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Carlsen on Sochi Win: "I have stronger nerves." Print E-mail
By Leontxo Garcia   
November 26, 2014
After becoming world champion for the second time on Sunday, Magnus Carlsen spent much of Monday sleeping, and then he played basketball and poker with friends and some Norwegian journalists. Yesterday he gave me an interview, for El Pais and Chess Life Online.

Leoxnto Garcia (LG): Spassky told me he often dreamed of Fischer. Did your dreams feature Anand, or did you suffer any chess nightmares during the match? 
Magnus Carlsen (MC): I always liked Spassky’s sense of humour. No, I slept very well, very peacefully, most nights. Whenever I dreamt, it was far away from chess. And when I woke up, I forgot I was even playing a World Championship match.

LG: But you were somnolent during the eighth game...
MC: That night I did not sleep so well because I had a cold. And I had to take some medicines. 

LG: And you woke up at 10.00 instead of at noon or even later, as you usually do.
MC: Yeah, but not only that day. I was advised to have two meals, instead of one, before every game. Therefore, I had to change my normal schedule, getting up much earlier than usual, not only that day but for the whole match.

LG: Kasparov told me on Friday you were suffering a kind of “revenge syndrome”, as it happened to him, very severely, against Karpov in the eighties.
MC: Yes, there could be something to that. After the second game, I felt I was playing much better than Anand.


Then a part of me started wondering why I’m playing him again when I already beat him last year. But then, when you get a serious blow, as I did in game 3, you have to adjust to the situation, which was harder than I expected.


LG: That is why you said several times “I feel relieved” at the end?
MC: Yes. I think I managed to pull myself together. And he also made a very poor opening choice at some point, playing the Kan Sicilian in game 6, although I was lucky when he didn’t realize I blundered.


Then I had a good chance in game 7, when I could have given him a knockout blow. But it did not happen, and after that it got more difficult for me. I was suffering a little bit in several games, especially in the last one.


LG: Did you get any help from Kasparov before or during the match?
MC: (Yes), mostly technical advice about the openings and things related to that, and some psychological advice as well. A very good advisor, obviously. And Peter Heine was very much in touch with him during the match.

LG: Kasparov also told me about your approach to the last few games. He said: “If Magnus thinks he can keep the title just by coasting, instead of fighting in the open sea, it would be dangerous for him because there are some mines near the coast.”
MC: Yeah, he was right, generally speaking, about that risk. But in game 9 I had a very special situation. In that game I was not trying to coast. But I had nothing from the opening, and I had to make an objective evaluation of the position. Since I thought it was nothing, and the practical chances were even better with black, it was better to settle down. Obviously, it is easier to do that when you are leading. But I do not think I was coasting.

LG: Several times in the past (for instance, 2013 Sinquefeld Cup, last round) you took risks when a draw was enough. But your approach to the 11th game was different.
MC: When you encounter the Berlin Defence you can always play Re1, and the chances that you will lose are very very small. It was a difficult situation because I was trying to play in the best way but at the same time I did not want to overexpose myself. But then when he played …b5, I understood there is no safe way anymore because the position is going to get complicated. That was, of course, a very dangerous moment.

LG: Were strong nerves the key factor of this match?
MC: I do not know if nerves were the key factor in general. But in the last game, nerves definitely had something to say. But I think nerves are a part of your strength and weaknesses as a chess player. If you have bad nerves, it is unfortunate but it is no excuse. In that game showed I have stronger nerves, probably because of the age difference.

LG: With stronger nerves, Anand would have played Be7, I guess, and then you would have been in real trouble.
MC: Yes, because after Be7 and Bxf6, the same manoeuvre Rb8-Rb4 would have been much stronger than in the game. But, as he said, it is difficult to think clearly in such moments.

LG: How important is the fact of Peter Heine Nielsen working for Anand before becoming your coach?
MC: I do not know. He could give me some information about what they had been looking at, and what Anand was comfortable with, and so on. But at the same time, Anand also knows Peter Heine is working for me now. What really is advantageous for me, of having Peter Heine in my team, is that we get along well, we work well together and we’ve known each other for many years.

LG: You have five sponsors, which is very rare in chess. Do you think chess is a very good product with bad marketing?
MC: I definitely think chess has a great value, with a lot of amateurs all over the world. In Norway, it is very popular now even on TV. It is always about the way you present it.  

LG: How sensitive are you to the educational value of chess, and its social applications?
MC: Very sensitive. Although these processes always take a lot of time, the Norwegian Parliament is now discussing about it. But everywhere I go in the world, visiting schools and clubs for kids, I can see how much excitement there is about chess, and even how kids with problems of concentration sit down and are very interested in chess. I think chess has a great educational value, and it needs to be stressed.

GM Magnus Carlsen, Photo Anastasia Karlovich
LG: In order to feel satisfied one year from now, what goals do you need to achieve?
MC: I really want to become World Rapid and Blitz Champion again. I also have a few classical tournaments coming up next year. I want to be even more successful in those tournaments than I was this year, since this year I did very well in the World Championships but not so well in the other tournaments.

LG: When you said “two down, five to go”, I guess you refer to the Kasparov successful matches.
MC: Yes, that is a good motivation. I do not think I am done in chess with two matches.

LG: Is it impossible to beat the ultimate Kasparov record? I mean, to be number one for twenty years in a row?
MC: I think that is very difficult, but we will see. If I am still playing chess in ten years from now, if I still have the motivation, if I am still number one...then I can start to think about it.

LG: You are going to meet president Putin in a few hours. What do you think about him?
MC: No comment.