Norway’s new chess champion Magnus Carlsen has spent the past few weeks at the World Chess Championships in India surrounded by members of his “Team Carlsen,” including his father, his manager, a doctor, cook and security chief. They all could finally relax a bit during the weekend, and sum up what led to Carlsen’s smashing success.
“I remember the start, that I was a bit nervous and uncomfortable,” Carlsen himself told newspaper Aftenposten after clinching the most vaunted title among the world’s 600 million chess players. “That’s not a good memory.” But as Carlsen said during the press conference just after his victory, “during games three and four, I sensed he (his opponent and defending world challenger Vishy Anand) was vulnerable. I just started playing to win.”
It was especially during the fourth game, Carlsen said, that “I managed to settle in. Game Four gave me a very good feeling.” He told Aftenposten over the weekend that “I remember that feeling from game four, it was incredibly good. Then I was completely certain I would come to win.”
His father Henrik, who was the first to nurture his son’s talent when he was still a little boy, agreed that games three and four marked a turning point. “The beginning was intense,” he told Aftenposten. “When Magnus was pressured in the third round we felt it was a critical point. Anand hit the emergency brakes and took a draw, we felt that was very good news. Magnus said that ‘if Anand didn’t have the self-confidence to play out a better position, then I’m the favourite.’ That made an impression.”
Henrik Carlsen, whom daughter Ingrid has called “the world’s proudest papa,” also said he’ll remember how the Hyatt Regency Hotel and the arrangers of the championships in Chennai, India “made us feel welcome” and did such a good job as organizers. “The fear that they would exploit the home turf advantage (for Anand) proved to be unfounded,” Carlsen said.
He added that his son seemed especially happy and comfortable. “He sat in the dining room for several hours during dinner, for example, much more than he usually does,” Henrik Carlsen said, calling the match “a role model for future matches, because things have functioned so well.”
‘Lots of laughter’
Magnus Forsell, a professional cook who was an important part of the team during the championships in India, confirmed that “good humour” and “lots of laughter” characterized the Norwegian team’s weeks in India. “We’ve had a lot of fun here,” Forsell said, noting that they often played ping pong (table tennis) along with basketball, football, badminton and volleyball between chess games to relax. “We haven’t only been serous,” he told Aftenposten. He admitted they’d lived a rather “hermitically sealed” existence in India and that he made sure Magnus got “a solid brunch” every day. “I’ve chosen and made things he likes to eat,” Forsell said, with one rather lengthy dinner consisting of medium rare filet mignon with potatoes, lots of vegetables and gorgonzola sauce.
Carlsen’s doctor, Brede Krisvik, and security chief Bjørn Gunnar Nesse, were also pleased with how the championship played out, even though Nesse got nervous when Carlsen was subjected to a crush of reporters right after winning on Friday. “We really had to push our way through,” Nesse said. Krisvik said his most important task was to get Carlsen to constantly wash his hands. “He caught a bit of a cold during the last part of the match,” Krisvik revealed. To keep him at “maximum performance level,” Kvisvik said “we had to set up a routine as to when he’d take a Paracet and when he should do other things, but it all went very well and his head performed well regardless.”
Maintaining ‘positive energy’
Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein, from a family of chess experts himself, said he’ll best remember the enormous interest in the match. “It’s really been something to follow the media from all over the world,” he told Aftenposten. It was also a huge challenge for him to handle the hundreds of media requests pouring in.
Agdestein said the most important thing, though, “was for Magnus to feel relaxed, be in good humour and have positive energy. Everyone had tasks to make things easier for Magnus. Food needed to be on the table when he came, that he had someone to escort him from his room, things like that.”
Carlsen seemed grateful for all the help and attention, and also highly praised the organizers and hosts in India. As for his immediate plans, he repeated that “I first and foremost want to try to enjoy the title a bit, and then I’ll think about what will happen next.”