The following story was sent to us by one of our readers, with the simple accompanying text: For my friends and for chess lovers.
Five years ago – in the autumn of 2008 – I was working as a photographer at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden. A boy came up to me and asked with a noticeable accent: ‘Could you tell me how to get out of here?’ ‘I’ll show you,’ I replied and started to go with him out of the press area. I knew who he was but pretended I had not recognized him. On the way out we chatted a little. I told him I was from Hungary and my 15-year-old son had collected 1800 FIDE Élő points. Of course at the time the 18-year-old kid I was talking to had collected nearly 2800 points and was among the four best chess players in the world. He mumbled something like ‘Well done’, adding that Hungarian chess was very strong compared to the small size of the country. ‘And you’ve added your homeland, Norway, to the map of chess,’ I thought.
When we got to the area open to the public, the boy stopped at a stall selling chess clocks, books and the drawings of the greatest players in the history of chess. To his surprise, among the pictures of Jose Raul Capablanca, Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and others he found the picture of a young man, who was no other than himself, Magnus Carlsen! As he could not remain anonymous any more, I asked him to pick one of the drawings of the chess icons and allow me to take a photo of him with the picture. Carlsen thought for a while, and then chose his own picture. I think with this choice he was telling me that I was taking a photo of a future world champion. He did so modestly, without showing off, but at the same time fully aware of his mission. Strangely enough, when I saw the look in his eyes in the viewfinder of my camera, I started to believe him.
I have never sold or given away this photo as it symbolised his promise for me. And at the end of October – a couple of days before his 23rd birthday – Magnus Carlsen kept his promise. With his brilliant play and unquestionable superiority, he became the 16th (classical) chess world champion, thus making history.
Let us now celebrate together, and let this photo be a Christmas gift for everybody to enjoy. Let it be a present for the children learning the moves, and for their fathers, uncles and grandfathers teaching them. For dilettantes and for professionals. For blitz chess hyenas, for the players in cafes, for those playing in subways to make a living, and for those playing in the thermal pools of baths. For chess trainers, journalists, players with any qualification, and for real amateurs. For internet players, for the keen chess players in parks and squares, for disabled players, and for the girls and women becoming better and better at playing every day. For those who love this game and for those who do not like it (yet). As the motto of FIDE says: GENS UNA SUMUS (We are one people.).
I let this photograph go now. I do not mind if my name is not shown under it. This photo has fulfilled my dream: to catch the moment when a great champion is looking back at us from the past and at the same time the look in his eyes is reflecting the present and anticipating the future.
I cannot and would not like to sell this moment.