Interview With World Champion Magnus Carlsen by NKR: The Concluding Part

Magnus Carlsen

We bring you the concluding part of the Magnus Carlsen interview with NRK, graciously translated for us by chess journalist Tarjei J. Svensen of Norway. It continues:

Carlsen asked about joining events during tournaments, such as the cooking competition during #NorwayChess: «Most of the time it’s just nice, but it depends on my state of mind, how the tournament is going. If it goes well, it’s more ‘go with the flow’»

Carlsen on the cooking competition in Norway Chess: «Wesley proved to be a surprisingly good partner in the cooking competition, so it was great after all, even though my attitude from the start was like ….<makes sigh sound>. But it was a super experience.»

Carlsen says it’s important for him not to be too relaxed during tournaments, because it can make you lack the necessary «punch» needed to win every game. «You can’t think too much about results either, have to try to have fun while at the same time being sharpened.»

«In the last tournament in Dubai, I was in the zone. I felt quite invincible, but I.didn’t really think I would beat the 2600’s. But I didn’t see how they would beat me. It was a great time with few things to worry about and youthful courage!»
«The next year I didn’t have the feeling that I had something to win, but I was more disappointed that I didn’t perform as a super grandmaster. It was perhaps an unrealistic expectation, because it’s harder to be stable when you are young.»

Carlsen talking about the rising chess interest in Norway. Once he was out and met some random chess fan he had never seen before. He was asked about the games that day from the Poikovsky tournament, in which Carlsen himself had not yet seen. But the fan had!
Carlsen: «Back in the old days chess enthusiasts in Norway used to know each other, and if you didn’t know them, they didn’t really follow chess. But it’s very nice to see that is not the case any more and the level of knowledge now is impressive.»
Carlsen very fond of football, basketball etc. «You see more and more during tournaments that players take physical fitness seriously. Now you see Caruana taking 20 hang-ups in Tufteparken in Stavanger, and Nakamura running around Stokkavannet, and MVL 10 km on the trademill.»
Carlsen: «Players are much more conscious about this <physical fitness> than a few years ago, and this is something I take some credit for. It’s a good thing that players are more professional, which leads to higher quality.»

Now on #CarlsenKarjakin: «1st & 2nd game nothing happened, 3rd game I had winning chances, 4th even more winning chances. It was a combination of good defence and that I lost concentration in the most important moment, which is a scandal after so much preparation.»
Carlsen says he wasn’t very worried after first 4 games <not converting vs Karjakin>, because he thought he was outplaying him. Then some draws followed. Says he tends to lose energy after «boring draws». «It tires you out mentally, because you don’t get to play any chess»
Carlsen says Karjakin succeeded in «killing some of the life in the match» with the draws. In the 8th game, in which he lost, he said he absolutely had no fear of losing. «Then I went too far. Suddenly I realized I could actually lose it. I froze.»
«I wasn’t mentally prepared to lose that game, because I had not been in trouble in any game. Either we had an early draw, or I had put pressure on him….» «….after the 8th game I was pretty down»
Carlsen said at that point he started to think what he would do if he lost the title: «How can I show up at a tournament now without the WC title?»

Carlsen talks about how privileged he is having the title, «it’s a dream for so many people around the world», but says he thinks it was easier before when he didn’t play the WC’s: «Back then I didn’t think much about the WC title, I knew someone had it, but I knew I was better»

Then Carlsen talks about how he felt when he realized he could actually lose it, and the worst was «the feeling that Karjakin would get it, I almost didn’t know how I would be able to live with that.»
Carlsen eventually tied the match with Karjakin by winning game 10: «Who knows? If I hadn’t won the 10th game, I would probably not have managed it.»
«After the 10th game, I wasn’t that worried anymore. Because I was back in the match, and I could play solidly with black. I held a draw quite easily in game 11. So I just told my guys that, this 12th game….<laugh>. There won’t be much of a game.»
Carlsen: «I told Peter to not waste his time preparing, because it will be a short draw and we will look forward to tiebreaks.»
«I very much believed that the tiebreaks would be fun, and I had passed the ‘bump’ and started looking forward.»
«Suddenly Karjakin had something to lose. I believe he went into the match not really believing he would win it, but that he at least would do his best»
Carlsen says he thinks it must’ve been difficult for Karjakin to adapt after losing the lead, while he himself had been «resurrected from the dead». «It was a much better situation for me from a psychological standpoint».

Now on to #CarlsenCaruana: «He is a calm and rather uncomplicated type, a nice guy. His playing style is very concrete. He calculates very, very well and deep. He is well prepared. And he loves the center!»
Carlsen: «Caruana often sacrifices pawns, gives his opponents passed pawns, accepts attacks towards his king in order to achieve control of the centre. So in terms of chess understanding, this is what I would assess that we are the most different on, he values the centre a lot.»
Carlsen talks about his good score vs Caruana, no losses last 3 years: «My last experiences have been good. It’s been a while since I was in danger of losing against him. But it will always be a bit difficult in a WC match. He has done well recently, not against me»
Carlsen: «I have not done well recently, but I have done well against him. Who knows? But I will be more sharpened than I have been recently.»

Asked whether there are other opponents he would fear more: «No, Caruana is the worst opponent. He is the 2nd best and the most difficult to play against. He is not the most difficult to beat as he takes risks, but along with Aronian, he is one I feel has outplayed me most»
Karjakin recently suggested Caruana is not that strong of a defender compared to him, but Carlsen says: «He will defend much better in the WC match than he has done against me in the past.» Thinks he will defend when necessary.
Carlsen talks about defence, saying Karjakin is a player able to defend very well when there is no counterplay, while Kramnik and Aronian are not. “It will be exciting to see how Caruana does it, I will definitely force him to defend himself!”
Carlsen: “I hope I will be able to defend well if necessary, but I don’t have that much experience defending last few years. Either I am pressured, or the games end in a draw.”
Carlsen: “I have won several games against him earlier with active defence where he put pressure on me and I managed to get counterplay and win. So you can’t rule out that I will try that quite a bit.”

Carlsen on playing in London: “There are advantages and disadvantages. It’s easier for the fans. It’s great that it’s just a few hours from Oslo and it won’t hard to persuade the family to go a quick trip to London!”
Carlsen: “But it’s in November, it will be dark. And in a city, it will be noisy. It won’t be easy to find the calmness, so that will be more of a challenge for the players.”

Carlsen: “Openings will be important, but I don’t think I will do too much differently [compared to 2016] because it worked quite well.”

Carlsen then confirms he will follow up on a WC tradition of his: To watch the movie “Get Ready To Be Boyzvoiced” at least once during #CarlsenCaruana.

We’re at the end of the podcast. Carlsen asked who his favourite player is (he was told not to say himself), which is Alexander Alekhine.

Carlsen on Alekhine: “He played a type of modern chess that was fantastic, a combination of positional understanding that was ahead of his time and a dynamical understanding where he was particularly good at achieving positional advantages by playing aggressively.”

Carlsen using a football analogy to describe Alekhine, and how he was able to shift play from one flank to the other and see all of the board: “I encourage all chess fans to check out the games between Alekhine and Capablanca from the 1927 match.”

Carlsen asked how he will feel if he loses the title: “I will be very sad. <laugh> I can’t think too much about it. I have to try to be at my best, and to be best prepared in all possible ways.” #CarlsenCaruana

“Frankly, I don’t want to focus on it. It’s hard to avoid thinking about it, but it will be strange to asnwer it. I don’t know, and I will first and foremost do my best to be at my best during the match. Hopefully it won’t he a topic. #CarlsenCaruana

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