MARK RUBERY CHESS
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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.”