Some of his followers said they’d never seen Norwegian chess champ Magnus Carlsen so happy. “I am really exhausted but I’m frightfully relieved and frightfully glad,” Carlsen told Norwegian reporters, using the Norwegian word “fryktelig” after finally winning his first game at the World Chess Championship in New York.
Carlsen had all but frightened his fans, his family and even himself after not only failing to win a game but also losing to his Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin on Monday night. That led to some bad behaviour that sparked criticism and resulted in a hefty fine.
All that seemed forgotten after Wednesday’s Game 9 ended in a dramatic draw and Thursday’s ended with Carlsen winning. He’s not out of the woods yet, with the score tied at 5-5 after 10 games, but at least he was grinning from ear to ear.
“Things look differently now,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after the latest lengthy game that played out for seven hours. Carlsen admitted there were “many upturns and downturns” throughout it, as Karjakin again proved to be a tough opponent. “It wasn’t easy,” Carlsen said, adding that he was looking forward to a day off on Friday before play resumes on Saturday with another two intense games on the championship program.
For details on Game 10 itself, click here (external link) for organizer World Chess.com’s coverage.
Many chess experts were worrying about Carlsen earlier this week, and even his father Henrik Carlsen admitted to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten that “we had to do something” after his son lost and angrily stomped out of an obligatory press conference. Attention reverted to what Aftenposten called “the art of clearing Carlsen’s head,” which is full of chess and chess moves at all times.
“Getting over a game is a huge problem for chess players,” said Atle Grønn, Aftenposten’s chess columnist. Carlsen reportedly is good, however, at cleaning his mind of chess moves from the last game and moving on to the next.
His family plays an important role in that process. Both his sister Ellen and his father are among those with him in New York and they help him relax. Just having them around provides him with support and a sense of security.
Board games and basketball
Ellen Carlsen said earlier this week that they played the board game Avalon, which is based on strategy and reasoning, at the hotel where they’re staying. Carlsen also unwinds by playing basketball or football, something that helped a lot at the last World Championship in Sochi. His options for such outdoor sports are more limited at the tournament taking place in New York City, but he got some exercise and reportedly managed to relax. He admitted himself on Thursday, though, after the game was over, that he had not slept well before it.
The stress and disappointment of Monday’s loss took its toll. “This hasn’t been so fryktelig easy,” Carlsen told NRK. “I have been very down in the dumps. It’s been an ordeal.” He said that the loss “left me in a reasonably desperate situation. I hadn’t won in nine games, which has never happened to me before. Yesterday I didn’t manage to sleep well.”
His father had earlier told Aftenposten that “Magnus is generally a good sleeper, but all top chess players have certain challenges with sleep in important tournaments and important matches. I think Magnus has otherwise slept pretty well in the most recent tournaments.” He was likely to sleep much better heading into Game 11.