Any period of time in history is often defined by great minds. It is often said that such great minds are often a thing of universal marvel and surely, this is the bracket that one would place Magnus Carlsen under. If being the highest ever rated chess player wasn’t enough, Carlsen is now a two time world champion under classical time control while also the reigning champion in rapid and blitz format too. He is Ricky Ponting’s Australia, he is Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona…his achievements only made more incredible by the fact that he has achieved so much before he has even turned 25.
Grandmaster at the age of 13, Carlsen was always destined for greatness. He was born to play chess, make no mistake about it. What stands out in his game is his deep understanding of a given position. He is a player who doesn’t rely on preparation as much as other top level grandmasters do. As the Madras tiger- five time world champion Viswanathan Anand – found out, Carlsen’s understanding of any position on the chessboard is higher than anyone else (and this probably includes computers as well). And to match this, his stamina and endgame ability leave him highly revered among his peers. One would only need to browse through the Twitter feeds of various super grandmasters when a Carlsen game is on. Most of them refer to an endgame against Carlsen as “the torture”. He is perhaps, with respect to technique, the best world champion ever.
With the title of world champion comes great responsibility as well. Knowing that little kids will look at you as the symbol for the sport, knowing that parents will persuade children to take up a chess career citing you as an example can be pretty overwhelming. But Carlsen shrugs such thoughts off casually and tries to focus on the next super tournament. While Carlsen’s boorish honesty maybe perceived as arrogance (and the perception may indeed be correct), it is to be remembered that he is a man in his early twenties who is in the absolute peak of his abilities with the world at his fingertips. He has earned the right to be the way he is, perhaps the way he is has enabled him to get where he is.
His ventures into modeling, as the face of G-Star raw fashion and denims, his launching of personal chess application called “Play Magnus” in Apple devices etc are seen as being unnecessarily glamorous. However, what his detractors forget is that chess is not a sport with an excess amount of cash, especially outside the Soviet countries. If the world chess champion is a popular figure, it does help the sport’s cause with respect to sponsorship income.
Love him, hate him, praise him, slate him…Magnus Carlsen is here to stay. With a nonchalant shrug and a mischievous laugh, he’s set to be in the front pages for many more years to come.