Carlsen in Die Zeit: "I am not disciplined"

Carlsen in Die Zeit: "I am not disciplined"

| 27 | Chess Event Coverage

The Anand-Carlsen match starts in less than nine days. Besides the online interview with Vishy Anand, the major German newspaper Die Zeit also published something about his opponent Magnus Carlsen this week. It's not available online but you can find it in the kiosks, because it is in the weekly magazine of the newspaper: ZEIT Magazin. Spread over nine pages, (four of them with beautiful black & white photos), the German readers get a thorough introduction to the phenomenon Magnus Carlsen.

Photo © Leasha Overturf courtesy of Die Zeit

Like the Anand interview, the article Der Schnellste Kopf (the fastest mind) was done by Ulrich Stock, who spoke to Carlsen in September in Oslo. Stock reveals that it took him six months (!) to arrange an interview with his subject. 

We would agree on a date, it would be postponed, and postponed again (...).

Carlsen's manager Espen Agdestein once said that he receives dozens of interview requests each day. It's hard to believe (we're talking about chess!) but maybe it's true...

The conversation doesn't seem to go smoothly. Stock notes that Carlsen "doesn't really try to be friendly".

His displeasure hits me with full force. He says only the most necessary, in English, slowly and quietly, and he restrains himself. He answers every question, but a conversation is not there. (...) When, at one moment, I have to think about a question, we sit there and it's all quiet. It is awful.

It's visible from the article that the interview didn't take as long as Stock had hoped for; the introduction to the actual interview takes about 2/3 of the total text. It's still interesting, as it describes the press day in Oslo where Carlsen also did a photoshoot. 

Being photographed seems easier for him to do than talking.

Stock also speaks with "the eternal number two of Norway", Jon Ludvig Hammer, who most probably is part of Carlsen's team. Stock:

To what extent Hammer can help Carlsen at chess, is unclear. Actually nobody really knows what Carlsen's preparation really is about, except that it will involve lots of sleeping. Everybody agrees that Carlsen sleeps a lot.

Just before the actual interview starts, it becomes clear that in Oslo, Stock became victim of a misconception that is very common. Many people say that Carlsen is often bored and uninterested, at opening or closing ceremonies, or even during games. However, in reality Carlsen may look bored, but he could be thinking about his answers, or his moves, at that point. Appearance deceives. Stock:

When I listen to the interview, a few days after our unfortunate meeting, I'm perplexed. It sounds completely different than how I experienced it. The grim, the unwilling, the annoyed, it's all gone. His answers are to the point and excellent. Why couldn't I notice this during the conversation? Imagine what kind of wrong observations and misinterpretations an opponent must be dealing with when he has to play against [Carlsen]!

Obviously we cannot reproduce the interview here.

— Update: it's now available online. —

But the start seems to summarize Carlsen's approach to chess nicely:

How much disciplin does one need, to become a World Champion?

In my life I am not very disciplined, but I am behind the board. I believe that you can also become World Champion with the attitude that chess is fun.

Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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