11-0 Sweep For Carlsen At Play Live Challenge

11-0 Sweep For Carlsen At Play Live Challenge

| 21 | Chess Players

With the Play Live Challenge on Thursday as the highlight, this week GM Magnus Carlsen is touring the east coast of the U.S. where he is playing lawyers and ambassadors and attending the Queen of Katwe Premiere. GM Jon Ludvig Hammer reports from New York.

Carlsen at IS 318 as Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg watches| Photo Cara Metz.

It’s only seven more weeks until the World Championship begins in New York. This week, reigning champion Magnus Carlsen is on a tour of the east coast of the U.S. It has been a busy week for him: In addition to inspecting the playing venue—most of which is still under construction—Carlsen has been...

...playing lawyers in Washington D.C. 

At the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Carlsen defeated 18 lawyers. Carlsen's sponsor (one of them anyway) Simonsen Vogt Wiig hosted the event (the fourth that Carlsen has attended) on the occasion of the 2016 IBA Conference.

...challenging ambassadors

Norway's ambassador to the United States, Kare R. Aas, also hosted an event where Carlsen played an illustrious set of opponents, ambassadors this time.

...seeing the new Queen of Katwe movie

This week also saw the U.S. premiere of Disney's Queen of Katwe, the film about Phiona Mutesi's rise from the slums of Kampala, Uganda to her first trip on an airplane—to Siberia for the 2010 Olympiad (The New York Times: "irresistible"). Carlsen met with the young Ugandan chess player on whom the movie is based.

...visiting Brooklyn's public school I.S. 318

On Friday, Carlsen visited I.S. 318 together with the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. This public school has had tremendous success with its chess program—the critically-acclaimed documentary Brooklyn Castle tells their story. The event was streamed live on Carlsen's Facebook page.

Play Live Challenge

However, Carlsen's main motivation for the trip was the Play Live Challenge. The event featured 11 players from around the world who were invited to try their luck against Carlsen in a simultaneous exhibition. The participants were selected from a pool of top-performing players on the PlayMagnus app.

With lots of practice in the app, these were certainly good club players. One, Gustav Gudbrandsen from Norway, is even a FIDE Master! Would they be cunning enough to get one upset from the 11 boards?

Carlsen warmed up with a tandem game against U.S. number-one Fabiano Caruana. The event’s location was the Liberty Science Center outside Manhattan, a museum designed to inspire young people to get curious about the sciences. The Science Center is also the sponsor of Caruana, which explains why two of the world’s top players made the day memorable for all those present.

I was there as an expert commentator for the Norwegian newspaper and broadcaster VG. This company has sponsored Carlsen for several years now and relayed the event with much fanfare back in Norway. At the same time, they made the event accessible to an international audience by doing the broadcast in English.

Televised chess has become surprisingly popular in Norway, but the simul format was a first. Naturally we were very curious about how the chess community and viewers back in Norway would welcome the event. With 130K views currently on Facebook, in addition to those at VG's own website, I get the impression the bosses are happy.

Before we started, I chatted with some of the simul players. To my surprise, it seemed they had not coordinated a strategy against the world champion. Naturally, the chess portion is always going to be extremely tricky when playing Magnus—I know that from personal experiencebut the chance of one upset lies in being cynical about the clock.

Rule number one: Never resign. You may feel it’s impolite to play on with a piece down against the number-one player of the world, but by not resigning, you are helping the other players of the group. Those 10-30 seconds Carlsen will need to checkmate is multiplied: 30 seconds spent at your game means 30 seconds lost on the other running clocks.

Rule number two: Never make your move when Carlsen is next to the board. Even if you have your move ready, you should wait until he’s two or three boards away. You’re allowed to be coy when working together with your teammates to stress the simul-holder on time.

Watch VG's broadcast of the Play Live Challenge:

The simul itself went surprisingly smoothly for Carlsen. He looked very relaxed from the get-go, something I thought would land him in time trouble, but instead he took a solid grip on all the positions from the opening. In the end, it was the world champion who pressured his opponents on the clock (the players had 30 minutes each). He never went below nine minutes! The 11 wins were never in doubt.

However, for chess enthusiasts, the simul itself was not the highlight. Afterwards Magnus sat down with every single player to do a quick personal post-mortem. As a result, there is half an hour of unique footage with the world number-one sharing how he thinks about chess is now available online! Go to 1:09:00 for the analysis in the video above.

Update 24 September: Carlsen had another, most remarkable activity in the U.S. In the photo below he is on the same table with Henry Kissinger and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey. Carlsen was invited by Michael Bloomberg, who is a big chess fan. 

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