UPDATED: Chess world champion Magnus Carlsen, full of confidence heading into the Chess Olympiad that’s playing out in Tromsø these days, faced up to his first shocking loss at the large international tournament over the weekend not face-to-face with reporters but with a message on his Facebook page Saturday night. It came hours after he lost to Arkadij Naiditsch of Germany, but then he redeemed himself later on Sunday afternoon.
Carlsen called his loss a “devastating defeat,” which caused Norway to lose to Germany by a score of 1.5 to Germany’s 2.5. Carlsen’s Norwegian teammates Simen Agdestein, Kjetil Lie and Jon Hammer all played remis against their German opponents, so Carlsen’s loss to the much-lower-rated Naiditsch tipped the balance and left the Norwegians with another loss.
Carlsen added that he was “gutted to have ruined a fine defensive performance by our team.” He’d had the advantage of playing with white chess pieces and commentators said he’d seemed poised to win the match but then made several mistakes. He held out in an attempt to play remis (tie), but lost in the end to Naiditsch, who could chalk up the rare achievement of having beaten the world’s top-ranked chess player and world champion.
“He began to panic,” a surprised but pleased Naiditsch told reporters, adding that it was unusual to see Carlsen get “so nervous.”
Carlsen was so upset by his loss that he refused to talk with reporters afterwards and immediately headed for his hotel. Both Carlsen’s teammates and fans defended him and tried to cheer him up. “You can’t be disappointed over Magnus,” Agdestein, who tied his match against Daniel Fridman, told reporters after the match. “He makes fantastic miracles all the time. It can’t happen every time.”
Agdestein, who coached Carlsen when he was younger, admitted that the team’s tactic is that Carlsen is supposed to win while they at least play remis, “but now it went the opposite way. I suspect he was in good position, but then made an error.”
Lie, who was up against David Baramidze of Germany, was also quick to defend Carlsen after achieving what Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) an “extremely strong” result against Baramidze. “We’re all so used to seeing Magnus win, and have great expectations,” Lie told NRK. “But we must of course also accept that Magnus can have bad days.”
His fans were full of sympathy and support on his Facebook page, urging him to “just shake this off” or to “hang in there,” not least since “we all know that you’re merciless after you seldom lose.”
That left them all eagerly awaiting Sunday’s match, when Norway faced Bosnia & Herzegovina. Carlsen himself wrote that he was “looking to strike back fast as lightning” when play got underway Sunday afternoon. He did, beating his opponent Borkij Predojevic at the same time his teammates Agdestein and Hammer won as well, while Lie lost to Bosnia’s Denis Kadric. The result gave the Norwegians a 3-1 score against Bosnia late Sunday afternoon, putting them back in the running for what Carlsen called “good placement” when the Chess Olympiad ends on August 14.