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What’s the matter with Magnus?

Two weeks ago the poll predicted a Russian victory in the European Team Championship in Reykjavík. You were right about that, so your overwhelming vote for “The rest is a matter of technique” as the most annoying chess-writing cliché is probably right too.

Poll-cliche

The comments also produced plenty of interesting “Others”. Too many to note all of them individually, but a couple in particular caught my eye.

Starting with “Better is…” is annoying and unnatural. I must have used this phrase a thousand times without noticing the problem, but I see your point.

“Strategical” is not a word, claims Wulfgar – I would say that if people use it, then it’s a word, but it seems to mean the same as “strategic” while pointlessly using two extra letters.

For this week’s poll I will return to Iceland. World Champion Magnus Carlsen had, by his own stratospheric standards, a poor tournament – a TPR of ‘only’ 2670. This was the third-best TPR in the Norwegian team, after Jon Ludwig Hammer and Aryan Tari. Firstly, congratulations to my 4ncl teammate Aryan who, at age 16, became Norway’s 12th Grandmaster.

But what’s the matter with Magnus? Options include “Lack of motivation” – he is already the World Champion, and has had the highest-ever rating.

Or maybe he prefers playing for himself, rather than a team. If you don’t believe there’s such a thing as a ‘great team player’, then consider Gabriel Sargissian, who delivered a 2800 performance for Armenia, as is traditional.

Or maybe there’s nothing wrong with Magnus, and it’s just natural variation – he’s not a machine.

I will include “Other” to cover everything from ‘distractions in his personal life’ to the fact that his star sign is Sagittarius.

 

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  1. Harold Scott
    November 23rd, 2015 at 19:41 | #1

    “This line is not without venom”.

  2. James
    November 23rd, 2015 at 19:43 | #2

    I voted other. His problem over recent months I think is due to his opponents finally adapting to Carlsen’s method of playing, they’re not going down easily anymore, in fact they’re now even punishing him in the opening and in some cases outplaying him in the middlegame, the latter I think is more alarming for Carlsen.

    His problem in team events I think is due to arrogance and his own ego. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did zero prep for any of his opponents. I think he expected the sub 2700s he played to roll over and die easily for him, they didn’t, his rating paid the price.

    I will add that I’m not a fan of Carlsen (no surprise), I find him arrogant and narcissistic. I’m rooting for Caruana to be the next World Champion, seems like a normal nice guy. It would be nice to have a world champion that is also a good human being for once.

  3. Canoe
    November 24th, 2015 at 00:02 | #3

    It just happens, at all levels, to all players. Going through a period myself at the moment where I can’t seem to win a single game of chess and am performing about 150 points below my usual level. Good positions, equal positions, bad positions, I find a way to lose them all. I can’t explain it and I’m sure Magnus can’t explain his own poor form.
    Yet he is still able to produce games like that fantastic win against Leko. And mystifying as the rough patches are, players tend to snap out of them and return to their normal level. Expect him to be rated 2850 again next year, probably after Wijk aan Zee.

  4. Fer
    November 24th, 2015 at 09:33 | #4

    He knows that Norwey can’t win so I think he is both, without motivation and not a real team player.

  5. Jacob Aagaard
    November 24th, 2015 at 11:14 | #5

    @Fer
    Well, he loses and they lose 2.5-1.5. At least this was the pattern…

  6. Karl
    November 24th, 2015 at 12:52 | #6

    It must be a woman.

  7. The Lurker
    November 24th, 2015 at 16:26 | #7

    James :
    I will add that I’m not a fan of Carlsen (no surprise), I find him arrogant and narcissistic.

    He may be; I don’t know him. But I’ve always figured that his personality is more due to a typical geek case of Asperger’s / autism spectrum disorder. He’s just not a people person. Imagine that, a chess geek of the first water being strange in some way! I’ve always felt that insisting that the chess champion also have a winning personality is asking a bit much.

  8. k.r.
    November 24th, 2015 at 18:57 | #8

    James :
    His problem in team events I think is due to arrogance and his own ego. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did zero prep for any of his opponents. I think he expected the sub 2700s he played to roll over and die easily for him, they didn’t, his rating paid the price.
    I will add that I’m not a fan of Carlsen (no surprise),I find him arrogant and narcissistic. I’m rooting for Caruana to be the next World Champion, seems like a normal nice guy. It would be nice to have a world champion that is also a good human being for once.

    I cant believe it that somebody can write something like this. If You dont know somebody and write something like this thats saying more about You than that person you are describing.

    1. Magnus Carslen is no1 player
    2. Magnus Carslen is world champion
    3. Magnus Carslen made this game more popular (media from his homeland and from the world is very interested in his accomplishments)
    4. Every interview and chess analyses after games he played he was very fair and brutally honest sharing with the world what was he thinking during the game and you can really learn a lot from players that do this.
    5. If he looks “autistic” and is not the class clown that doesnt mean that he is autistic. That means he is not class clown.
    6. What do You want from him? To become jukebox that will play as some patzers from every hole of…

  9. k.r.
    November 24th, 2015 at 18:59 | #9

    6. What do You want from him? To become jukebox that will play as some patzers from every hole of this world play what is expected from him?
    7. I believe that he works a lot on chess, he is a real talent.
    8. Comments when he lose on several servers are just unbelivebale.

    And last questions for you.

    1. Are your results in tournaments always showing your top form?
    2. Do You know him? I dont, but what I can see on net, that suits for me.

    If moderators of this excellent blog think that Im to rude, please delete this post.

  10. k.r.
    November 24th, 2015 at 19:01 | #10

    And last thing, Your post remined me on movie Truman show.

    When the reality show finished people started watching another one.

    Same will be here, when somebody else becomes world champion after a while this person would not fit because it has mustaches or beign to quite or to loud whle talking.

  11. aspij
    November 24th, 2015 at 20:42 | #11

    Idolizing heroes !? We often forget that they are just as flawed as all of us.
    Nevertheless I do believe that we can observe their behaviour and comment on it.

    I’m a big fan of Carlsen as a person. He is an example of someone doing his thing without being bothered of what society thinks about him.Something most of us strive for in daily life.
    His post-mortem with Pelletier after his horrible blunder, shows his love for the game, and respect for his opponents. Ever seen Kramnik behave after a loss ?

    I’m much more troubled by a Kramnik who acts with an air of possessing some higher morals then the rest. Although he is more interesting to listen to then Carlsen.Always comes up with some thought-provoking opinions.

    Anyway, we are all human and have our flaws and skills.

  12. James
    November 25th, 2015 at 06:03 | #12

    @k.r. My comments are based on observing his behaviour when playing, also what he says in interviews, primarily live video interviews during press conferences. In terms of his behaviour his tantrum at the World Rapid and Blitz was childish and disrespectful to his opponents, that’s my opinion. I also didn’t like the silly ways he sits in his seat sometimes, I’m not sure if you viewed these pictures before but they are ridiculous, he often sits with both legs in the air over the side of the arm of the chair, if you Google it you will see what I mean, it is completely disrespectful to the opponent, I believe Svidler also said as much in an interview he gave commenting on this. There’s lots of small things he lets slip during interviews that further show his attitude problem. I’m also annoyed with him trying to change the World Champion system to a tournament instead of a match, it’s not his decision to make, it’s like replacing turkey at Christmas with beef, some things are tradition and should stay that way. I agree Carlsen is an amazing player, maybe the best of all-time, although for me that is still Kasparov, slightly above Fischer due to Fischer quitting too early, Carlsen in 3rd, if he defends his title against Caruana or someone from his generation then he will move to 2nd for me. Also I want to add that I wasn’t the one to mention autism/asperger’s, that was someone else, it’s speculation. I suspected Fischer had severe form of asperger’s.

  13. neiman
    November 25th, 2015 at 07:43 | #13

    It is nearly impossible for a champion -n°1 since 6 years- to make progress without a real opponent, I mean a rival. Magnus’s problem lies in the absence of opposition.

  14. k.r.
    November 25th, 2015 at 08:25 | #14

    @James, You didnt answer the questions. 🙂

  15. pabstars
    November 25th, 2015 at 09:17 | #15

    I haven’t met Carlsen in person but I for sure find that he is extremely entertaining in interviews. He says a lot of things with a smile on his lips which may very well just be Scandinavian sarcasm. Couldn’t care less if he is an Asperger or not; he is a great and dedicated chess player.

  16. Phille
    November 25th, 2015 at 09:43 | #16

    To me Magnus always seems to be very honest and objective, and much less self serving in what he says than most of his colleagues. Whether you value that more than politeness is a cultural and personal preference.

    What strikes me as ridiculous is the idea that the other top players have somehow caught up with Magnus’ way of playing. At least as an explanation for his recent bad result this is really not very convincing. In Shamkir he still delivered an impressive performance, but two month later in Norway they’ve caught up with him? Not very likely.

    He clearly has trouble with the extra pressure from doing well in front of the home crowd and for the team. Which really is the opposite of not caring about whether the team does well.

  17. Fer
    November 25th, 2015 at 11:56 | #17

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @Fer
    Well, he loses and they lose 2.5-1.5. At least this was the pattern…

    Norway 2,5 Switzerland 1,5 (magnus loses)
    Norway 1,5 Hungary 2,5 (magnus won)
    Norway 1,5 Germany 2,5 (magnus draw)
    Norway 1,5 Poland 2,5 (Magunus won)

  18. Laffranchise
    November 25th, 2015 at 12:16 | #18

    @James
    I agree with this analysis

    and I’ve got one more assumption:
    Magnus always plays “badly” near to his “home”

  19. Frank
    November 25th, 2015 at 15:20 | #19

    I voted for “Other”. But indeed I think it’s a border case between “Other” and “Lack of motivation”. I think he does just to much things beside chess.

  20. Fer
    November 26th, 2015 at 09:47 | #20

    I’m agree with you about the zero preparation (or close to zero) for some games, but I’m not agree about the “adaption” to carlsen play by his opponents. I think he will win the London Classic and I don’t think he was outplayed in middlegame during this team championship

    James :
    I voted other. His problem over recent months I think is due to his opponents finally adapting to Carlsen’s method of playing, they’re not going down easily anymore, in fact they’re now even punishing him in the opening and in some cases outplaying him in the middlegame, the latter I think is more alarming for Carlsen.
    His problem in team events I think is due to arrogance and his own ego. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did zero prep for any of his opponents. I think he expected the sub 2700s he played to roll over and die easily for him, they didn’t, his rating paid the price.
    I will add that I’m not a fan of Carlsen (no surprise), I find him arrogant and narcissistic. I’m rooting for Caruana to be the next World Champion, seems like a normal nice guy. It would be nice to have a world champion that is also a good human being for once.

  21. Fer
    November 26th, 2015 at 09:49 | #21

    @k.r.

    If you think that carlsen share all he is thinking during his games, what do you think about what other players like, kramnik, svilder, topalov, anand do?
    They give tons of additional thoughts than Carlsen

  22. Christian
    December 6th, 2015 at 15:54 | #22

    @James

    I don’t believe he is arrogant, but he is still shy and introvert, plus he answers questions about opponents strengths and weaknesses much to matter-of-fact like. And the fact is, he is still very much the world champion!

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