Norwegian chess grandmaster and the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen, who is taking part in the Tata Steel Chess India - Rapid & Blitz tournament in Kolkata along with nine other top grandmasters of the sport including Vishwanathan Anand, is looking to garner maximum points before he goes on to play the finals of the Grand Chess Tour in London later this month.
Kolkata is the only Asian stop and the penultimate leg of the Tour. A day before the players made their first move on the chess board and draw of lots took place, Carlsen spoke exclusively to News18's Sougata Mukhopadhyay. Here are the excerpts.
News18: You are number 1 in all formats of chess. But which one do you personally enjoy most?
Magnus Carlsen: I think the format I like most is the format I am playing in at that very moment. Right now I am very happy to be playing these faster games, the Rapid and Blitz here in India. I've had a year where I played very well in the longer classical format, but not so well in the Rapid & Blitz. So I feel this is my chance to prove that I am still the guy to beat.
N18: Do you think the shorter formats would make chess more popular with spectators?
MS: I think coming to the country which cut down the length of cricket matches and it became even more popular, I think yes, that's something that should be done in chess. I don't think that the longer games should be abolished by any means at the top level, but I think more and more Rapid & Blitz is healthier for chess.
N18: The brand of chess you are widely seen as promoting is one that combines brain with brawn: a more physical contest where you like to drag out match games and wait for opponents to make unforced errors out of fatigue. Do you agree with that view?
MS: I wouldn't necessarily agree with that notion. I'd say that I try to land the first punch when we play and my attitude is more of, well, if the game drags on and at some point if you don't see a way to win you have to be patient and then it's better to drag it out. I think that perception of me is slightly mistaken since I also win a lot of games faster and I don't think you get to be a world class player by being one dimensional, by only winning in one way.
N18: Do you see yourself as changing the sport once and for all, being the biggest chess icon of recent times? Do you have support of other players in this pursuit?
MS: I don't think I have the support of any other players. In general, they want to dethrone me (laughs). First of all I try to do what I do best which is to play chess. For me every thing else is secondary. So I just focus on trying to get better and I leave it to others to judge whether my contributions are making any impact at all or not.
N18: It may be too early to talk about your legacy. But still, do you see a more competitive and transformed chess as something you would like to be remembered for?
MS: I don't want to be remembered. I want to be something for as long as possible (chuckles). I don't really want to think about legacy or anything like that. I feel like I still have so much to give and whatever way people remember me, I will be fine by that. It's not something I think about at the moment.
N18: Who has been your biggest opponent?
MS: It's very hard to say but obviously Anand, in the historical context... he was the world champion before me. And although right now there are players who are better than Anand, but in the historical context there is nobody who can compare (with Anand).
N18: Which competition to your mind brought out the best in you?
MS: I find that very hard to say because whenever I play a game, I am usually more focussed on the things that I did wrong, things where I can improve rather than the things that have gone well. So I wouldn't say that I can remember even a single game which felt like there I did my best (smiles).
N18: What are your pursuits outside chess?
MS: I have no particular ambitions outside of chess. I would say I would like to try and lead a normal life and be happy, I guess (smiles).
N18: What would be your advice to youngsters on how to deal with losses and setbacks?
MS: I would say never give up hope. I think confidence and belief in yourself is very important in chess. When I was little, I had setbacks at times... there was a year when I was 13 or 14 where I not only didn't make progress, I actually regressed a bit in terms of rating and results, but I never gave up hope. So the next game and the next tournament, it's always going to turn around. As a matter of fact I was probably a bit delusional because I wasn't very likely to turn around. But I think that as long as you don't give up hope, eventually you're going to get there. I would say to young players there is always another game, always another tournament, there are always more chances. So never give up hope.