At age 13, he was the third youngest grandmaster in history. A few years later, he was already beating the world’s top players. And on Jan. 1, 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway will officially become the youngest person in history to earn chess’s No. 1 ranking. TIME caught up with the grandmaster at a tournament in London to probe the mind of a chess genius.
When people find out that you are the top-ranked chess player in the world, do you have to deal with them assuming you are 40,000 times more intelligent than them?
Yeah, that can be a little annoying. I try to tell people that I am like them. I am not some sort of freak. I might be very good at chess but I’m just a normal person.
Well, you’re clearly not a normal intellect. How many moves ahead can you calculate on the chess board?
Sometimes 15 to 20 moves ahead. But the trick is evaluating the position at the end of those calculations.
Here is the full interview.