Magnus Carlsen was smiling again after winning the World Blitz Chess Championship and becoming historic once again: Carlsen is the first to ever win without a single loss in the high-speed chess tournament, and he became the first man ever to win four World Championship titles in the game’s fastest discipline.
“I’m very glad I didn’t lose in this championship round,” Carlsen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), after he’d placed a surprisingly lowly fifth in the Rapid Chess Championship last week. “This is a cool record to have.”
It’s Carlsen’s 10th World Champion title, spread over the classic, rapid and blitz chess disciplines. It didn’t come without drama, however: Carlsen’s opponent towards the end of play on Sunday was the Russian blitz chess specialist Jan Nepomnjasjtsjij, and the title was at stake. But in what commentators called an “absurd” turn of events, Carlsen found himself sitting at the chess board alone, waiting for Nepomnjasjtsjij. The Russian player was sitting in the press center relaxing, he later explained, where there was no TV monitor and he simply lost track of the time.
‘A little nervous’
Carlsen was praised for his sportsmanship, asking the judge not to start the clock without Nepomnjasjtsjij in place. “I didn’t want to win that way,” Carlsen told NRK. “If I had, it would have raised questions. If I lost, it would be embarrassing. A short remis (tie) was the lesser of two evils.” Nepomnjasjtsjij confirmed he offered the remis after showing up a minute-and-a-half late for play that only lasts three minutes. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the two have known each other since childhood and are good friends.
Carlsen went on to beat Anton Korobov in the last round and thus secured the blitz championship title, which adds to a lucrative year. Aftenposten reported that the 28-year-old has now earned more than NOK 7 million playing chess this year. He could travel home from the rapid- and blitz-chess tournament in St Petersburg with a Christmas-New Year’s bonus of around NOK 840,000 (nearly USD 100,000).
“I was a little nervous during the last games,” Carlsen told NRK. “I had a lot of energy in the beginning, but it’s difficult to be geared up all the time. It was difficult in the last round also.”
Not in it for the money
Carlsen also continues to earn millions on his business and sponsor agreements, but his winnings alone were strong in 2018 after winning the Tata Steel Chess tournament, placing first in Shamkir Chess, sharing second place in Norway Chess, sharing first place in the Sinquefield Cup and then crowning it all by winning the World Championship title in classic chess once again in London last month. He also won other tournaments where the winnings weren’t revealed.
He continues to stress that he doesn’t play chess for the money. “In the beginning, the money was more important,” Carlsen’s long-time manager Espen Agdestein told Aftenposten in November. “You have to earn income. Not that’s not as important now.”
Carlsen is expected to earn well in the New Year, too. He’ll start the year with the Tata Steel Chess tournament in January, with a busy program after that.