A Bold Opening for Chess Player Magnus Carlsen
By Eben Harrell / London Monday, Jan. 11, 2010

Vladimir Kramnik, former world chess champion and current No. 4, is playing in the first round of the London Chess Classic, the most competitive chess tournament to be played in the U.K. capital in 25 years. Tall, handsome and expressionless, he looks exactly as a man who has mastered a game of nearly infinite variation should: like a high-end assassin. Today, however, he is getting methodically and mercilessly crushed.

His opponent is a teenager who seems to be having difficulty staying awake. Magnus Carlsen yawns, fidgets, slumps in his chair. He gets up and wanders over to the other games, staring at the boards like a curious toddler. Every now and then, he returns to his own game and moves one of his pieces, inexorably building an attack so fierce that by the 43rd move Kramnik sees the hopelessness of his position and resigns. (See the top sports stories of 2009.)

Genius can appear anywhere, but the origins of Carlsen’s talent are particularly mysterious. In November, Carlsen, then 18, became the youngest world No. 1 in the game’s history. He hails from Norway — a “small, poxy chess nation with almost no history of success,” as the English grand master Nigel Short sniffily describes it — and unlike many chess prodigies who are full-time players by age 12, Carlsen stayed in school until last year. His father Henrik, a soft-spoken engineer, says he has spent more time urging his young son to complete his schoolwork than to play chess. Even now, Henrik will interrupt Carlsen’s chess studies to drag him out for a family hike or museum trip. “I still have to pinch my arm,” Henrik says. “This certainly is not what we had in mind for Magnus.”

Here is the full article.

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