Carlsen’s fame a game-changer
March 19, 2014

In the four months since he was crowned world champion last November, 23-year-old Norwegian chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen has taken on billionaire businessmen and world leaders, snared a modelling contract with a trendy denim label, and launched a signature chess smartphone app designed to open up the game to a whole new generation (even though he admitted he can’t beat himself). Despite his growing empire, Carlsen said nothing much has changed for him personally – he has the same friends, feels the same pressure a head of tournaments, and the drive to be the best is as strong as ever.

It’s an important couple of weeks for Carlsen. In Russia, which is making headlines entirely unrelated to chess these days, grandmasters are thrashing it out in the World Candidates Tournament until the start of April, to decide who will challenge Carlsen at the World Championship in November. “The game starts at 10 every day, so I’m almost interested enough to get up at 10,” said Carlsen, laughing. “No, but seriously, I follow them for several hours each day. The openings they play, I check them with my own databases. I follow it both as a professional but also as a chess fan, just enjoying some really great games.”

“I think the format is a good one, that the players know that they need to… I mean, there is only first place to play for,” he explained. “And you need to win a lot of games, so you need to play combative chess and I think that’s what people are showing. And it’s been a great show so far.”

Carlsen said one of the perks of being world champion was not having to compete in the candidates tournament, so that’s a lot of dedicated watching from a man who is supposed to be enjoying his downtime. He clearly lives and breathes chess and can rattle off his entire year’s work schedule – training ahead of a tournament in Azerbaijan in April against some of the world’s best players, then a tournament in Norway, before the World Chess Olympiad in Tromsø in August, then focusing on the world championship match.

‘I don’t think I’ve changed’

Yet the 23-year-old who’s worth millions in sponsorship deals, has beaten Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He models for G-Star Raw Denim, and has started his own own company. He is stumped for answers when it comes to what he has planned “for fun.”

“I don’t know,” he mused, as if it’s never crossed his mind. “I think the second half of the year, I mean after the Olympiad in August, there will be about three months before the world championship match. There will be a mixture between relaxation and work. We’ll see exactly what happens, who will be my opponent. I don’t know. I generally don’t go too much on holiday, if that’s more a vacation. I mean, I go many nice places for chess and otherwise I can relax at home. So that’s okay.” Carlsen’s halting answer makes it easy to believe him when he says he does not think the celebrity has affected him.

“I still live in the same place (in Norway), I have more or less the same friends, I hang out with the same people,” he went on, and said he doesn’t really think about the money he’s earning. “I think it’s a bit up to others to judge if it’s changed me or not. I don’t think it has to a great degree, but you should ask someone else if they feel that I’ve taken a turn for the worse!”

Carlsen said he doesn’t feel any extra strain under the weight of the title. “There’s not much sample size here, because I’ve only played really one serious tournament after I was world champion, but I think in that tournament it was much of the same,” he explained. “Even before I was world champion I was world number one for a while, so I sort of expected myself to do well in those tournaments. I always thought I was the favourite going in. And in that sense, nothing much has changed.”

Full article here.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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