Magnus Carlsen on The Colbert Report: the new grandmaster of rock-paper-scissors

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Last night Magnus Carlsen appeared in The Colbert Report. The Norwegian grandmaster was Stephen Colbert's special guest during the second half of the show, and talked about himself, his approach to chess and Bobby Fischer. He also became a grandmaster in a whole new discipline: rock-paper-scissors!

As we reported earlier this month, Magnus Carlsen was the special guest in The Colbert Report last night. This show, which airs Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central, stars political humorist Stephen Colbert, a former correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Big celebrities like Barack Obama and Paul McCartney have previously been guests of Colbert, but also Garry Kasparov, back in 2007.

Before the show, Carlsen tweeted:

Really excited to be on @ColbertReport today. Will try not to do anything really stupid, like missing a penalty

obviously referring to the Barcelona-Chelsea football match in which star player Lionel Messi took a penalty but hit the bar last night, failing to bring the score to 3-1.

After the second commercial break, Colbert traditionally has a guest in a separate part of the studio. Last night this was Magnus Carlsen.

Below we'll give a transcript and some screen shots.

Steven Colbert: My guest tonight is currently the number one ranked chess player in the world. I'm gonna ask him what the little horsy does. Please welcome Magnus Carlsen!

SC: Magnus... thank you so much for coming on. Honored to meet you... [Changing tone.] Magnus Carlsen. [Carlsen smiles.] We're not so different, you and I. We're both geniuses, number one in our field and both very young.

Magnus Carlsen: I can say that too!

SC: Yes. Now you are the third youngest grandmaster of all time. And you were the youngest, aged nineteen, the youngest number one chess player in the world. [Applause.] How old were you when you started playing?

MC: I was about eight.

SC: Eight years old. And by the time you were thirteen you were a grandmaster. What was the affinity you had for chess from the beginning?

MC: I don't know. I just started playing and I liked the game, so I started studying a lot.

SC: But a lot of people like the game. What do you see when you look at a chessboard. Are you seeing, like, you know, little wooden pieces on a board or are you seeing some sort of 4th dimensional tesseracts. Do the pieces turn to you in your mind and say 'move me Magnus'? [Carlsen smiles.] Do you see the board differently than a normal, average, not-genius?

MC: Ehm... no, not really. I just see the board, the pieces, everything and then obviously I think of patterns, what to do next and so on, but the pieces, in general, they're just tools to me.

SC: So they don't talk to you.

MC: No, not...

SC: Not too much?

MC: Not too much, no.

SC: Now you're not just a chess player, you've also done a little bit of modeling. [Photos of Carlsen's G-Star campaign are shown. Cheering in the audience.]

That might be the sexiest chess player I've ever seen. [Laughter, Carlsen smiles.]

In Europe, where they love the chess, you're a superstar, right?

MC: Especially in Norway.

SC: OK, in Norway you've two big sports. You've got chess and, erm... sadness. It's an indoor sport, chess. Does that help in Norway, since you've got the long winters?

MC: Probably. I guess in Norway when it's cold and dark outside people... need something to do.

SC: Do you have any special move, do you psych out your opponent? Like, do you get up and walk around or anything like that?

MC: Yeah, I do sometimes get up and walk around...

SC: And does that psych out the opponent?

MC: No, that's usually just because I'm bored.

[Laughter.]

SC: Really, you're so good that you're mostly bored in competition.

When you win, do you have, like, a special move, do you, like, spike the bishop and go 'how ya like me now'?

MC: No, not really, I just try to be as respectful as possible to my opponents.

SC: What do you think of Bobby Fischer. He was our great champion. He went... the crazy. Is there a fear that that would happen, that you would think about chess too much and you will lose... your mind?

MC: No, I mean...

SC: Really? Do you like Fischer?

MC: Yes, absolutely. He was one of the greatest players of all time. It's impossible not to like his chess, I mean you can say whatever you want about him as a person but as a chess player I cannot help but admire him greatly.

SC: Any time I have a guest who is a competitor, I don't let them leave this building without competing with them.

I'm a grandmaster of my own, I am the second youngest grandmaster of rock-paper-scissors of all time. Would you play me best two out of three?

MC: Of course!

SC: OK, alright, let's be clear here. It's one-two-three 'shoot', you don't shoot on the third, it's one-two-three and then you shoot. OK, ready?

MC: I don't have to say 'shoot', right?

SC: No, I'll say 'shoot'.  OK, are you ready?

MC: Yes.

[Slight pause.]

SC: How are you strategizing right now? [Laughter.] Because I've got a strategy already, I'm seeing like twenty steps ahead. And there's only one step!

MC: For me it's a hundred percent random.

SC: See, you have no opening.

MC: Yes. I'm not a grandmaster.

SC: OK ready? One-two-three shoot.

ONE, TWO, THREE, SHOOT!

SC: [Bleep. Laughter.] OK, two out of three, two out of three!

ONE, TWO, THREE, SHOOT!

[Bleep. Colbert steps away from the table, laughter, cheering, Carlsen smiles. Colbert comes back and sits down.]

Magnus Carlsen, thank you so much. The new grandmaster of rock-paper-scissors, Magnus Carlsen!

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