Chess hero ‘relieved’ but ‘irritated’

UPDATED: He says he’s “relieved” now: Norwegian chess star Magnus Carlsen did indeed emerge as the best chess player in history during the London Chess Classic this past week. He said he was “irritated” over his own performance, though, after one of his final matches ended with no decision.

This was the full-page ad placed in Norwegian business daily “Dagens Næringsliv (DN)” on Monday, after chess star Magnus Carlsen confirmed his spot as the best chess player in history. The ad was placed by his Norwegian sponsor, Arctic Securities. PHOTO/FACSIMILE: newsinenglish.no

Carlsen played remis against the best American at the London tournament, Hikaru Nakamura, and even though the young Norwegian from Lommedal still clinched the world record in chess ratings, he wasn’t entirely pleased.

“I’m incredibly relieved, and glad, but also a bit irritated with myself,” Carlsen told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. “I was basically satisifed with remis, but now I realize there were some possibilities underway that I hadn’t taken. I was simply too greedy in the middle of play. That may have cost me a victory.”

He did go on to win the London tournament, though, and played another remis against world champ Vishy Anand on Monday. Carlsen acknowledged himself that “points-wise, I have played the tournament of my life, no doubt about that.”

And he would finally allow himself to celebrate, after restraining himself last week when his rating first exceeded the previous record set by chess legend Garry Kasparov in 1999. Carlsen said he’s now looking forward to Christmas with his family back home in Norway, and then a long holiday with them in warmer climes. “I need to recharge my batteries and get some sun,” he told Aftenposten.

On Monday, Carlsen’s Norwegian sponsor Arctic Securities ran a full-page ad in the business daily Dagens Næringsliv (DN), proclaiming Carlsen to simply be “BEST EVER.” Another sponsor, law firm Simonsen, ran full-page ads of their own hailing Carlsen on Tuesday. His accomplishment is enormous, especially for a young man of 22. In Norway, he’s viewed as a hero and already has won a series of honors. Now the mayor of Bærum, the municipality just west of Oslo where his home community of Lommedalen is located, also wants to host a formal reception for him, at his convenience.

“The most important thing is that Magnus feels his hometown really honors him, something he really deserves,” Mayor Lisbeth Hammer Krogh told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We are so proud.”

‘Sportsman’ who wants to have fun
Carlsen, who also faces honours around the world, is leaving practical details to his manager, Espen Agdestein, brother of another Norwegian Grand Master Simen Agdestein. The former child prodigy has grown up but doesn’t seem to let all the fuss go to his head. Asked what he thinks about being compared to the likes of Usain Bolt and other sports stars, he told Aftenposten, “No, that’s up to others to evaluate.”

He does see himself as a “sportsman,” though. “Athletes are perhaps more physical, but I also spend a lot of time to stay in shape,” Carlsen said. “I exercise a lot, and try to eat well. But for me, this is still all about having fun. That’s still my most important motivation.”

Agdestein is more generous in his praise. His client’s accomplishment, he says, “is completely unique, and extremely difficult to achieve. More than 500 million people play chess. There’s enormous competition.”

‘Best chess ever seen’
Agdestein noted that Carlsen already had topped world rankings for three years before breaking Kasparov’s record rating of 2851 last week. And he thinks “most will agree that the level (of play) today is higher (than when Kasparov clinched the record). I think you can say that the chess Carlsen plays is the best ever seen.”

Chess is not TV-friendly, though, so its stars don’t get offered the enormous commercial contracts of other athletes. Carlsen has nonetheless become a “brand,” and he’s receiving advertising and film offers. He’s been a major draw at conferences in Silicon Valley, met the chairman of Apple and lots of other celebrities. He’s been featured in major media all over the world and his income is growing.

Now his interest in winning the World Championship has been rekindled as well. Carlsen has earlier boycotted the championships, complaining of controversies and myths surrounding it, but Agdestein told Aftenposten he’d like the title. And the winner stands to get around around USD 2.6 million.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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