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Norway's Magnus Carlsen smiles at a news conference after clinching the FIDE World Chess Championship Friday in Chennai, India, on Friday. (Reuters /Landov)

Norway's Magnus Carlsen Is New Chess World Champion

by Krishnadev Calamur
Nov 22, 2013 (All Things Considered)

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In Norway, it's "Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, all of the great days" rolled into one: That's because 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen has beaten the defending champion, India's Viswanathan Anand, to be crowned chess world champion.

The world No. 1's victory Friday over Anand, the world No. 8 and an Indian fan favorite, came after 10 games in Chennai, India. Carlsen won three and drew seven, and earned the highest rating of all time with the 6.5-3.5 win.

"The match was shown on television, and I know that a lot of people who don't play have followed it and that's absolutely wonderful," Carlsen said after the win. "I really hope that this could have positive effect on chess both in Norway and worldwide."

It's certainly had an effect in Norway. That "Christmas Eve" quote at the top was from Joran Jansson, president of the Norwegian Chess Federation. He was speaking to NPR's Melissa Block earlier this week about what a Carlsen victory would mean.

Jansson told Melissa that one-fifth of all Norwegians watched the games being played in the Indian city, which is more viewers than skating and skiing, which are national sports.

Update at 5:45 p.m. Celebrating Carlsen's Win

As sportswriter Mads Burheim of the newspaper Dagbladet tells NPR's Melissa Block, Carlsen's victory touched off a spirited celebration, though he says it's too cold for the party to spill out into the streets.

"Well, there should be but it's like 20 degrees now so no dancing the street," he says, "but I think everybody's dancing at home."

The new world champion celebrated his win by being tossed into a pool — still wearing a coat and dress shirt. Photos of that celebration were posted on a Russian chess site, as well as Carlsen's Twitter feed.

Burheim also tells Melissa that Norway's lone chess store has been busy.

"It's in a small town outside of Oslo — they are sold out of almost every board," he says.

Carlsen became a grandmaster — that's the highest title in chess — when he was 13. At that same age, he drew with Garry Kasparov, regarded by many as the greatest player ever. But as this BBC profile notes:

"[I]f we want to characterize Carlsen's chess style, we should turn to another sporting analogy.

"At his peak, Roger Federer was the complete tennis player. He had an astounding forehand and backhand, he could serve, volley and smash.

"Carlsen is the complete chess player. He is brilliant at strategy as well as tactics: he has mastery of the opening, the middle game, the endgame."

So how popular in Carlsen? "You can't open a newspaper without seeing his face. You can't turn on the television without seeing something from Magnus. He's everywhere now," Jansson told Melissa.

As Reuters reports, Carlsen's been called the Justin Beiber of chess and his "boyish good looks have earned him lucrative sponsorships, a modeling contract and coverage on tabloid front pages showing him poolside."

And the BBC adds:

"He has already done a fair amount of modelling — some for a Dutch clothing company, whose brand manager Cherbanker Ray described Carlsen as looking like a 'cross between a boxer and a '50s gangster.'"

If you want to know more about Carlsen, The New Yorker profiled him two years ago. (There's a paywall.)

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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