Secret of Magnus Carlsen's Chess Intuition: Hours and Hours of Trying out Things on Chess Board as a Kid ~ World Chess Championship 2013 Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen at Chennai Hyatt Regency

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Secret of Magnus Carlsen's Chess Intuition: Hours and Hours of Trying out Things on Chess Board as a Kid

Posted by World Chess Championship 2013 News Blog Monday, November 4, 2013
A Norwegian Winner’s Attitude

We thank Kristine Kleppo and Cappelen Damm for help with this insightful understanding of the World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen's chess from the text excerpted from the book 'Norske vinnerskaller' by Arne Riise Jorstad, Bjorge Stensbøl and Anne Marte. (Release Date:10/16/13 Language: Norwegian/Book purchase)

About the publication
The book interviews 30 top Norwegian sportsperson on how they have practiced the mental skills to succeed, growing up, relationships and environments that have been important for their development, and they share thoughts about self-esteem, motivation, stress management and good performance culture. 

Of course, one of the interviewees is chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen. The intro to the book goes: Americans were first on the moon, but we have the all-time world no. 1 in chess, begins the section on Magnus Carlsen. It talks about how Carlsen has held the top slot in chess ratings since 2010 and gone on to become the highest-rated chess human ever. Then follows a short history of chess and, of course, the mention of the 1972 Bobby Fischer versus Boris Spassky World Chess Championship followed by mentions of Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov. 

"Chess is a game, but symbolises in many countries also national pride and politics," say the writers, quite rightly at that. 

Photo (in the book for Magnus Carlsen interview) (C) Photographer and Cinematographer Hans Kristian Riise.

Then follows the interview in which Magnus Carlsen explains exactly why HE IS GOING TO be the next World Chess Champion!
"I will be world champion because I'm going to be in my best shape ever. I'm going to be better prepared than I ever have been, in all respects: chess, practical and physical. Not least, I'm the best player. I have the best understanding of the game and the best sporting qualities at the board," explains the Norwegian prodigy.
Carlsen's motivation has always been that he plays for fun.
"The main motivation factor in my career has always just been playing chess, having fun and learning more about the game," says Carlsen.

Carlsen says his motivation is to learn more about the game even when there are errors (which even if only he knows about) and he has learned a huge amount of chess over the last three years. 
"The fact that there are so many new things to learn is motivation enough for me. In each case now, I think it's fun to play. It is not always as fun to prepare and stuff like that. But it's always fun to play," says Carlsen.

Here are excerpts from the main interview with Magnus Carlsen in the book:

Q: Which mental abilities are required for a winner, or what does he think is the winning mentality?

- I do not know if it is a mental trait, but optimism. It is a very important quality. It is both that you have faith in yourself in general, in the sense you always have the belief that you are the best, and that it is always up to you whether you
win or not. If you yourself are performing at top, you will come to win. I think that it is always better to be optimistic than pessimistic. For, if one is pessimistic, one sees limitations, and does not always see the opportunities. It does happen often that my optimistic assessments are wrong, but I think it is better to make this mistake than by being the other (pessimistic).

Q: In a sport like football there is talk about how important it is to play one's own game regardless of what the other team does. Does this kind of thinking transfer to chess?
I would say it is important what your opponent does. I think it is
important in chess, but not always. For I think it is a bit like that in chess as in football, if you feel you are the best player you can just hold on and play your own games. But, there is always some small adjustments you need to make in relation to your opponent.

Q: What is your greatest mental strength as a chess player?
- I do not know.(But his manager Espen Agdestein knows. He has been with the world number one planning everything right down to the last millimeter as the run up to the World Chess Championship versus Viswanathan Anand in Chennai. Espen says, Magnus will to win is very strong and his ability to withstand stress and strain.)

Q: Does Magnus Carlsen even agree?

I think it is very difficult to assess oneself. I do not think I can handle stress and pressure particularly well. But I think in a way, there are times I think I can do it. Because, if you only have a few unpleasant experiences and you succumb then you yourself might not even be sure you can handle it so well... I think it 's hard to say I can handle pressure very well.

Authors: Espen Agdestein fills happily into his impression of how Magnus Carlsen tackles pressure:
- For very many players it is so that when they lose a game, it starts to go downwards. They do not sleep at night. The tournament goes bad, the trend is negative. But Magnus is different. It is typical of him is that he is horribly irritated, and may have trouble dealing with the emotions. But he manages to turn his annoyance into greater focus for the next game, and manages to turn things around to great play after a loss instead of sliding down a negative path.

Q: Magnus Carlsen is described often as an intuitive chess player. What does he think? 
The fact that I can be considered an intuitive chess player, I think, partly comes from my early experiences (as a child), where I put all those hours with myself on the chess board and tried out things. It meant that I eventually got a feel for chess, an understanding of the game. General good players use more long-term memory than short-term memory during a chess game. You use past experiences. It is the intuition that is largely based on the past experiences. So it is your experience that gives you a different impression of the new situations before you (on the chess board) and then you have to consider what impression you can use. You must be able to continuously make up your mind about which past experience that can be used. It may be that you use them exactly in the situation you are in, or if there are any nuances that are different. I think that I largely am able to make good decisions based on past experience. There are of course many who have a lot of the same knowledge that I have, but who are unable to make good decisions based on the knowledge.