UPDATED: Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, who ranks as the best chess player in the world, said he was “surprised” but “quite proud” that he’d landed on an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, as chosen by Time Magazine. He didn’t seem to have much influence over the World Chess Federation (FIDE), though, which decided on Friday that he’ll have to play a world championship match on the home turf of his opponent, in India.
Carlsen has been fighting the prospect of the world championships being played in India, calling the venue “most unfortunate.” He and his managers contend the event should have gone out to bid, while others have claimed his opponent, Vishy Anand of India, will have a home turf advantage. Former chess champion Garry Kasparov, who has coached Carlsen, has called the prospect of championship play in India a “scandal.”
The India decision followed news that Time Magazine had placed Carlsen on an elite international list. The US-based magazine claims to have more than 25 million readers around the world every week, and its annual list is considered important in defining the people who have the most influence on a global scale, for better or worse. Among them, for example, is the controversial president of North Korea Kim Jong-un, but also US President Barack Obama.
Carlsen, the 22-year-old former child chess prodigy from a western suburb of Oslo, also joins the likes of film director Steven Spielberg, rapper artist Jay-Z, the founder of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, and the new pope.
Time described Carlsen as a “chess wunderkind,” and Kasparov, asked by Time to write the magazine’s short profile of Carlsen, called him “as charismatic and independent as he is talented.” Kasparov also claimed that after having “the opportunity to train Carlsen” three years ago, he believes the young Norwegian has “an intuitive style” that “conserves the mystique of chess at a time when every CPU-enhanced fan thinks the game is easy.”
Carlsen has been back in London, where he most recently won a major tournament that qualified him to face off against current world champion Anand of India, who won the title at a time when Carlsen had chosen not to compete because of disagreements over regulations. Anand himself had admitted that Carlsen is “probably the favourite” in their upcoming competition set for November, but the Indian venue may now shift the odds.
Carlsen called his inclusion on Time’s list an important international recognition of chess itself, and that he hoped it would further strengthen the position of chess in the world. Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that “Magnus is very honoured to make the list.” Now they’ll need to evaluate whether to attend the magazine’s party for all those listed as being among the most influential.
Jan Egeland, the former peace broker from Norway who made the list in 2006 when he was the UN’s undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, advised Carlsen to “go to the party and have fun” if he has the time. Egeland declined his invitation to attend at the time because of a planned trip to Africa and doesn’t regret that, but said he simply failed to make it a priority.
“I didn’t put so much weight on being on the list at that point,” Egeland told NRK on Friday. “It was afterwards that I understood that other people weighed it more heavily than I did.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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