Magnus Carlsen Talks about Chess, Croatia and his Champion Title

Total Croatia News

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Matija Habljak/Pixsell
Matija Habljak/Pixsell

Večernji list spoke to Carlsen after the organizers of the tournament presented each of the players with a large Bajadera, a Croata brand tie and a brochure on the history of the tie in the player’s native language. While a very thoughtful gift, the tournament victory that he secured two rounds before the end of the tournament will also be remembered.

– I played very well only on the third and fourth day, the last day of the rapid and the first day of the blitz, and it turned out to be enough. My other performances weren’t that great, but overall I’m very happy to be where I am because tournament wins are always welcome.

He was probably not just thinking about the prize of 40 thousand dollars, but also about the whole atmosphere around this tournament.

I like being here, I see that there are many fans who know chess. The Zagreb tournament is a wonderful place. I really love being here.

And in the eyes of the devotees of this ancient, 1,500 years old game, Magnus Carlsen was the most sought-after person for a signature or a joint photo. And he was ready to oblige them.

I don’t know if I made them happy, but I am happy that I satisfied their wishes.

This Večernjak journalist enjoyed watching three days of rapid chess (25 minutes per game, plus 10 seconds for each move), and especially two days of blitz chess (5 minutes per game, plus 3 seconds for each move). What is more exhausting for a chess player? Rapid or blitz?

– Blitz is more exhausting. There is more tension. It is harder on the nervous system. Blitz is always difficult.

In many games, Magnus was in a time crunch, the opponents would have a time advantage, but he still won.

– This has been a trend in my chess for the last few years. I can’t play as fast as I once could, I have to think and then I run into problems with the time.

But despite that, he wins.

Sometimes I win, and sometimes I make mistakes. But that’s part of the game, part of what makes blitz attractive.

In the last round of the blitz tournament, when he was already the overall winner, he lost to tenth place Ivan Šarić.

– I was quite tired all day and my level was not as good as it should have been. It’s a shame, but I won the tournament, so those two losses don’t bother me much in the end.

After the tournament, he decided to stay in Croatia for three more days, until he leaves for India, where he will compete in the Chess Olympiad.

I will stay in Croatia until I leave for Chennai. I don’t know what I will do, where I will be, but I will stay there. I like to make plans only after the tournament is over.

That’s how he spoke on Sunday evening, but eventually decided to go to the seaside with his friends. The organizers rented him a car, which he decided to drive himself.

Right now I feel drained of energy, so I will try to rest in order to be ready for my next performance.

During the tournament in Zagreb, in the morning hours, he played an interesting sport.

I played padel for a few days. This sport is not popular here, but in my country of Norway, its popularity is growing rapidly. In addition, I also played basketball and shot baskets in the park. I feel that it is important to engage in physical activity, especially here where the weather is so nice.

What sports does he like to do, in addition to chess?

I like a lot of sports, above all football, basketball, padel, and even jogging.

Since becoming world champion, a title he has defended five times, Magnus Carlsen has made chess very popular in his country.

Yes, chess has become a big thing in Norway and I am happy about that. Although, it might be less popular now that I won’t be defending the world title. But it was a very good period for me.

And just when it seemed that no one could remove him from the throne, because the title was to be defended against the Russian Nepomnijaši, whom he defeated in the fight for the title last year, Magnus Carlsen decided to step down voluntarily. Was it a difficult decision?

Honestly, I thought about it for a long time and I feel good about that decision.

Is it true that he said that he would defend the title if his challenger was the young and very talented Frenchman Alireza Firouzja?

I didn’t say that I would play, but that I would think.

Many people think of him as the second-best chess player of all time, right after Garry Kasparov, does he plan to challenge a future champion? For instance, the winner of the match between the Russian Jan Nepomnijaši and the Chinese Ding Liren who will fight for the title in 2023?

Who knows. I didn’t think that far. At this moment, I am happy to play tournaments like this one in Zagreb. It was truly a pleasure.

What does it look like, being a man who is considered the greatest chess player today, but is not called the world champion?

Now that I don’t have the world title, there is less pressure. I can have more fun in life and feel freer.

He was spotted at two poker tournaments this year. One played in Norway, and the other, at the beginning of July, in Las Vegas. Is this a new ambition?

No, I have no ambitions in poker. I just play it for fun. 


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