Fresh from another victorious tournament, and flush with success from his efforts to promote chess, Norwegian champion Magnus Carlsen was making headlines in Oslo before flying off to New York over the weekend. Carlsen was full of confidence, to the point that he admonished his adversaries.
“Sometimes I think ‘now you guys need to sharpen up!”” Carlsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) with a smile after rolling over such rivals as Fabiano Caruana and Vishy Anand during his most recent tournament in Azerbaijan. Carlsen won Shamkir Chess, and by most accounts mounted one of the best presentations of his career.
Carlsen was grinning from ear to ear and clearly pleased, but at the same time he seemed a bit disappointed in his rivals. He doesn’t understand why his competition isn’t tougher.
“I have thought for many years that more (chess players) would stabilize at a rating over 2800,” Carlsen told NRK. “But that hasn’t happened. I don’t know why.”
He has utterly dominated chess on an international basis for the past several months, long after winning the World Championship title in 2013 and defending it successfully last fall. He has won all the tournaments he has entered, and his personal rating has soared to what NRK called an “astronomical” 2876. He remains well ahead of his closest challengers.
Just a few months ago, some of them also had ratings over 2800. Now the world’s chess elite collectively are lying around 70 points behind Carlsen of Norway. “Folks are unstable, and I don’t know why,” Carlsen said.
Meanwhile he was enjoying his latest triumph and making various personal appearances back home in Norway, all with the aim of promoting chess and getting more and more young people to play. He didn’t lose a single game at the major tournament in Azerbaijan and his excellent performance clearly inspired his fans. Crowds turned out to see him in action and stood in line to get his autograph at a promotional event in Oslo last week. His app “Play Magnus” has been downloaded around half-a-million times, by people in every country on the planet.
He’s now a veritable missionary for chess, claiming that “I want as many people as possible to share my joy of chess.” He thinks chess doesn’t only spread joy and fascination but also “stimulates the brain.” That, in Carlsen’s own brain, can only be a good thing.
On Sunday he flew to New York, where he’ll join efforts to promote chess in the schools. The now-24-year-old chess genius will also play on teams with several top business leaders and entrepreneurs in the US.
Then he’ll head home again, for the Norway Chess tournament in June and perhaps some summer holiday. Other events on his professional program this year include the Sinquefield Cup in August, the World Championships in lightning chess in October and the London Chess Classic in December.
“It’s very important for me to feel that I’m also continuing to develop and learn,” Carlsen told newspaper Aftenposten. “Then it’s easier to stay motivated.”