Cape Argus - - LIFE -


Some years ago when the present world cham­pion, Mag­nus Carlsen, was in his teens the pres­ti­gious Ger­man magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ posed some in­ter­est­ing, if naïve, ques­tions to the ris­ing star who was then work­ing with Kas­parov….

SPIEGEL: Mr Carlsen, what is your IQ? Carlsen: I have no idea. I wouldn’t want to know it any­way. It might turn out to be a nasty I think my father is con­sid­er­ably more in­tel­li­gent than I am. SPIEGEL: Aha. How many moves can you cal­cu­late ahead?

Carlsen: That de­pends on the game sit­u­a­tion. Some­times 15 to 20. But the trick is to cor­rectly as­sess the po­si­tion at the end of the cal­cu­la­tion. SPIEGEL: You be­came a grand­mas­ter at the age of 13 years, four months and 27 days; and there has never been a younger num­ber one than you be­fore. What is that due to, if not to your in­tel­li­gence?

Carlsen: I’m not say­ing that I am to­tally stupid. But my suc­cess mainly has to do with the fact that I had the op­por­tu­nity to learn more, more quickly. It has be­come eas­ier to get hold of in­for­ma­tion. The play­ers from the Soviet Union used to be at a huge ad­van­tage; in Moscow they had ac­cess to vast ar­chives, with count­less games care­fully recorded on in­dex cards. Nowa­days any­one can buy this data on DVD for 150 eu­ros; one disk holds 4.5 mil­lion games. There are also more books than there used to be. And then of course I started work­ing with a com­puter ear­lier than Vladimir Kram­nik or Viswanathan Anand.

SPIEGEL: Where did this en­thu­si­asm for chess come from all of a sud­den?

Carlsen: I don’t know. No more than I can tell you why I wanted to do 50-piece jig­saw puz­zles when I was not even two years old. Why did I want to know all the com­mon car makes at the age of two and a half? Why did I read books about ge­og­ra­phy at the age of five? I don’t know why I learnt all the coun­tries of the world off by heart, in­clud­ing their cap­i­tals and pop­u­la­tions. Chess was prob­a­bly just an­other pas­time.

SPIEGEL: For a year now you have been work­ing with Garry Kas­parov, who is prob­a­bly the best chess player of all time. What form does your co­op­er­a­tion take? Kas­parov is the teacher, you the pupil?

Carlsen: No. In terms of our play­ing skills we are not that far apart. There are many things I am bet­ter at than he is. And vice versa. Kas­parov can cal­cu­late more al­ter­na­tives, whereas my in­tu­ition is bet­ter. I im­me­di­ately know how to rate a sit­u­a­tion and what plan is nec­es­sary. I am clearly su­pe­rior to him in that re­spect.

And from the same era:

In con­ver­sa­tion, Carlsen of­fers only sub­tle clues to his in­tel­li­gence. His speech, like his chess, is tech­ni­cal, gram­mat­i­cally flaw­less and log­i­cally ir­re­sistible. He dresses neatly but shows a teenager’s dis­com­fort with for­mal­ity. (He rarely makes it through a game with­out his shirt com­ing un­tucked.) He would seem older than 19 but for his habit of gig­gling and his colt-like aver­sion to eye con­tact. (Time Magazine)

The for­mer World Cham­pion, Mikhail Tal, who on be­ing told that the Soviet state was launch­ing a cam­paign against al­co­holism, com­mented, “The state against vodka? I’ll be on the side of vodka.”

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