Interviews Jan 21, 2015 | 6:15 PMby Colin McGourty

Carlsen rampage ends... with a brilliant interview


Magnus Carlsen was in dazzling form in today’s Round 10 of the Tata Steel Masters Tournament, though only after his game was over. Vassily Ivanchuk decided a draw was enough and managed to end Carlsen’s six-game winning streak with 18 moves and minimal effort. Thankfully for chess fans, though, that anti-climax was followed by the World Champion giving a half-hour interview live on air. He talked about the other games, what he still has to learn about chess and gave candid assessments of current and future rivals such as Caruana, Wojtaszek, So and Wei Yi. We bring you the video and extensive quotes.

The eyes of the whole chess world were glued on today’s Ivanchuk-Carlsen encounter. It was clear that at least numerically matching Caruana’s 7-game winning streak meant something to Carlsen, while Ivanchuk, despite his minus 5 score against the World Champion, had beaten Carlsen in their last encounter. He also needed a win to close the gap to half a point on the tournament leader. Alas, it wasn’t to be:

1. d4 ♘f6 2. c4 e6 3. ♘f3 d5 4. ♘c3 ♗b4 5. ♗g5 h6 6. ♗xf6 ♕xf6 7. e3 O-O 8. ♖c1 dxc4 9. ♗xc4 c5 10. O-O cxd4 11. ♘xd4 ♗d7 12. ♕b3 ♘c6 13. ♘xc6 ♗xc3 14. ♖xc3 ♗xc6 15. ♗b5 ♗d5 16. ♗c4 ♗c6 17. ♗b5 ♗d5 18. ♗c4

1/2-1/2

The “Opening tree” tab below our live broadcast of the game showed that it never actually featured a single move that hadn't been played before. Luckily, though, Carlsen was still full of energy and enthusiasm when he appeared on the live broadcast alongside old pro Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, who took full advantage. Watch the whole interview below:

Here are some extensive highlights:

On the draw with Ivanchuk

All the photographic evidence from Alina l'Ami suggested that Carlsen was happier with the trip to The Hague for Round 10 | photos: Tata Steel Chess Facebook

He just forced a draw. He’s allowed to do that and there’s just nothing I can do. He’s 1.5 points behind me in the tournament, so… he’s an inscrutable fellow.

As I discussed with Peter [Heine Nielsen] just after the round, if you want to play something where White cannot force a draw by any means you have to play flank openings. That’s what I did for the first few rounds… and look what it got me! Now I felt like I should play something sensible. If he wants to force a draw he can force a draw. He’s a good player.

I’m a chess player. I like to play chess, and this is not chess. This is just nonsense!


On the winning streak stopping at six

I’m not so concerned about that streak anyway… not anymore (smiles).


On the other games

Carlsen decided to switch topics:

Let’s look at the other games, because they’re really interesting. Let’s close this one, because this one sucks.

You should watch the video to get all of his insights into what were at that moment the current positions, but here we’ll focus on the more general comments rather than in-depth analysis. For instance, when talking about the Ding Liren – Wesley So game Carlsen noted:

Botvinnik was a surprisingly creative player, especially in opening analysis. This is one [example]. It’s funny that these ideas survived into the modern age.


On saying he didn’t understand a position

I realised at some point that people don’t like to hear that. A couple of my friends were here for a couple of days and we played some different computer games. One of them was winning all the time and was complaining all the time as well, which was extremely annoying. I guess when I’m winning every game and still complaining about my play people don’t want to hear that. From now on, not anymore.

I was serious. I didn’t understand what was going on. For instance, when [Radjabov] played c5 I was like, wow, I didn’t see that one coming.

When I played the move c4 I didn’t even imagine that his knight would once jump in there. I thought I was just restricting his light-squared bishop and that was the theme of the day. But as I delved deeper I realised, 1) that I didn’t understand what was going on, and… well, that was the only point, there was no point two.


On Loek van Wely's 1.e4 vs. Hou Yifan

It’s funny. Right before the game Loek was talking about the way he wanted to catch the first bus home. I told him he should play 1.e4 then! I didn’t think he would take me seriously, though… then he kind of ruined the impression by playing [1…c5 2.Nf3 Nc6] 3.Bb5.


On Radjabov’s play vs. Aronian

This is a well-known draw. There are days when he’s ambitious… and this is not one of them.


On whether rest days interrupt his rhythm

I don’t know. Today not playing a real game and a free day tomorrow – that’s two days without playing, so that’s not ideal. It’s very individual. Some people need rest, some people need to stay in the rhythm. For instance, I very much felt that I needed the last rest day and then during the rest day I got very restless. I had all of this energy that I couldn’t use.


On the art museum they visited before the round

Cows, a mysterious hand, a glum-looking Ivanchuk and a cheerful Carlsen! | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

It was fun to be at the museum. I don’t know much about art so I tried to ask the questions I think a kid would ask, like how many cows are there in the painting. That was the first thing I thought about, but they couldn’t give me the answer. I thought – that’s a question they can’t answer.

Dirk Jan told an anecdote about how a woman had told the artist James Whistler, “I may not know much about art but I sure know what I like”. Whistler replied, “Yes mam, so does a cow”.

Carlsen shot back with:

It’s like what they say in chess: I don’t know much about chess, but I can tell who’s winning.


On Jobava

Jobava’s a good player. That’s what I found out playing against him. He made some strange moves, to say the least, at the beginning, but after that he started to play very decently. He does have a very good understanding and there’s always some point to his play. He has lots of good ideas. It’s just that sometimes, I guess, they don’t work and still he thinks ah, I’ll play it anyway!


On Caruana

It’s funny. After three rounds I was worried about being 1.5 points behind him… so that changed pretty quickly! He doesn’t seem to be in his best shape. From the game yesterday, spending too much time, and also against Loeky, he was playing ok but spending too much time. He doesn’t seem to be quite on.

I don’t think we should consider it a norm that he scores +7 in every tournament. Over the last years he’s had his ups and downs. He’s had good tournaments, he’s had bad tournaments. He’s a very good player. Even now it feels he’s having at best a mediocre tournament and he’s still on +1 and could fight for one of the highest places.

Dirk Jan: Where can he still improve?

I don’t want to give him any tips (smiles). I don’t know. Like everyone he can sometimes misjudge a position, he can miss stuff tactically. It’s sort of the same with me, that I don’t understand everything that’s going on, but I try.

Is that the great thing about chess. You’re so good but you run into things you don’t understand?

Exactly. It was fun during the game against Aronian that I felt that I was learning quite a bit about the line we were playing. I felt, “Wow! I’m starting to understand these things.” It’s not always so easy in preparation because you don’t go that deeply but during the game it quite often happens that now I understand this position better. It’s happened over many years that there are constantly some things that I see now that I didn’t see before.

Did you ever feel, like Capablanca, that you understand everything?

No, not even close. Well, maybe a little bit, but then you soon get a wake-up call. Then you get completely outplayed in one game and you get back to earth.

Carlsen gave his views on a large part of the field | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

On Wojtaszek

He’s a good player but he’s not very practical. He tends to be very well-prepared and he tends to have very good plans, but he sometimes misses tactics.

Against me he played very well in the opening. He understood the position better than I did. I think at some point I was making a comeback in the game right before I blundered. I actually got too ambitious and instead of keeping the status quo – a worse position, but serious both objective and practical chances – I went for something else that I thought was interesting, but it just lost immediately.


On the Dutch Defence

So it wasn’t the Dutch Defence that was to be blamed?

Well, yeah, the position I got from the opening sucked, but that was my interpretation of the Dutch Defence that was bad and not the opening itself. The opening itself is not great, but it’s not that bad.

I always like Nigel Short’s expression, “another one bites the Dutch”!

He’s played quite a bit of Dutch himself. He’s played some really bad Dutch Defences. He’s played some Stonewalls with knights on c6. Let me tell you, those are not good. Those are barely playable. I’m sure he would agree!

I’m sure he’s tweeting about it right now.

I’m sure he’s very happy to have his name mentioned on the air!

On playing for the love of the game or the result

Why can’t we combine the two? I try to play good chess always, but in the end I’m not one of those guys who can play ten bad games in the tournament then play two good ones… if I play ten bad games here and I win one game that’s my best of all time it would have been a very  bad tournament. Most of all I want to do well. It’s possible to play good attractive chess while still keeping your objectivity. That’s what I strive to do.

Can you imagine playing a game that you lose and still feel some happiness?

I don’t know. It would have to be something extraordinary.


On the Challengers

I’m following the Challengers group. It was very nice the last time we were in Rotterdam and there was no chance to follow the games in the Challengers group so there were fewer distractions and I could follow my own game too. There are many good games played there. Wei Yi is playing brilliantly, and Navara is obviously a good player.


On Wei Yi

I think Wei Yi has 2675 and I think that was exactly what I had at his age – and then you can talk about inflation and so on (smiles). I won’t do that.

How good is Wei Yi? Is he a spectacular talent?

Yes, I think so. It’s hard to tell still whether he’ll be “just” a world class player or one of the best, but he’s really good and he’s a well-rounded player, not just a tactician.

Wei Yi rejoined Navara in the lead of the Tata Steel Challengers today by beating Erwin l'Ami | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

On the potential of China

Who do you see as the best Chinese player?

I think Ding is the best just now. Yu Yanyi is going to be good as well. I remember he played here last year in the Challengers but he struggled mightily. He’s had good results since, but I think Ding is better. Wang Hao is still good, but he’s probably not playing professionally anymore.

Do you think that China can take over?

I think they’re already very good, they have been for many years, but they’re still struggling to find that one guy who will be one of the very best. But also I think India have more players than China, especially at a youth level, so I think right now it’s probably more likely that India will dominate rather than China. The Chinese will be there for many years and it’s a nice addition.


On what he’s willing to watch

How far down do you go on the players you follow?

I follow almost anything. I like the game both as a player and as a fan.

And computer games?

If I’m really bored!


On Wesley So

I think he’s a good player. I think he’s not one of the very best yet and he still needs to get more experience, but you can get far even at this level with a very good tactical eye and excellent preparation. That’s what he’s showing. He’s doing well. I think also the field suits him. I don’t know if he would be quite as comfortable playing more of the old guys like Vishy and Kramnik and so on. But by all means his result here speaks for itself.

Maybe we should encourage Magnus to play less and talk more in future! :) | photo: Alina l'Ami, Tata Steel Chess Facebook

So although Carlsen failed to win he gave us a lot to talk about! Jan Gustafsson will be presenting a Round 10 recap show live at 20:00 CET tonight on our new video page, which you can also find in the "Watch" menu at the top of the page. Don't miss it!


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