Norway’s Magnus Carlsen secured the chess world’s triple crown again on Monday, when he won the World Blitz Championship in Moscow. He’d also won the World Rapid Chess Championship over the weekend, and could finally grin from ear to ear.
They were the perfect late Christmas gifts to the 29-year-old Norwegian who’s grown accustomed to not being home for the holidays. He’d flown to Moscow on Christmas Day, with newspaper Aftenposten reporting how his holiday tradition involves hard work and a battle for medals.
“Now there have been so many Christmases in a row that I’m out traveling, that any real Christmas traditions are pretty much gone,” Carlsen told Aftenposten last week. “I haven’t really been a Christmas person for a long time anyway, so it suits me fine to be away.”
Especially when he does well, and he did so indeed. He claimed his 11th world championship title on Saturday, when he won the World Rapid Chess Championship for the first time in four years. He started off well, had an advantage over his rivals after the first few days and finished up his work in the last five games.
Carlsen called it a “relief” after being unfortunate in rapid chess “so many years in a row.” He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that it was “really, really great” to reclaim the rapid chess champ title after leading the tournament after his first four games. He just needed to avoid a loss against Hikaru Nakamura of the US, and then he said that he met rivals “who needed to beat me, and I exploited that. I liked playing with the lead I had and it went very well.” Carlsen, who can be his own worst critic, declared himself “very satisfied” with his own performance.
His ever-present father Henrik Carlsen was also mighty pleased, and proud. “I’m very proud that he has delivered such a good sports presentation,” the chess champ’s father told NRK on Saturday. “I think he delivered at all levels. Now he can head into the blitz games and have fun.”
He did. The blitz competition followed quickly on Sunday and he successfully defended the title he won last year as well. That means he now holds all three World Championship titles in chess and he was unusually jubilant in Moscow Monday evening, leaning back in his chair, raising both arms in the air and cheering.
“It’s an enormous relief,” Carlsen told NRK. After a remis (tie) earlier in the day, and even a move he didn’t mean to make, Carlsen dominated the next round against Nakamura and soon it was all over. “It’s been a very tough day,” Carlsen said. “I sat there completely paralyzed (after his mistake) and thought, ‘what happens now?'” It turned out not to be much of a mistake after all.
Now Carlsen is ranked number-one in all branches of chess, and already has won 12 World Championship titles. Nakaruma took the silver, and veteran Russian player Vladimir Kramnik won bronze.