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Jennifer on Magnus vs. The World Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
September 15, 2010
I was on my way to the RAW World Chess Challenge in Manhattan where Magnus Carlsen would take on the World. I arrived at the 7th Avenue and 14th Street 1 stop. The conductor said, "You can transfer to the F, M or L trains." Not a good omen for the world in the upcoming match!

At the Cooper Square Hotel, four women with impeccable hair and make-up guarded the lobby elevators with clipboards. We were ushered upstairs and offered champagne, which I declined as I adjusted to the stunning view--and the vertigo. Sobriety is a wise choice on a penthouse rooftop with a four foot glass perimeter.

Grandmasters Judit Polgar, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave were selected by match ambassador Garry Kasparov to lead the world against World #1 ranked player Magnus Carlsen. Kasparov himself provided live commentary with host GM Maurice Ashley while Carlsen and the GMs representing the World were cordoned off into separate indoor areas. Thousands of Chess fans participated online by choosing between the three moves that the GMs suggested.  Our US Chess Scoop video captures the view and many of the day's luminaries.

Carlsen's opening choice was cagey and practical, suggesting this was much more than an exhibition to him. English and fianchetto queen pawn systems are difficult for sharp players to face. Playing solidly can lead to dull positions while aggression can lead to dubious set-ups. Unfortunately, my team got the worst of both worlds. When it was time to topple us, Magnus reversed his pragmatic starting philosophy. As IM David Pruess pointed out in his chess.com analysis, Nb6 was a crowdpleaser!

Magnus Carlsen, Photo Lesley Weitjes
The media filled the roof deck, many fashion and some mainstream (notable venues included People Magazine, ESPN, the New York Times, MTV and New York Magazine) as well as a handful of chess journalists, Macauley Peterson of the Internet Chess Club and Dirk Jan Ten Geuzendam, editor of New in Chess. Chess.com powered the match, and content manager David Pruess wrote about ideas to make future matches more balanced, in Mag-Town Takes World to Ouch-Town.

I spotted many women wearing G-Star at the event, who could have hid extra queens in their hip specialty jeans, in which the waist is tight but the seat is baggy. Those jeans reminded me of Dvoretsky. Anyone under 2000 should not be reading his books and I'm guessing anyone over size four would be ill-advised to wear what one woman called a "3-dimensional cut which follows the natural curve of the body." G-Star also carries more traditional styles. GM Hikaru Nakamura's G-Star outfit left no room for hidden pawns--it even encouraged him to skip dinner the night before. To merge chess and fashion, something has to be sacrificed.

Lately, Nakamura has gotten more into fashion, spurred on by a glamour shoot with Saint Louis photographer Suzy Gorman and an interview with Alive Magazine, set up via the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. "I've sort of been forced into an interest in fashion," Hikaru said. I pointed out that he doesn't seem like the type to get coerced into things he doesn't want to do, to which he laughed and agreed. Nakamura's twitter feed http://twitter.com/GMHikaru was a match highlight - hours after Kasparov called the game as a win for Magnus, Nakamura insisted that the world was still fighting. After the World resigned, Nakamura cheerfully tweeted, "On the bright side, I get a chance to beat Magnus in the World Blitz Championship this November!"  A couple days later, Nakamura wrote, "Finally finished with my wardrobe shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue for the Chess Olympiad next week!!" So we wish Nakamura luck as he brings along fashion as well as chess preparation on his way to Siberia.

New York fashion week is almost over. In recent years, many of the invitation-only shows have become available via livestream, democratizing cutting edge fashion data in a similar way that the latest chess novelties, games and broadcasts are now accessible to the public via engines, databases and online play. This week's New Yorker featured a portrait of 14-year-old fashion prodigy, Tavi Gevinson, who created the popular blog Style Rookie at the age of 11 and now styles shoots for glossy mags and scores coveted front row fashion show seats.  The piece could have been about a chess prodigy except in the case of Tavi, much of the article quotes naysayers doubting her skills, something that chess prodigies, with incontestable ratings and results are immune from. As I watched a replay of the G-star fashion show, I caught glimpses of Magnus Carlsen (in the front row along with Liv Tyler), and wondered if Tavi was also in the audience. As unlikely as the intersection of fashion and chess may seem, there are also parallels. G-Star RAW and Magnus Carlsen are making chess more exclusive and more accessible at the same time.

Liv Tyler, Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov, Photo Lesley Weitjes

To watch G-Star video recaps of the event, visit the match site. Also see photos on chess.com and check out IM Danny Rensch and IM David Pruess's informative chess.com recap, Mag-Town Takes World to Ouch-Town.