nent, Sergey Kar­jakin, had been un­der­es­ti­mated. UN­LIKE MAG­NUS, Sergey isn’t su­per­fi­cially im­pres­sive. He doesn’t have the top-shelf looks or the ath­letic swag­ger. He’s one of those lit­tle men with gen­tle fea­tures who will for­ever look a bit like a nine-year-old. He has a stut­ter that he con­ceals ef­fec­tively, but never quite com­pletely. Rather than an in­tel­lec­tual frat-boy, he seems like a sweet mama’s boy, al­beit one that hap­pens to be a ge­nius.

Like Mag­nus, Sergey was scary good at a very young age. As a kid, he quickly be­came one of the finest play­ers in the Ukraine. But un­like Mag­nus, Sergey was a ded­i­cated, by-the-books scholar. He as­tounded his chess teach­ers with the speed of his learn­ing: “It’s like a dragon that eats every­thing it comes over,” said his first coach, Alexan­der Alexikov, “and you have to keep feed­ing it.” He worked for nine hours a day.

Sergey shot up through the ranks. He achieved the ti­tle of grand­mas­ter — the high­est of­fice avail­able in chess — at the youngest age ever: 12 years and seven months. When he was 19, he won the Tata Steel Mas­ters, per­haps the most pres­ti­gious tour­na­ment in chess.

He had seem­ingly in­fi­nite po­ten­tial. But in the Ukraine, he had lim­ited re­sources — soon the coun­try’s coaches couldn’t tell him any­thing that he didn’t al­ready know. Luck­ily, shortly be­fore he turned 20, the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment adopted him, graft­ing him onto their gi­ant chess ma­chine. Rus­sia still has a huge state-spon­sored chess pro­gram, which is why for much of the 20th cen­tury chess and the USSR were nearly syn­ony­mous. Leg­endary Rus­sian play­ers like Mikhail Botvin­nik and

Garry Kas­parov sat on the throne for decades. Chess, like Sput­nik, was a sym­bol of Soviet supremacy. Sergey re­ceived a gov­ern­ment salary and in­ten­sive coach­ing.

He also be­came a stolid pa­triot of his new coun­try. Take this Tweet from March 2016, where Sergey re­sponds to Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of his home­land: “Crimeans, I heartily con­grat­u­late your re­turn to the na­tive har­bour.” On In­sta­gram, you’ll find him wear­ing a Putin t-shirt, giv­ing a pretty con­vinc­ing thumbs-up.

But it’s clear that Sergey’s only fi­nal al­le­giance is to the game, and his real home is in the up­per ech­e­lons of chess. Un­like Mag­nus, he couldn’t get there with­out truly in­ten­sive study. Pur­su­ing that schol­ar­ship meant leav­ing his home and alien­at­ing his old Ukrainian friends, but he did it any­way for a shot at the World Cham­pi­onship. Sergey’s play is ac­cu­rate and as­sured, al­most sci­en­tific. What makes him spe­cial as a player is that the bas­tard just never gives up. While that sounds like an at­tribute any chess player should pos­sess, be­ing on the los­ing end of a tour­na­ment game is a dread­ful mat­ter, be­cause clas­si­cal tour­na­ment games last as long as six hours. The idea is that you’re given enough time so that you can play al­most per­fectly, but not enough time that you don’t feel in­tense pres­sure. Un­less you lose quickly, los­ing in chess is a slow crush of the ego. It’s hard to hang on.

Sergey’s ego is steel-plated. No mat­ter how com­fort­ably you’re win­ning, Sergey will make it un­com­fort­able. This made him a per­fect foil for Mag­nus. The Nor­we­gian cages his op­po­nent, but the Rus­sian is an es­capist. This seem­ingly made Mag­nus an­gry — an anger that lead to his abrupt, un­ex­pected down­fall in the eighth game.

THE DIS­AS­TER started af­ter a few hours of play, when Mag­nus and Sergey had reached what chess fans call a “draw­ish” po­si­tion — the cere­bral equiv­a­lent to a box­ing match be­tween ex­hausted heavy­weights, all clutches and barely vis­i­ble jabs. In such po­si­tions, the nor­mal strat­egy is a war of at­tri­tion (you take their knight, they take your bishop, et cetera). Then, when there’s noth­ing left on the board, you go back to your ho­tel room, stare out the win­dow, and try to some­how slow the neu­ro­chem­i­cals that fly through your brain when you think of the next game.

How­ever, Mag­nus wasn’t sat­is­fied with that. He de­cided it was time to strike. In chess, again as in box­ing, you can’t land punches with­out ex­pos­ing your­self to some coun­ters. Mag­nus ad­vanced the pawns in front of his king — which served as the shield pre­vent­ing his king from be­ing at­tacked — to stab at Sergey’s po­si­tion. When that came to noth­ing, he rushed his pieces down the cen­tre of the board. His play be­came, in chess lingo, “sac­ri­fi­cial” — he al­lowed Sergey to take some of his pawns while he swung wildly at the Rus­sian’s king.

He had to de­cap­i­tate Sergey quickly. In chess, you can ei­ther beat your op­po­nent in the near-term, by as­sas­si­nat­ing their king, or you can win in the long-term, by turn­ing one of your pawns into a queen. If your op­po­nent has pawns at the end of the game, you quite sim­ply lose.

Mag­nus quite sim­ply lost. His king was run­ning scared, and, on the other end of the board, Sergey had a run­away pawn, about to turn into a queen. Un­able to de­fend against both threats, Mag­nus re­signed. Af­ter shak­ing Sergey’s hand, he skipped the post-game in­ter­views, then stormed out of the press con­fer­ence.

This is un­usual. A big part of chess eti­quette is the post-game wrap-up, where the play­ers dis­cuss key mo­ments in the game, of­ten point­ing out win­ning moves their op­po­nents didn’t see. It’s all very friendly — there’s this in-it-to­gether feel­ing, like, af­ter the heat of the mo­ment, we’re just a bunch of geeks again, en­joy­ing the in­tri­ca­cies of the game it­self. By storm­ing out, Mag­nus vi­o­lated ba­sic so­cial norms. He also, ac­cord­ing to chess fed­er­a­tion rules, was fined 10 per cent of the prize money — no small price for a tem­per tantrum.

This had never hap­pened be­fore. Mag­nus had never been be­hind in a

I sup­pose I was FIRST DRAWN TO CHESS be­cause it gave me a chance to, fi­nally, BE THE BULLY. Af­ter be­ing BLUD­GEONED by my PHYS­I­CAL BET­TERS in high school, I could sit down at a board and MAKE AN­OTHER SMART KID FEEL STUPID.”

world cham­pi­onship match. Chess fans, gen­er­ally a se­date bunch, don’t usu­ally freak out. Peo­ple were freak­ing out. Mag­nus was sup­pos­edly un­touch­able, but he sud­denly looked very touch­able. Al­though the match was only half­way over, a myth was in the mak­ing: a cham­pion, lulled into com­pla­cency by his dom­i­nance, taken out by an unas­sum­ing Rus­sian.

Like ev­ery non-rus­sian chess fan, I was a Mag­nus sup­porter go­ing into the match. But, af­ter Sergey’s un­ex­pected win, my al­le­giance shifted. Not just be­cause he was the un­der­dog in the match, but be­cause he seemed like the em­bod­i­ment of the un­der­dog it­self. Sim­ply put, Mag­nus’s very ex­is­tence is un­fair. Ev­ery player in the top 10 — hell, the top 50 — is a per­son of un­usual in­tel­li­gence and unswerv­ing de­vo­tion to the game. But no amount of de­vo­tion could win you Mag­nus’s su­per­com­puter brain. As a re­sult, the gen­eral feel­ing in the chess world was that Mag­nus would en­joy a com­fort­able, un­in­ter­rupted era on the throne un­til mid­dle age slowed his im­pos­si­bly quick cal­cu­la­tions.

But if Sergey won, that nar­ra­tive would go straight in the garbage. A Sergey vic­tory would mean that no­body was in­vul­ner­a­ble — no­body’s place in the world was per­ma­nently de­cided by their ge­nomic strengths. Any elite player, if they put in a sin­gu­lar ef­fort, could fight their way to the very top. If Sergey could beat Mag­nus, I could beat much su­pe­rior play­ers, or at least my ge­nius brother, if I only put in the hours. This was com­pelling.

LIKE THE BEST at any­thing, the World Cham­pion of chess is mo­ti­vated by fail­ure. He tends to strike back. On the day af­ter his de­feat, he ar­rived at the board with an ex­pres­sion both tran­quil and fu­ri­ous. And that’s how he played.

The game ini­tially seemed bor­ing. But Mag­nus wasn’t con­tent with that. He launched an un­usual at­tack that trans­formed the game from a ten­ta­tive skir­mish into an all-out war. Al­though Sergey de­fended per­fectly, and it ended in a draw, Mag­nus was call­ing the shots.

Game 10 was pure pain. Mag­nus got the kind of po­si­tion he likes — a state of play where Sergey’s pieces were tied down de­fen­sively. Com­pare it to be­ing an MMA fighter pinned to the mat by an ex­pert grap­pler. It’s pos­si­ble to es­cape, but a small mis­cal­cu­la­tion and you’re choked out. The Rus­sian cracked, mak­ing a tiny mis­take that didn’t even look like a mis­take, and his de­fences crum­bled im­me­di­ately.

Point to the Nor­we­gian. That made the score one-one go­ing into the last two games. An even score had in­ter­est­ing con­se­quences. Given that draws hap­pen with per­fect play, you rule out draws by re­duc­ing the po­ten­tial for per­fec­tion: you dra­mat­i­cally ac­cel­er­ate play. So, if drawn, the match — and there­fore the cham­pi­onship — would be de­cided by a be­stof-four speed round: four games where the play­ers had half an hour’s time each, rather than over two.

And that’s what hap­pened. Mag­nus drew the last two games in a clin­i­cal fash­ion, aim­ing squarely for the chaos of the tiebreak. Fast chess is a brawl. You can’t be too me­thod­i­cal.

Sergey is noth­ing if not me­thod­i­cal. Right away, dur­ing the first game, he got down on the clock, com­ing within min­utes of los­ing on time. While Mag­nus threw out move af­ter pre­cise move, Sergey hemmed and hawed, his face in his hands. Al­though the game ended in a draw, Sergey walked away pale. A crowd of thou­sands stood out­side in sub-zero tem­per­a­tures in Moscow, flood­ing the Red Square, watch­ing the tiebreaks on huge mon­i­tors. They can’t have en­joyed game two. From the very be­gin­ning, Sergey was on the de­fen­sive — his pieces were trip­ping all over each other. Chess com­put­ers, an­a­lyz­ing the game in real time, in­di­cated that it was all but over. Spec­ta­tors in NYC, watch­ing the game from out­side the sound­proof shark tank, waited for the killing blow. And waited. And waited. And some­how it never came. Sergey an­noyed Mag­nus as much as pos­si­ble — duck­ing and dodg­ing and re­fus­ing to be beaten eas­ily — and even­tu­ally made the game a draw. The fans were stand­ing around with their jaws hang­ing open, in­clud­ing Irina Krush, seven-time Amer­i­can women’s cham­pion. “It’s kind of hard to be­lieve what hap­pened,” she told me. “I def­i­nitely thought Mag­nus would take it in the four-game rapid. It’s dif­fi­cult to make a pre­dic­tion now, since that was such a painful, painful missed op­por­tu­nity.” A con­tin­gent of Nor­we­gians were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a great deal of psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­ar­ray. Com­men­ta­tors won­dered whether Mag­nus could make a come­back.

The ques­tion was an­swered de­ci­sively in round three, where Mag­nus hand­cuffed Sergey, then tick­led him un­til he squirmed. Even­tu­ally, very low on time, un­der im­mense pres­sure, he made a bizarre move that lost in­stantly.

Now, Sergey was in a must-win sit­u­a­tion. He opened the game with the Si­cil­ian De­fence, which is what you play when you can’t set­tle for a draw — when you need a dan­ger­ous game. In the Si­cil­ian, both play­ers are con­tin­u­ally at­tack­ing down both flanks. Sergey played ag­gres­sively from the very be­gin­ning. But he was re­warded by be­ing beaten pic­turesquely, with a beau­ti­ful fin­ish­ing blow from Mag­nus — he parted Sergey’s pawns by sac­ri­fic­ing his queen, then reached through the open­ing and killed his king. Match Mag­nus.

At the press con­fer­ence, while the Nor­we­gian was queried about why he wore NBA socks dur­ing the fi­nal game, Sergey smiled meekly, re­strain­ing tears. A lit­tle bald man with a mous­tache gave both play­ers medals. The prophecy was ful­filled: Sergey’s scholas­tic pow­ers were trumped by Mag­nus’s sixth sense. The king, to para­phrase The Wire, stayed the king. And so it would con­tinue, in­def­i­nitely.

Or maybe not. Sergey had come re­ally close. For a pre­cious mo­ment, af­ter that eighth game, he had Mag­nus on the ropes. Maybe he just didn’t think he could beat Mag­nus — how dare he do such a thing — and psy­cho­log­i­cally col­lapsed. Per­haps he suc­cumbed to the fa­tal­ism that creeps into my world­view as well. This idea that we’re down here, we mere pri­mates, and can maybe be ex­cep­tional in our small, fool­ish ways, but that guys like Mag­nus are on some other un­reach­able plateau, and we can only watch them with a kind of sad won­der. Any­way, I had an in­ter­view set up for the fol­low­ing day. I wanted to hear Sergey say that he’d come back next time, that he could rise above and kill it. Al­though, as a re­porter, I should’ve been prop­erly ag­nos­tic about his po­ten­tial re­sponses, I was also a dude won­der­ing about his place in the uni­verse. I wanted to see pas­sion in Sergey’s eyes — a con­tin­ued will to tran­scend.

But when I woke up, I re­ceived the fol­low­ing email: “Hi sasha Ap­par­ently he has al­ready flown home…”

Mag­nus Carlsen (R) plays chess si­mul­ta­ne­ously with dif­fer­ent Dutch politi­cians in The Hague, on Fe­bru­ary 2, 2016 af­ter win­ning the Tata Steel Tour­na­ment 2016 the day be­fore

Sergey Kar­jakin (R), Rus­sian chess grand­mas­ter, plays against Mag­nus Carlsen, Nor­we­gian chess grand­mas­ter and cur­rent World Chess Cham­pion, dur­ing round 12 of the World Chess Cham­pi­onship on Novem­ber 28, 2016 in New York.

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