After logging a decisive victory over his challenger Vishy Anand on Sunday, Norway’s World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen was satisfied enough that he took time to sign some autographs. Then he could enjoy a day off on Monday after the weekend’s opening of the latest world championship competition in Sochi, Russia.
Carlsen wasn’t resting on his laurels, though, and is acutely aware that he still has a long way to go to defend his title. After calling it a draw with Anand on Saturday during opening play, Carlsen retreated into the bubble that usually surrounds him during high-pressure competition, only to burst out of it triumphantly on Sunday.
Newspaper Aftenposten provided some insight into a typical day in the life of Norway’s young chess sensation. It’s already well-known that he often relaxes with high-action physical sports like football (soccer) and basketball, or hiking in the mountains when he’s back home in Norway. He also did some skiing while warming up for championship play in Sochi in the Swiss Alps in recent weeks.
Now, with competition beginning at 3pm local time time in Sochi, Carlsen is proving himself to be quite the night owl. Aftenposten reported that he likes to get up, eat breakfast and head for work like most normal people, but with his work starting late in the afternoon, Carlsen generally doesn’t get out of bed until around noon. That’s because he likes to get up just a few hours before play begins.
At around 1pm, his personal cook, Magnus Forssel, prepares a hearty breakfast with food that Carlsen likes. Often an omelette, for example.
Then he and his team make a few final preparations for the day’s match, rarely arriving at the chess board until just before play is scheduled to begin. “Magnus hates to wait,” his manager, Espen Agdestein, told Aftenposten.
The matches generally last several hours, ending in the evening. Then there’s an obligatory press conference before Carlsen can disappear from public view again. And that’s when he ends up staying up late. Aftenposten noted that the lights were on in his 8th-floor suite at the Radisson Blu Paradisse Hotel in Sochi until well into the night.
“It’s not always easy to sleep after a match,” Agdestein said. Then Carlsen will gladly relax by watching either a football or NBA basketball match, by playing a computer game or watching a movie. Dinner is normally served around 8pm, again prepared by his cook Forssel. Team Carlsen has its own reserved area of the hotel restaurant where its members can eat in peace.
Chess brain gets a rest
From 9pm until whenever he gets tired, his chess brain gets a rest, according to Agdestein. That’s when the sports matches or movies can take over. “Magnus has a so-called game pass to watch NBA basketball online,” Agdestein said. Then he can watch his favourite teams when it suits him. “He loves chess, but it’s important he has some other interests and a life alongside chess,” Agdestein said.
Carlsen’s daily late-night routine in Sochi is likely to continue, to provide a sense of stability as well. On Sunday, blared Norwegian headlines, he showed Anand and the rest of the world who was still the world’s king of chess. Anand gave up after 35 moves that took nearly four hours.
That left Magnus ahead in the championship round so far by a score of 1.5 to 0.5, after Saturday’s play ended in remis. The first of the two to reach 6.5 points wins the championship, as play continues over the next week or two. It was due to resume on Tuesday.