Magnus Carlsen: Greatest Chess Player of All Time | Lex Fridman Podcast #315 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Magnus Carlsen: Greatest Chess Player of All Time | Lex Fridman Podcast #315".
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The following is a conversation with Magnus Carlsen, the number one ranked chess player in the world and widely considered to be one of, if not the greatest chess player of all time. The camera Magnus died 20 minutes into the conversation. Most folks still just listen to the audio through a podcast player anyway, but if you're watching this on YouTube or Spotify, we did our best to still make it interesting by adding relevant image overlays. I mess things up sometimes, like in this case, but I'm always working hard to improve. I hope you understand. Thank you for your patience and support along the way. I love you all. This is the Lex Friedman podcast supported. Please check out our sponsors in the description. And now dear friends, here's Magnus Carlsen.
In-Depth Chess Discussion And Related Topics
Greatest soccer player of all time (00:51)
You're considered by many to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest chess players of all time, but you're also one of the best fantasy football, aka soccer competitors in the world, plus recently picking up poker and competing at a world class level. So before chess, let's talk football and greatness. You're a Real Madrid fan. So let me ask you the ridiculous bit question. Who do you think is the greatest football, aka soccer player of all time? Can you make the case for Messi? Can you make the case for Cristiano Ronaldo, Pellet, Maradona? Does anybody jump to mind? I think it's pretty hard to make a case for anybody else than Messi for his all-around game. And frankly, like my Real Madrid fandom predates the Ronaldo era. The second Ronaldo, not the first one. So I always liked Ronaldo, but I always kind of thought that Messi was better. And I went to quite a number of Madrid games, and they've always been super helpful to me down there. The only thing is that they asked me, they were going to do an interview, and they were going to ask me who my favorite player was. I said somebody else. I think I said, "Esko" at that point. I was like, "Okay, take two now, you say Ronaldo." So for them, it was very important, but it wasn't that huge to me. So Messi over Maradona? Yeah, but I think just like with chess, it's hard to compare eras. Obviously, the improvements in football have been in technique, and such have been even greater than they have been in chess. But it's always a weird discussion to have. But just as a fan, what do you think is beautiful about the game? What defines greatness? Is it, you know, with Messi, one, he's really good at finishing, two, very good at assists. Like three, there's just magic. It's just beautiful to see the play. So it's not just about the finishing. There's some, it's like Maradona's Hand of God. There's some creativity on the pitch. Is that important? Or is it very important to get the World Cups and the big championships and that kind of stuff? I think the World Cup is pretty overrated seeing as it's such a small sample size. So it's sort of annoys me always when titles are always appreciated so much, even though that particular title can be a lot of luck or at least some luck. So I do appreciate statistics a bit and all the statistics say that Messi is the best finisher of all time, which I think helps a lot. And then there's the intangibles as well. The flip side of that is the small sample size is what really creates the magic. It's just like the Olympics. You basically train your whole life for this. And it's a rare moment, one mistake and it's all over. That's for some reason a lot of people either break under that pressure or rise up under that pressure. You don't admire the magic of that? No, I do. I just think that rising and to the pressure and breaking under the pressure is often really oversimplified, like, taken on what's happening. But we do romanticize the game. Well, let me ask you another ridiculous question. You're also a fan of basketball. Yes. Let me ask the goat question. I'm biased because I went to high school in Chicago, Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era. Let me ask the Jordan versus LeBron James question. Let's continue on this threat of greatness. Which one do you pick or somebody else? So I'll give you a completely different answer. Uh oh. Depending on my mood and depending on who I talk to, I pick one of the two and then I try to argue for that. It's the quantum mechanical thing. Can you, again, what would, if you were to argue for either one statistically, I think LeBron James is going to surpass Jordan. Yeah, no doubt. And so, again, there's a debate between unquantifiable greatness. No, that, I mean, that's the whole, that's the whole debate. Yes. So it's, well, it's quantifiable versus unquantifiable. Yeah. What's more important? And you're depending on mood all over the place. But what do you lean in general with these, with these folks with, with soccer with anything in life towards the unquantifiable more? No, definitely towards the quantifiable. So when you're unsure, lean towards the numbers. Yeah. But see, like it's later generations, there's something that's what people say about Maradona is, you know, he took arguably somewhat mediocre team to, to a world cup. So there's that also uplifting nature of the player to be able to rise up the whole. It is a team sport. So are you gonna, like, are you gonna punish Messi for taking a mediocre Argentine squad to the final in 2014 and punish him because they lost to a great team very narrowly after they missed the event? He set up like a great chance for Egrane in the first half, which he fluffed. And then, yeah, eventually they lost the game. Yeah, they do criticize Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi for being on really strong squads in terms of the club teams and saying, yeah, okay, it's easy to, when you have, like, Ronald Deenier or whoever on your team. It would be very interesting just if the league could make a decision. Yeah, just random, random allocation. Yeah. And just every single game, just keep really, like, maybe once a season or every season you get random. Yeah, but let's say every player, if, let's say they sign a five-year contract for a team, like one of them, you're gonna get randomly allocated to, to, let's say, a bottom half team. I bet you there's gonna be so much corruption around that. No, obviously it wouldn't, it wouldn't ever happen or work, but I think it's, if, you never know. I think to think about.
Magnus's approach to chess (07:57)
So on chess, let's zoom out. If you break down your approach to chess, when you're at your best, what, what do you think, what do you think contributes to that approach? Is it memory recall, specific lines and positions? Is it intuition? How much of it is intuition? How much of it is pure calculation? How much of it is messing with the strategy of the opponent? So the game theory aspect in terms of what contributes to the highest level of play that you do. I think the answer differs a little bit now from what it did eight years ago. For instance, like, I've, I feel like I've had like two peaks in, in my career in 2014, well, 2013, 2014 and also in 2019. And in those years, I was very different in terms of, of my strength, strength specifically in 2019. I benefited a lot from opening preparation. While in 2013, 2014, I mostly tried to avoid my opponents preparation rather than that being a, being a strength. So I'm mentioning that also because it's something, something I didn't, didn't mention. I think like my intuitive understanding of chess has over those years, always been a little bit better than the others, even though it has evolved as well. Certainly there are, there are things that I understand now that I didn't understand back then, but that's not only for me. That's for, for others as well. I was younger back then. So I played with more energy, which meant that I could play better in long drawn out games, which was also a necessity for me because I didn't, I couldn't, couldn't beat people in the, in the openings. And in terms of calculation, that's always been a weird issue for me. Like I've always been really, really bad at solving exercises in chess. Like that's been like a blind spot for me. First of all, I found it hard to concentrate on them and to look, to look deep enough. So this is like a puzzle, a position, a mate in X. I mean, one thing is mate, but find the best move. That's generally the exercise. Like find the best move, find the best line. You just don't connect with it. Usually like you have to, to look, look deep. And then when I get these lines during the game, I very often find the, the right solution, even though, even though I'm, it's not still the best part of my game to, to calculate very, very deeply. But it doesn't feel like calculation you're saying in terms of. No, it does sometimes, but for me, it's more like I'm at the board trying to find, trying to find the solution and I understand like the training at home is like trying a little bit to, to replicate that, like you give somebody half an hour in a position like in this instance, you might have thought for half an hour if you play the game. But I just, I just cannot do it. One thing I know that I am good at though is calculating short lines because I calculate them, them well, I'm good at seeing little details and I'm also much better than, than most at evaluating, which I think is something that sets me, sets me apart from, from others. So evaluating specific position, if I, if I make this move and the position changes in this way, is this the step in the right direction, like in a big picture way? Yeah, like you calculate a few moves ahead and then you evaluate because a lot of, lot of the time, a lot of the times you cannot, the branch just becomes so big that you cannot calculate everything. So you have to, yeah, so you have to, you have to make valuations based on, you know, based mostly on knowledge and intuition and somehow I seem to do that pretty well. When you say you're good at short lines, what's that, what's short? That's usually like lines of two to four moves each. Okay, so that's directly applicable to even faster games like Blitz, chess and so on. Yeah, Blitz is a lot about calculating forest lines. So those, you can see pretty clearly that the players who struggle at Blitz who are great at classical are those who rely on deep calculating ability because you simply have, don't have time for, for that in Blitz, you have to calculate quickly and rely a lot on intuition. Can you try to, I know it's really difficult. Can you try to talk through what's actually being visualized in your head? Is there, is there a visual component? Yeah, no, I just visualized the board. I mean, the board is in, is in, is in my head two dimensional. My interpretation is that it's, it is two, two dimensional. Like what colors is it brown tinted? Is it black? Is it like, what's the theme? Is it a big bore, small board? Are the, what do the ponds look like? Or is it more in the space of concepts? Like, it's, yeah, there, there aren't a lot of colors. It's mostly, yeah. So what is it, Queen's Gap it? I'm trying to find, I'm not now to, to imagine it. What about when you do the branching, when you have multiple boards and so on? How does that look? No, but it's only one at a time. So like, one position at a time. One position at a time. So then I go back and that's what, when, when people play, or at least that's what I do when I play blindfold chess against several people, then it's just always one board at a time and the rest are stored away somewhere. But how do you store them away? So like, you went down one branch, you're like, all right, that's, I got that. I understand that there's some good there, there's some bad there. Now let me go down another branch. Like, how do you store away the information? You just put on a shelf, kind of. I, I try and store it away. Sometimes I have to sort of repeat it because I forget. And it does happen frequently in games that you're thinking for, especially if you're thinking for long, let's say half an hour, or even more than that, that you play a move and then your opponent plays a move, then you play a move and they play a move again and you realize, oh, I actually calculated that. I just forgot about it. So that's obviously what happens when you store the information and you cannot retrieve it. You're going to move for 20, 30 minutes. Like, how do you break that down? What can you describe? What, like, what's the algorithm here that takes 30 minutes to run? 30 minutes is, at least for me, it's usually a waste. 30 minutes usually means that I don't know what to do. And I'm trying. You're just running into the wall over and over again. Yeah, I'm trying to find something that isn't there. I think 10 to 15 minutes things in complicated positions can be really, really helpful. Then you can spend your time pretty efficiently. Just means that the branches are getting wide. There's a lot to run through both in terms of calculation and lots you have to evaluate as well. And then based on that 10 to 15 minutes, I think you have a pretty good idea what to do. I mean, it's very rare that I would think for half an hour and I would have a eureka moment during the game. Like, if I haven't seen it in 10 minutes, I'm probably not going to see it at all. You're going to different branches. Yeah. And like after 15 minutes, it's like... It mainly to the middle game because when you get to the end game, it's usually brute force calculation that makes you spend so much time. So middle game is normally... It's a complicated mix of brute force calculation and like creativity and evaluation. So end game, it's easier in that sense.
Game 6 of the 2021 World Chess Championship (17:10)
Well, you're good at every aspect of chess, but you're also your end game is legendary. It baffles experts. So can you linger on that then? Try to explain what the heck is going on there. Like if you look at Game 6 of the previous World Championship, the longest game ever played in chess, it was I think his queen versus your rook knight in two pawns. Yeah. There's so many options there. It's such an interesting little dance and it's kind of not obvious that it wouldn't be a draw. So how do you escape it not being a draw? And you wouldn't that match? No, I knew that for most of the time it was a theoretical draw. Since chess with seven or less pieces on the board is solved, so you can... Like people who are watching online, they can just check it. They can check a so-called table base and it's just going to spit out when for black or a draw. And also I knew that, I knew that didn't know that position specifically, but I knew that it had to be a draw. So for me it was about staying alert. First of all, trying to look for the best way to put my pieces. But yeah, those end games are a bit... They're a bit unusual. They don't happen too often. So what I'm usually good at is I'm using my strengths that I also use in middle games is that I evaluate well and I calculate short variations. Even for the end game, short variations matter. Yeah, it does matter in some simpler end games. But also there are these theoretical end games with very few pieces like Rooknights and Two Pawns vs. Queens, but a lot of end games are simply defined by the Queens being exchanged. And there are a lot of other pieces left. And then it's usually not brute force, it's usually more of understanding and evaluation. And then I can use my strengths very well. Why are you so damn good at the end game? Isn't there a lot of moves from when the end game starts to when the end game finishes? And you have a few pieces. You have to figure out it's like a sequence of little games that happens, right? Like little pattern. How does it being able to evaluate a single position lead you to evaluate a long sequence of positions that eventually lead to a checkmate? Well, I think if you evaluate well at the start, you know what plans to go for. And then usually the play from there is often pretty simple. Let's say you understand how to arrange your pieces and often also how to arrange your Pawns early in the end game, then that makes all the difference. And after that is like what we call technique. Very often that it's technique basically just means that the moves are simple and these are moves that a lot of players could make. Not only the very strongest ones, these are moves that are kind of understood and known. So with the evaluation, you're just constantly improving a little bit and that just leads to suffocating the position and then eventually to the win as long as you're doing the evaluation. Well, one step at a time. To some extent. Also, yeah, I said like if you evaluate it better and thus accumulated some small advantages, then you can often make your life pretty easy towards the end of the end game. So you said in 2019, sort of the second phase of why you're so damn good, you did a lot of opening preparation.
Chess openings (21:12)
What's the goal for you of the opening game of chess? Is it to throw the opponent off from any prepared lines? Is there something you could put into words about why you're so damn good at the openings? Again, these things have changed a lot over time. Back in Kasparos days, for instance, he very often got huge advantages from the opening as as white. Can you explain why? There were several reasons for that. First of all, he worked harder. He was more creative in finding ideas. He was able to look places others didn't. Also he had a very strong team of people who had specific strengths in openings that he could use. So they would come up with ideas and he would integrate those ideas into the... Yeah, and he would also very often come up with them himself. Also at the start, he had some of the first computer engines to work for him to find his ideas, to look deeper, to verify ideas. He was better at using them than a lot of others. Now I feel like the playing field is a lot more level. There are both computer engines, neural networks and hybrid engines available to practically anybody. So it's much harder to find ideas now that actually give you an advantage with the white pieces. People don't expect to find those ideas anymore. Now it's all about finding ideas that are missed by the engines either they're missed entirely or they're missed at low depth. And using them to gain some advantage in the sense that you have more knowledge. It's also good to know that usually these are not complete bluffs. These are semi-bluffs so that you know that even if your opponent makes all the right moves, you can still make a draw. And also at the start of 2019, neural networks had just started to be a thing in chess. And I'm not entirely sure, but there were at least some players even in the top events who you could see did not use them or did not use them in the right way. And then you could gain a huge advantage because a lot of positions they were being evaluated differently by the neural networks than traditional chess engines because they simply think about chess in a very, very different way. So the short answer is these days it's all about surprising your opponent and taking it into position where you have more knowledge. So is there some sense in which it's okay to make sub-optimal "moves"? No, you have to. I mean, you have to because the best moves have been analyzed to death mostly. So that's a kind of, when you say semi-bluff, that's a kind of sacrifice. You're sacrificing the optimal move, the optimal position so that you can take the opponent. I mean, that's a game theoretic sense. You take the opponent as something they didn't prepare well. Yeah, but you could also look at it another way that regardless, like if you turn on whatever engine you turn on, like if you try to analyze either from the starting position or the starting position of some popular opening, like if you analyze long enough, it's always going to end up in a draw. So in that sense, you may not be going for like the objective that tries that are objectively the most difficult to draw against, but you are trying to look at least at the less obvious path. How much do you use engines? Do you use Leela, Stockfish, any preparations? My team does. Personally, I try not to use them too much on my own because I know that when I play, I obviously cannot have help from engines and often I feel like often having imperfect or knowledge about a position or some engine knowledge can be a lot worse than having no knowledge. So I try to look at engines as little as possible. So yeah, so your team uses them for research, for generation of ideas, but you are relying primarily on your human resources. Yeah, for sure. You can evaluate well, you don't lean. Yeah, I can evaluate as a human, I can know what they find unpleasant and so on. And it's very often the case for me to some extent, but a lot for others that you arrive in a position and your opponent plays a move that you didn't expect. And if you didn't expect it, you know that it's probably not a great move since it has been expected by the engine. But if it's not obvious why, it's not a good move, it's usually very, very hard to figure it out. And so then looking at the engines doesn't necessarily help because at that point, like you're facing a human, you have to sort of think as a human. I was chatting with the demo society of DeepMind a couple of days ago and he asked me to ask you about what you first felt when you saw the play of Alpha Zero. Like interesting ideas, any creativity, did you feel fear that the machine is taking over? Were you inspired? And what was going on in your mind and heart? Funny thing about Demis is he doesn't play chess at all like an AI. He plays in a very, very human way. No, I was hugely inspired when I saw the games at first. And in terms of man versus machine, I mean that battle was kind of lost for humans even before I entered top level chess. So that's never been an issue for me. I never liked playing as computers much anyway. So that's completely fine. But it was amazing to see how they quote unquote thought about chess in such a different way and in a way that you could mistake for creativity. For me, it's a world to you how many sacrifices it's willing to make, like sacrifice pieces and then wait for prolonged periods of time before doing anything with that. Is that weird to you that that's part of chess? No, it's one of the things that's hardest to replicate as a human as well. Or at least for my playing style. That usually when I sacrifice, I feel like I'm, you know, I don't do it unless I feel like I'm getting something like tangible in return and like a few moves down the line. A few moves down the line. You can see that you can either retrieve the material or you can put your opponents king under pressure or have some very like very concrete positional advantage. This sort of compensates for it. For instance, in chess, so bishops and knights are fairly equivalent. We both give them three points, but bishops are a little bit better. And especially a bishop pair is a lot better than a bishop and a knight. So or especially two knights depends on the position, but like on average they are. So like sacrificing a pawn in order to get a bishop pair, that's one of the most common sacrifices in chess. Oh, you're okay making that sacrifice? Yeah, I mean, it depends on the situation, but generally that's fine. And there are a lot of openings that are based on that that you sacrifice a pawn for the bishop pair and then eventually it's some sort of positional equality. So that's fine. But the way Alpha Zero would sacrifice a knight or sometimes two pawns, three pawns. And you could see that it's looking for some sort of positional domination, but it's hard to understand and it was really fascinating to see. Yeah, in 2019 I was sacrificing a lot of pawns, especially. And it was a great joy. And fortunately it's not so easy to continue to do that. People have found more solid opening lines sense that don't allow me to do that as often. I'm still trying both to get those positions and still trying to learn the art of sacrificing pieces. So Demis also made a comment that was interesting to my new chess brain, which is one of the reasons that chess is fun is because of the quote, creative tension between the bishop and the knight. So you're talking about this interesting difference between the two pieces, that there's some kind of, how would you convert that? I mean, that's like a poetic statement about chess. I think he said that why has chess been played for such a long time? Why is it so fun to play at every level that if you can reduce it to one thing, is it the bishop and the knight? It's some kind of weird dynamics that they create in chess. Is there any truth to that? It sounds very good. I haven't tried a lot about other games, but I tried to play a little bit of shogi. And for my new shogi brain, comparing it to chess, what annoyed me about that game is how much the pieces suck. Basically you have one rook and you have one bishop that moves like in chess. And the rest of the pieces are really not very powerful. So I think that's one of the attractions of chess, like how powerful, especially the queen is. Interesting. I kind of think makes it makes a lot of fun. You think power is more fun than like variety? No, there is variety in chess as well though. But not much more so than like the goals. No, no, no, no, that's for. So like knight, I mean, they all move in different ways. They're all like weird. There's just all these weird patterns and positions that can emerge. The difference in the pieces create all kinds of interesting dynamics, I guess, is what I'm trying to say. Yeah. And I guess it is quite fascinating that all those years ago they created the knights and the bishop without probably realizing that they would be almost equally strong with such different qualities. That's crazy that this, you know, like when you design computer games, it's like an art form, it's science and an art to balance it. You know, you talk about Starcraft and all those games, like so that you can have competitive play at the highest level with all those different units. In the case of chess, it's different pieces and they somehow designed a game that was super competitive. But there's probably some kind of natural selection that the chess just wouldn't last if it was designed poorly. Yeah. And I think the rules have changed over time a little bit. But I would be, I mean, speaking of games and all that, I'm also interested to play other other games like chess nine, six, they were fish around them as they call it, like that you have nine hundred and sixteen maps instead of one.
Chess960: Fischer random chess (33:35)
Yeah. So for people who don't know a fish or random chess chess nine, six, yeah, that basically just means that the pawns are in the same way. And the major pieces are distributed randomly on the on the last rank only that there have to be obviously bishops of opposite color. And the king has to be in between the rooks so that you can castle both ways. Oh, you can still castle and you can still castle, but it makes it interesting. So you still have it's still castles in the same way. So let's say the king is like, yeah, yeah, what happens in that case? Yeah, let's say the king is in the corner. So to castle this side, you have to clear a whole lot of pieces. What would the king look like though? No, the king would go here and the rook would go there. Oh, okay. And that's happened in my games as well. Like I forgot about castling and I've been like attacking a king over here and then all of a sudden escapes to the other side. I think I think Fisher chess is good that it's the maps will generally be worse than regular chess. I think the starting position is as close to ideal for creating a competitive game as possible, but they will still be like interesting and diverse enough that you can play very interesting games. So when you say maps, there's 960 different options and like what fraction of that creates interesting games at the highest level. This is something that a lot of people are curious about because when you challenge a great chess player like yourself to look at a random starting position, that feels like it pushes you to play pure chess versus memorizing live. Yeah, for sure. Or for sure. But that's the whole idea. Yeah. That's what you want. How hard is it to play? Can you talk about what it feels like to you to play with a random starting position? Is there some intuition you've been building up? It's very, very different. And even greater advantage in 960 than they have in classical chess. No, it's super interesting. That's why also I really wish that we played more classical chess like long games for it to seven hours and in Fisher and adjust, just 1960 because then you really need that time even on the first moves. What usually happens is that you get 15 minutes before the game. You're getting told the position 15 minutes before the game and then you can think about it a little bit even, you know, check the computer, but that's all the time you have. But then you really need to figure it out. Like some of the positions obviously are a lot more interesting than the others. In some of them, it appears that like if you don't play symmetrically at the start, then you're probably going to be in a pretty bad position. What do you mean with the pawns? With the pawns, yeah. Why? So that's the thing about chess though. So let's say why it opens with E4, which has always been the most played move. There are many ways to meet that, but the most solid ways of playing has always been the symmetrical response with the E5 and then there's the reload post, there's the petrofoil thing and so on. And if you just banned symmetry on the first move and chess, you would get more interesting games. Oh, interesting. Or you'd get more decisive games. So that's the good thing about chess is that we've played it so long that we've actually devised non-symmetrical openings that are also fairly equal. But symmetry is a good default. But yeah, symmetry is a good default and it's a problem that by playing symmetrical arm with good preparation in regular chess is just a little bit too easy to draw. It's a little bit too dry. I guess if you analyzed a lot in chess 960, then a lot of the positions would end up being pretty dry as well. Because the random starting points are so shitty, you're forced to play symmetrically. You cannot actually try and play in a more interesting manner.
Chess variants (38:37)
Is there any other kind of variations that are interesting to you? Oh yeah, there are several. So no castling chess has been promoted by former world champion Vladimir Kramnik. There have been a few tournaments with that, not any that I've participated in though. I kind of like it. My coach uses non-castling engines quite a bit to analyze regular positions just to get a different perspective. So castling is a defensive thing. If you remove castling, it forces you to be more offensive. Is that why? Yeah, for sure. It seems like a tiny world difference. No casting probably forces you to be a little bit more defensive at the start. Or I would guess so. Because you cannot suddenly escape with the kings. It's going to make the game a bit slower at the start. But I feel like eventually it's going to make the games more less dry for sure. Then you have some weird variants like where the pawns can move both diagonally and forward. And also you have self-capture chess which is quite interesting. So that pawns can... Excuse me, could commit suicide? Yeah, people can... Why would that be a good move? No, sometimes one of your pieces occupy a square. I mean, let me just set up a position. Let's put it like this. For instance, like here, I mean, there are a lot of ways to checkmates for why, like this, for instance, or there are several ways. But like this would be... Would be... Oh, cool. For people who are just listening, yeah, basically you bring in a knight close to the whole, the king, the queen and so on. And you replace the knight with the queen. Yeah, that's interesting. So you have like a front of pieces and then you just replace them with the second one. Yeah, that's cool. I mean, that could be interesting. I think also maybe sometimes it's just clearance, basically. It adds an extra element of clearance. So I think there are many, many different variants. I don't think any of them are better than the one that has been played for at least a thousand years, but it's certainly interesting to see. So one of your goals is to reach the Fidea Ilo chess rating of 2900.
Elo Rating (41:22)
Maybe you can comment on how is this rating calculated and what does it take to get there? Is it possible for a human being to get there? Basically you play with a factor of 10, which means that if I were to play against an opponent who's rated the same as me, I would be expected to score 50%, obviously. And that means that I would win five points with a win, lose five points with a draw and then equal if I draw. If your opponent is 200 points, lower rated, you're expected to score 75% and so on. And you establish that rating by playing a lot of people and then it slowly converges towards an estimate of how likely you are to win or lose against different people. Yeah, and my rating is obviously carried through thousands of games. Right now my rating is 2861, which is decent. I think that pretty much corresponds to the level I have at the moment, which means in order to reach 2900, I would have to either get better at chess, which I think is fairly hard to do at least considerably better. So what I would need to do is try and optimize even more in terms of the match ups, the game play. Preparations, everything, but not necessarily like selecting tournaments and so on, but like just optimizing in terms of preparation, like making sure I never have any bad days and- Usually basically you can't lose. Yeah, I basically can't fuck up ever if I want to reach that goal. And so I think reaching 2900 is pretty unlikely. The reason I've set the goal is to have something to play for, to have a motivation to actually try and be at my best when I play, because otherwise I'm playing to some extent mostly for fun these days in that I love to play, I love to try and win, but I don't have a lot to prove or anything. But that gives me at least the motivation to try and be at my best all the time, which I think is something to aim for. So at the moment I'm quite enjoying that process of trying to optimize. What would you say motivates you in this now and in the years leading up to now, the love of winning or the fear of losing? So for the World Championship, it's been a fair of losing for sure. Other tournaments, love of winning is a great, great factor. And that's why I also get more joy from winning most tournaments than I do for winning the World Championship, because then it's mostly been a relief. I also think I enjoy winning more now than I did before, because I feel like I'm a little bit more relaxed now. And I also know that it's not going to last forever. So every little win I appreciate a lot more now. And in terms of fear for losing, that's a huge reason why I'm not going to play the World Championship, because it really didn't give me a lot of joy. It really was all about avoiding losing. Why is it that the World Championship really makes you feel this way, the anxiety. So when you say losing, do you mean not just a match, but like every single position? No, it's just the fear of a blunder. No, I mean the blunder is okay. Like when I sit down at the board, then it's mostly been fine, because then I'm focused on getting it. Then I'm focused on the game. And then I know that I can play the game. It's a time like in between, like knowing that, you know, I feel like losing is not an option, because it's the World Championship. And because in a World Championship, there are two players. There's a winner and a loser. If I don't win a random tournament that I play, then, you know, I'm usually, it depends on a tournament. It might be disappointed for sure, might even be pretty pissed, but ultimately, you know, you go on to the next one. With the World Championship, you don't go on to the next one. It's like, it's years. And it also has been like, it's been a core part of my identity for a while now, that I am World Champion. And so there's not an option of losing that. Yeah. There's a, you're going to have to, at least for a couple of years, carry the, the weight of having lost your, the former World Champion now, if you lose versus the current World Champion. There are certain sports that create that anxiety and others that don't. For example, I think UFC like mixed martial arts are a little better with losing. It's understood like everybody loses. But there's not everybody though. Not everybody. Not everybody. Not everybody. Yes. Could be bunted to the chat. But in boxing, there is like that extra pressure of like maintaining the championship. I mean, maybe you could say the same thing about the UFC as well. So for you personally, for a person who loves chess, the first time you won the World Championship, that was, that was the big, that was the thing that was fun. Yeah. And then everything after is like stressful. Yeah. Essentially, there was certainly stress involved the first time as well. But it was nothing compared to, compared to the others. So the only World Championship after that that I really enjoyed was the one in 2018 against the American Fabiano Caruana. And what that made that different is that I've been kind of slumping for a bit and he'd been on the rise. So our ratings were very, very similar. They were so close that if at any point during the, during the match, I'd lost the game. He would have been ranked as number one in World like our ratings were so close that for each draw, they didn't move. And the game itself was close. Yeah, the games themselves were very close. I had a winning position in the first game that I couldn't really get anywhere for a lot of games. Then he had a couple of games where he could potentially have won. Then in the last game was a little bit better. And eventually they were all, they were all drawn. But I felt like all the way that this is an interesting match against an opponent who is at this position at this point equal to me. And so losing that would not have been this disaster. Because in all the other matches, I would know that I would have lost against somebody who I know I'm much better than. And that would be would be a lot harder for me to, to take. Well, that's fascinating and beautiful that the stress isn't from losing this because you have fun. You enjoy playing against somebody who's as good as you may be better than you. It's exciting to you. Yeah. It's losing at this high stakes thing that only happens rarely to a person who's not as good as you. Yeah. And that's why I've still been incredibly frustrating in other matches. When I know, when we play draw after draw, and I can just, I know that I'm better. I can sense during the game that I understand it better than them. But I cannot, you know, I cannot get over the hump. So you are the best chess player in the world.
World Chess Championship (49:48)
And you not playing the world championship really makes the world championship not seem important or I mean, there's an argument to be made for that. Is there anything you would like to see if you had a change about the world championship that would make it more fun for you and better for the game of chess period for everybody involved? So I think 12 games or now 14 games that there is for the world championship is a fairly, fairly low sample size. If you want to determine who the best player is or at least the best player in that particular matchup, you need more games. And I think to some extent, if you're going to have a world champion and call them the best players, best player, you've got to make sure that the format increases the chance of finding the best players. So I think having more games and if you're going to have a lot more games than you need to, than you need to decrease the time control a bit, which in turn, I think is also a good thing because in very long time controls with deep preparation, you can sort of mask a lot of your deficiencies as a chess player with, because you have a lot of time to think about thinking to defend and also, yeah, you have deep preparation. So I think those would be, for me to play, those would be the main things more games and less time. So you want to see more games and rules that emphasize pure chess? Yeah, but already less time emphasizes pure chess because defensive techniques are, are much harder to execute with, with a little time. What do you think? Is there a sweet spot in terms of, are we talking about blitz? Is it how many minutes? I think this is a bit too fast. To their credit, this was suggested by Fieda as well. For a start to have two games per day, and let's say you have 45 minutes, a game plus 15 or 30 seconds per move, that means that each sessions will probably be about, or a little less than two hours. That would be, would be a start. Also what, what we're playing in the tournament that I'm playing here in, in, in Miami, which is four games a day with 15 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. Those would be more interesting than, than the one there is now. And I, I understand that there are a lot of traditions, people don't want to change the world championship. That's, that's all fine. I just think that, um, the world championship should do a better job of trying to reflect who, who's the best overall chess player. So would you, would you say like, if it's faster games, you'd probably be able to get a sample size of like over 20 games, 20, 30, 40. You think there's a number that's good over a long period of time? Well, I would prefer as many as possible. It's like a hundred. Um, yeah. Let's say you play 12 days to games a day, you know, that's 24. Yeah. I feel like that's already quite a bit better. You play like one black game, one wide game each day. Endurance wise, that's okay. Yeah, I think that's fine. Like you will have three days as well. So I don't think that will be, will be a problem. And also you have to prepare two sets of openings for each day, which makes it more difficult for the teams preparing. Yeah. I think it's also good. Let me ask you a fun question. If Hikaru Nakamura was one of the two people, I guess I apologize for him. Yeah, he could have finished second. Yeah. So he lost the last round of the candidates. Yeah. And you can explain to me, Internet speed, copium is something you tweeted. Yeah. But if he got second, would you, would you, would you just despite him still play the world championship? That's the first Internet question. And when the Internet asks, I must abide, the due to divide. Yeah, sure. Thank you, Internet. So after the last match, I did an interview right after where I talked about the fact that I was unlikely to play the next one. I'd spoken privately to both family, friends, and of course also my chess team that this was likely going to be the last, the last match. What happened was that right before the world championship match, there was this young player, Alreya Safirusha. Yeah, the dramatic rise. He rose to second in the world rankings. He was 18 then, he's 19 now, he qualified for the candidates. And they felt like there was like, at least I have realistic possibility that he could be the challenger for the next world championship. And that sort of lit a fire under me. So you like that? Yeah, I like that a lot. I love the idea of playing him in the next world championship. And originally, I just, I was sure that I wanted to announce right after the tournament the match that this was it. I'm done. I'm not playing the next one. But this lit a fire under me. So that made me think, you know, this actually motivates me. And I just wanted to get it out there for several reasons, to create more hype about the candidates, to like sort of motivate myself a little bit, maybe motivate him. Also obviously I wanted to give people and people a heads up for the candidates that you might be playing for more than, more than first place. Like normally the candidates, it's first place or bust. It's like the world championship. And then, so Nakamura was one of many people who just didn't believe me. Which is fair, because I've talked before about not necessarily wanting to defend again. But I never like talked as a creator was as serious as this time. So he simply didn't believe me. And he was very vocal about that. And he said, nobody believed me. Another player, which may or may not have been true. And then yeah, he lost the last game and he didn't qualify. But to answer the question, no, I'd already at that point decided that I wouldn't play. I would have liked it less if he had, if he had not lost the last round. But the decision was already was already made. Does it, does it break your heart a little bit? That you're walking away from it? In all the ways that you mentioned that it's just not fun. There's a bunch of ways that doesn't seem to bring out the best kind of chess. It doesn't bring out the best out of you in the particular opponents involved. Does it just break your heart a little bit? Like you're walking away from something or maybe the entire chess community is walking away from a kind of a historic event that was so important in the 20th century at least. So I won the championship in 2013. I said no to the candidates in 2011. I didn't particularly like the format. I also wasn't. I was just not in the mood. I didn't want the pressure that was connected with the World Championship. I was perfectly content at the time to play the tournaments that I did play. Also to be ranked number one in the world, I was comfortable with the fact that I knew that I was the best and I didn't need a title to show others. What happened later is I suddenly decided to play. In 2013 I liked the change to format. I liked it better. I just decided it could be interesting. Let's try and get this. There really wasn't more than that to it. It wasn't fulfilling, life-learning dream or anything. I just thought let's play. It's just a cool tournament. A good challenge. Yeah, it's a cool tournament. It's a good challenge. Why not? It's something that could be a motivation. It motivated me to get in the best shape of my life that had been to then. It was a good thing. 2013 match brought me a lot of joy as well. I'm very, very happy that I did that. I never had any thoughts that I'm going to keep the title for a long time. Immediately after the match in 2013, also before the match, I'd spoken against the fact that Champion is seeded into the final, which I thought was unfair. After the match, I made a proposal that we have a different system where the Champion doesn't have these privileges. People's reaction, both players and chess community, was generally like, "Okay, we're good. We don't want that. You keep your privileges." I was like, "Okay, whatever." So you want to fight for it every time? Yeah. I want that. I have to ask, just in case you have an opinion, if you can, maybe from a fantasy chess perspective, analyze Ding versus Nepo, who wins the current, the two people that would play if you're not playing. Generally, I would consider that Ding has a slightly better overall chess strength. But at the strength and weaknesses of each, if you can summarize it. So Nepo, he's even better at calculating short lines than I am. But he can sometimes like a little bit of depth. In short lines, he's an absolute calculation monster. He's extremely quick. But he can sometimes like a bit of depth. Also recently, he's improved his openings quite a bit. So now he has a lot of good ideas and he's very, very solid. Ding is not quite as well prepared, but he has an excellent understanding of dynamics and imbalances in chess, I would say. What do you mean by imbalances? Imbalances like bishops against knights and material imbalances. He can take advantage of those. Yes, I would say he's very, very good at that and understanding the dynamic factors as we call them like material versus time, especially. I think Nepo got the better of him in the candidates. So what's your sense why Ding has an edge in the championship? I feel like individual pass results hasn't necessarily been a great indicator of well championship results. I feel like overall chess strength is more important. I mean, to be fair, I only think like Ding has a very small edge. Like difference is not big at all. But our individual head-to-head record was probably the main reason that a lot of people thought Nepo had a good chance against me as well. It was like 4 to 1 in his favor before the match. But that was just another example of why that may not necessarily mean anything. Also in our case, it was a very low sample size. I think about the size of the match in total 14 games and that generally doesn't mean much. How close were those games would you say in your mind for the previous championship? So that game six was a turning point where you won. Was there any doubt in your mind that if you do a much larger sample size, you'll get the better of Nepo? No, no, larger sample size is always good for me. So World Championship, it's a great parallel to football because it's a low scoring game. And if the better player or the better team scores, they win most of the time. Or that's generally for championships or in general? Yeah, for championships. They generally win because the other slightly weaker team, they're good enough to defend to make it very, very difficult for the others. But when they actually have to create the chances, then they have no chance. And then it very often ends with a blowout as it did in our match. If I hadn't won game six, it probably would have been very, very close. He might have edged it. There's obviously a bigger chance that I would have edged it. But this is just what happens a lot in chess, but also in football that matches our close. And then they... Somebody scores. Somebody scores and then things changed. And this gives people the illusion that the matchup was very close. Which, while actually it just means that the nature of the game makes the matches close very often, but it's always much more likely that one of the players is going to break away than the others. And in other matches as well, even though a lot of people, before the match in 2016 against karaoke, there were people who thought before the match that I was massively overrated as a favorite. And that essentially the match was pretty close, like whatever, 60, 40, or some people even say it like 55, 45. And what I felt was that the match went very, very wrong for me and I still won. And some people saw that as an indication that the pre-match probabilities were probably a bit closer than people thought. Well, I would look at it in the way that everything went wrong and I still won, which probably means that I was pretty big favorite to begin with. I do have a question too about that match. But first, so Sergei Kariakkin was originally a qualifier for the candidate tournament, but was disqualified for breaching the Fedeic code of ethics after publicly expressing approval for the 2022 Russian invasion in Ukraine. When you look at the Cold War and some of the US versus Russian games of the past, some of this geopolitics ever creep its way into the game. Do you feel the pressure, the immensity of that, as it does sometimes for the Olympics, these big nations playing each other, competing against each other? It's like fighting out in a friendly way the battles, the tensions that they have in the space of geopolitics. I think it still does. So the president of the World Chess Federation who was just reelected is a Russian. I like him personally for sure, but he is quite connected to the Kremlin. And it's quite clear that the Kremlin considers it at least a semi-important goal to bring the chess crown home to Russia. So it's still definitely a factor. And I mean, I can answer for in the Kariak case, like I don't have a strong opinion on whether he should have been banned or not. Obviously, I don't agree with anything that he says. But in principle, I think that you should ban either no Russians or all Russians. I'm generally not particularly against either. But I don't love banning wrong opinions, even if they are as reprehensible as he has been. Yeah, there's something about the World Chess Championships or the Olympics, where it feels like banning is counterproductive to the alleviating some of the conflicts. We don't know. This is the thing though. We really don't know about the long-term conflicts. And a lot of people try to do the right thing in this sense, which I don't really blame at all. It's just that we don't know. And I guess sometimes there are other ways you want to try and help as well. Like within the competition, within some of those battles of US versus Russia or so on of the past, there's also between the individuals, maybe you'll disagree with this, but from a spectator perspective, there's still a camaraderie. At the end of the day, there's a thing that unites you, which is this appreciation of the fight over the chessboard. Even if you hate each other in a moment. I think for every match that's been, you would briefly discuss the game with your opponent after the game, no matter how much you hate each other. I think that's lovely. And Kasparo, he was quoted, somebody in his team asked him, "Why are you talking to Carp of after the game?" You hate that guy. He's like, "Yeah, sure, but he's the only one who understands me." Yeah, the only one who understands. So that's, no, I think that's really lovely. I would love to see that in other areas as well, that you can, regardless of what happens, you can have a good chat about the game. You can just talk about the ideas with people who understand what you understand. So if you're not playing the world championships, there's a lot of people who are saying that perhaps the world championships don't matter anymore. You think there's some truth to that? I said that back a long time ago as well, that for me, I don't know if it never happened, so I don't know what would have happened. But I was thinking, the moment that I realized that I'm not the best player in the world, I felt like morally I have to renounce the world championship title, because it doesn't mean anything as long as you're not the best player. So the ratings really tell a bigger, a clearer story. I think so, at least over time. I'm a lot more proud of my streak of being rated number one in the world, which is now since, I think, the summer of 2011. I'm a lot more proud of that than the world championships. How much anxiety or even fear do you have before making a difficult decision on the chessboard? So when it's a high stakes game, how nervous do you get? How much anxiety do you have in all that calculation? You're sitting there for 10, 15 minutes, because you're in a fog. There's always a possibility of a blunder of a mistake. Are you anxious about it? Are you afraid of it? Really depends. I have been at times. I think the most nervous I've ever been was game 10 of the world championships in 2018. That was just a thrilling game. I was black. I basically abandoned the queen side at some point to attack him on the king side, and I knew that my attack, if it doesn't work, I'm going to lose. But I had so much adrenaline. So that was fine. I thought I was going to win. At some point, I realized that it's not so clear. My time was ticking, and I was just getting so nervous. I still remember what happened. We played this time-tribble face where he had a very little time, but I had even less. I can't remember much of it, just that when it was over, I was just so relieved, because then it was clear that the position was probably going to peter out in a draw. Otherwise, I'm often nervous before games, but when I get there, it's all business. Especially when I'm playing well, I'm never afraid of losing when I play, because I trust my instincts, I trust my skills. How much psychological intimidation is there from you to the other person, from the other person to you? I think people would play a lot better if they played against an anonymous me. I would love to- Oh, people are scared of you, too. I would love to have a tournament online where, let's say, you play ten of the best players in the world, and for each round, you don't know who you're playing. That's an interesting question. You know, like, there's these videos where people eat McDonald's, Burger King, or Diet Coke versus Diet Pepsi. Do people be able to tell they're playing you from the style of play, do you think? Or from the strength of play? If there was a decent sample size, sure. And what about you? Would you be able to tell others- Like top-time? In just one game, very unlikely. What sample size would you need to tell accurately? I feel like it's a size. Yeah, I think 20 games would help a lot. For a person. Yeah. But I know that they've already developed AI bots that are pretty good at recognizing somebody's style. Okay. Which is quite fascinating. And it'd be fascinating if those bots were able to summarize the style somehow. Maybe great attacking chess. Like some of the same characteristics you've been describing, like, great at short, lying calculations, all that kind of stuff. I mean, really, no, but really all the best chess players. There are basically just two camps. People who have got out longer lines or shorter lines. It's the hair and the tortoise, basically. And sometimes, you know, I feel like I'm the closest you can get to a hybrid of those. Because you've got both the- you're good in every position. It's just the middle game and the end game. Yeah, and also I can think to some extent, both rapidly and deeply. Which a lot of people, they can do both. But I mean, to answer your question from before, I think, yeah, I sometimes can get a little bit intimidated by my opponent, but it's mostly if there's something unknown. It's mostly if it's something that I don't understand fully. I do think, especially when I'm playing, well, people, they just play more timidly against me than they do against each other, sometimes without even realizing it. And I certainly use that to my advantage. If I sense that my opponent is apprehensive, if I sense that they're not going to necessarily take all their chances, it just means that I can take more risk. And I always try and find that balance. To shake them up a little bit.
What's been the toughest loss of your career that you remember? Would that be the World Championship match? Oh, yeah, for sure. Can you take game 8 in 2016? And who was it against? I guess. Cariachen in New York. Can you take it through the story of that game? Where were you before that game in terms of game 1 through 7? Yeah, so game 1 and 2, not much happened. Game 3 and 4, I was winning in both of them. And normally, I should definitely have converted both. I couldn't. Partly due to good defense on his part, but mostly because I messed up. And then after that, games 5, 6 and 7, not much happened. I was getting impatient at that point. So for game 8, I was probably ready to take a little bit more risks than I had before, which I guess was insane because I knew that he wouldn't beat me unless I beat myself. Like he wasn't strong enough to outplay me. And that was leading to impatience somehow and impatience. No, I knew that I was better. I knew that I was better. I knew that I just needed to win one game and then the match is over. That's what happened in 2021 as well. Like when I won the first game against Navajo, I knew that the match was over. Unless I like fuck up royally, then he's not going to be able to beat me. So what happened was that I played an innocuous opening as white, just trying to get him out of book as soon as possible. Then I kick in your elaborate innocuous, get him out of the book. No, basically I set up pretty defensively as white. I wasn't really crossing into his half at the start at all. I played more like a system more than a concrete opening. It was like, I'm going to set up my pieces this way. You can set them up however you want. And then later where sort of the armies are going to meet. I'm not going to try and bother you at the start. And that means you can have with as many pieces as possible kind of pure chess in the middle game without any of the lines, the standard lines in the opening. And so there was at some point a couple of exchanges, then some maneuvering, a little bit better, then he was sort of equalizing and then I started to take two minute risks. And I was still sort of fine. But then at some point I realized that I'd gone a bit too far and I had to be really careful. No, I just froze. I just completely froze. Mentally, like what happened? Yeah, mentally. What happened, Diki? That I mean all the thoughts of I might lose this, what have I done? Why did I take so many risks? I knew that I could have drawn at any moment. Just be patient. Don't give him these opportunities. What triggered that like face transition in your mind? No, it was just a position on the board, like realizing like there was one particular move he played that I missed. And then I realized that this could potentially not go my way. So then I made another couple of mistakes and to his credit, once he realized he had the chance, he knew that this was his one chance he had to take it. And so he did. And yeah, that's the worst I've ever felt after a chess game. I realized that I'm probably going to lose my title against somebody who's not even close to my level. And I've done it because of my own stupidity, most of all. And that was really, really, at the time, like I was all in my own head. That was hard to deal with. And I felt like I didn't really recover too much for the next game. So what I did, that was a free day after the eighth game. So I did something that I never did at any other world championship. Like I, after game eight, I just, I got drunk with my team. And then I had a standard procedure. No, no, that's, that's the only time that's happening in the world championship during the match. Yeah, I just tried to forget, but still before game nine, game nine, I was a little bit more relaxed, but I was still a bit nervous. Then game nine, I almost lost as well. Then only game 10, game 10, I was still, I wasn't in a great mood. I was really, really tense. The opening was good. I had some advantage. I was getting optimistic. Then I made one mistake. He could have forced the draw and then the old old in negativity came back. I was thinking during game, like how am I going to play for win with black in the next game? Like what am I doing? And then, you know, eventually it ended, it ended well. It didn't find the right line. I ground him down. Actually I played at some point pretty well in the end game. And after that game, like there was such a weight. I did lift it. No, after that there was no thought of losing the match whatsoever. I knew that's okay. I basically got in a way with, not with murder, but getting gotten away with something. What can you say about the after game eight? Where are the places you've gone in your mind? Do you go to some dark places? We're talking about like depression. Do you think about quitting at that point? No, I mean, I think about quitting every time I lose the class. Or at least I used to. Like, especially if it's in a stupid way, I'm thinking like, okay, if I'm going to play like this, if I'm going to do things that I know are wrong, then, you know, I might as well quit. No, that's happened. That's happened a bunch of times. And I definitely got a bit more carefree about losing these days, which it's not necessarily a good thing. Like, my hatred of losing led to me not losing a lot. And it also led to fire under me that I think my performance after losses in classical chess over the last 10 years is like over 2900. Like I really play well after a loss, even though it's really, really unpleasant. So apparently like, I don't think the way that I dealt with them is particularly healthy, but it's worked so far. But then you discovered now a love for winning to where ultimately, longevity wise creates more fun. Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Day in the life (01:21:22)
What's the perfect day in the life of Magnus Carlsson on a day of a big chess match? It doesn't have to be world championship, but if it's a chess match you care about, what time do you wake up? What do you eat? It depends on what the game is, but let's say the game is at three. I'll probably wake up pretty late at about 11. Then I'll go for a walk. Might listen to some podcasts. Maybe I'll spend a little bit of time looking at some NBA game from last night or whatever. To not chess related stuff. No, no, no. Then I'll get back, I'll have a big lunch, like usually like a big omelet with a bunch of salad and stuff. Then go to the game, win like a very nice clean game. This is the perfect day. Just go back after relax. Like the things that make me the happiest that tournaments is just having a good routine and feeling well. I don't like it when too much is happening around me. The tournament that I came from now was the Chess Olympid, which is the Team Land. So we were Team Norway. We did horribly. I did okay, but the team in general did horribly. Was that Italy? No, no. Italy be it to us, but Uzbekistan won the end. They were this amazing team of young players. It was really impressive. But the thing is we had a good camaraderie in the team. We had our meals together. We played a bit of football when swimming. I couldn't understand why things went wrong. I still don't understand, but the thing is for me, it was all very nice. But now I'm so happy to be on my own, that a tournament, just to have my own routines, not see too many people. Otherwise just have a very small team of people that I see. You are a kind of celebrity now. So people within the chess tournament and outside would recognize you want to socialize, want to tell you about how much you mean to them, how much you inspire them, all that kind of stuff. Does that get in the way for you when you're trying to really focus on the match? Are you able to block that? Are you able to enjoy those little interactions and still keep your focus? Yeah, most of the time that's fine as long as it's not too much. But I have to admit, when I'm at home in Norway, I rarely go out without big headphones and something else. Oh, look at this guy? No, not just to block out the world. Just to block out the world. Otherwise. Don't make eye contact. No, so the thing is people in general are nice. I mean, people, they wish me well and they don't bother me. Also when I have the headphones on, I don't notice as much people turning around and all of that so I can be more of in my own world. So I like that. Yeah. What about in this perfect day after the game, do you try to analyze what happened? Do you try to think through systematically or do you just kind of loosely think about like... Just loosely think about it. I've never been very structured in that sense. I know that it was always recommended that you analyze your own games, but I generally felt that I mostly had a good idea about that. Like nowadays, I will like loosely see what the engine says at a certain point if I'm curious about that. Otherwise, I usually move on to the next. What about diet? You said almond and salut and so on. I heard in your conversation with the other Magnus, Magnus number two about... You had like this bet about meat. One of you are going to go vegan if you lose... I forget which... Bridgetarian though. Avigetarian. Yeah. And you both have an admiration for me. Is there some aspect about optimal performance that you look for in food? Maybe eating only like once or twice a day or a particular kind of food like meat heavy diet. Is there anything like that or you just try to have fun with the food? I think whenever I'm a tournament, it's very natural to eat at least for me to eat only twice a day. So usually I do that when I'm at home as well. So you do eat before the tournament though. You don't play fasted. No, no, no. But I try not to eat too heavy before the game or in general to avoid sugary stuff to have a pretty stable blood sugar level. Because that's the easiest way to make mistake that your energy levels just suddenly drop and they don't necessarily mean need to be too high as long as they're pretty stable. Yeah. Have you ever tried playing fasted? You know, like intermittent fasting, so playing without having eaten. I mean, the reason I ask, you know, especially when you do a low carb diet, when I have done a person at low carb diet, I'm able to fast for a long time like he wants a day, maybe twice a day. But I just, the mind is most focused on like really difficult thinking tasks when it's fasted. It's interesting. A lot of people kind of talk about that. Yeah. And like zoom in and if you're doing a low carb diet, you don't have this energy stable. No. That is true. Maybe that will be interesting to try. So what's happened for me is I played a few tournaments where I've had food poisoning. And then that generally means that you're both sleep deprived and you have no energy. Yeah. And what I've found is that it makes me to some, it makes me very calm, of course, because I don't have the energy and it makes me super creative. Like being sleep deep, probably I think in general makes you creative. Just the first thing that goes away is the ability to do the simple things. That's what it affects you the most. Like you cannot be precise. So that's the only thing I'm worried about. Like if I'm fasted that I won't be, won't be precise when I play. That you might be more creative. It's an interesting trial. Yeah. Potentially. What about you have been known to on a rare occasion play drunk?
Drunk chess (01:28:12)
Is there a mathematical formula for sort of on the x axis, how many drinks you had and then the y axis, your performance slash creativity? Is there like an optimal for like one of the, would you suggest for the feed a world championship that people would be required to drink? Would that change things interesting ways? Yeah, not at all. Maybe for rapid, but for blitz. I think if you're playing blitz, you're mostly playing on short calculation and intuition. And I think those are probably enhanced if you've had a little bit of a little bit to drink. Can you explain the physiology of why that's why it's enhanced or the... You're just, you're thinking less. You're more confident. Oh yeah. I think it's just confidence. I think also like a lot of people feel like they're better at speaking languages, for instance, if they've drunk a little bit. It's just like removing these barriers. I think that it's a little bit of the same in chess. In 2012, I played the world blitz championship and then I was doing horribly for a long time. I also had food poisoning there. I couldn't play at all for three days. Before the last break, I was in the middle of the pack in, I don't know, 20th place or something. And so I decided as the last gasp, I'm going to go to the mini bar and just have a few drinks. And what happened is that I came back and I was suddenly relaxed. And I was playing fast and I was playing confidence. And I thought I was playing so well. I wasn't playing nearly as well as I thought. But it still helped me. I won my remaining eight games. If there had been one more round, I probably would have won the whole thing. But finally, I was second. So generally, I wouldn't recommend that. But maybe as the last research sometimes, if you feel that you have the ability, obviously none of this is remotely relevant if you don't feel like you have the ability to begin with. If you feel like you have the ability, there are just factors that make it impossible for you to show it, like numbing your mind a bit can probably be a good thing. Yeah, well, it's interesting, especially during training, you have all kinds of sports that have interacted with a lot of athletes in grappling sports. It's different when you train under extreme exhaustion. For example, you start to discover interesting things, you start being more creative. A lot of people, at least in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, they'll smoke weed. It creates this kind of anxiety and relaxation that kind of enables that creative aspect. It's interesting for training. Of course, you can't rely on one of those things too much. But it's cool to throw in a few drinks every once in a while. First of all, to relax and have fun and to try things differently, to unlock a different part of your brain. For sure. What about supplements? Do you a coffee guy? Oh, no. I quite like the taste of coffee. The thing is I've never had a job. I've never needed to wake up early. My thought is basically that if I'm tired, I'm tired. That's fine. Then I'll work it out. So I don't want to ever make my brain get used to coffee. Like if you see me drinking coffee, that problem means that I'm massively hung over. I just want to try anything to make my brain work. Yeah, that's interesting. For a lot of people, like you said, taste of coffee. For a lot of people, coffee is part of a certain kind of ritual for training joy. I know that I would enjoy it a lot. Just so you don't want to rely on that. I also like the taste. There's no problem there.
Chess training (01:32:43)
What about exercise? So how does that, a lot of people talk about the extreme stress that chest puts in your body physically and mentally. How do you prepare for that to be physically and mentally? Is it just through playing chess or do you do cardio and any of that kind of stuff? This is going to be up and down. Like as I said in 2013, I was in great shape. I mean, generally I was exercising doing sports every day, either playing football or tennis or even other sports. Otherwise if I couldn't do that, I would try and take my bike for a ride. I had a few training camps and I played tennis against one of my seconds. He's not a super fit guy, but he's always been very good at tennis. I never played in any or any nice way. And that was the perfect exercise because I was running around enough to make the games pretty competitive. And it meant that he had to run a bit less as well. But he said he was shocked that if we played for two hours, I wouldn't flinch at all. Interesting. So like a combination of fun and the differential between skill result in good cardio. Yeah, it's just that. So in those days I was pretty fit in that sense. I've always liked doing sports, but at times, I think in winter especially, I never had a schedule. So at times I left myself, go a little bit. And I've always kind of done it more for fun than for a concrete benefit. But now I'm at least after the pandemic, I was not in great shape, so now I'm trying to get back, get better habits and so on. But I feel like I've always been the poster boy for making being fit a big thing in chess. And I always felt that it was not really a deserve because I never liked doing weights much at all. I run a bit at times, but I never liked it too much. You just love playing sports. I just love playing sports. So I think people confuse that because I'm not like massively athletic, but I do, I am decent at sports and that's sort of helped build that perception, even though others who are top level chess players, they're more fit like Karana, for instance. He's really, really strong. His body is really, really strong. It's just that he doesn't play sports. Yeah, it doesn't play sports. That's the difference. And the thing about sports is also it's an escape. It helps you forget for a brief moment about the obsessions, the pursuits of the main thing, which is chess. Yeah, for sure. And I think it also helps your main pursuit to feel that you're even not mastering but like doing well in something else. I found that if I just juggle a ball, that makes me feel better before a game. So a juggler football. Yeah. Yeah. So it's like flex is the same kind of muscle, but on the thing that you're much worse at, it focuses you a laxity. That's really interesting. What's the perfect day in the life of Magnus Carl so many training? So like what's a good training regimen in terms of daily kind of training that you have to put in across many days, months and years to just keep yourself sharp in terms of chess? I would say when I'm at home, I do very, very little deliberate practice. I've never been that guy at all. Like I could never force myself to just sit down and work. So deliberate practice just to maybe can educate me for some grandmasters. What would that look like just doing puzzles kind of thing or doing puzzles and opening analysis that would be the main things. Studying games? Studying games? Yeah, a little bit. But I feel like that's something that I do, but it's not deliberate. It's like reading our article or reading a book. Got it. Like I love chess books. I'll read just anything and I'll find something interesting. So chess books that are like on openings and stuff like that or chess books that go over different games? Yeah. So there are three main categories. There are books on openings and there are books on strategy and there are books on chess history and I find all of them very, very interesting. A quote fraction of the day would you say you have a chessboard floating somewhere in your head, meaning like you're thinking about it? Probably be a better question to ask how many hours a day I don't have a chessboard floating there and nothing is happening, but I often do it parallel to some other activity though. And what does that look like? Are you daydreaming like different, is it actual positions you're just fucking around with like fumbling with different pieces in your head? Often I've looked at a random game on my phone for instance or in a book and then my brain just keeps going at the same position, analyzing it and often it goes all the way to the end game. And those are the actual games or you conjure up like fake games? No they're often based on real games and then I'm thinking like oh but it wouldn't be more interesting if the pieces were a little bit different and then often I play it out from there. So you don't sit behind a computer or a chessboard and you lay out the pieces and the ear? Not at all a poster board for deliberate practice. I could never work that way. My first coach, he gave me some exercises due to home sometimes but he realized at some point that wasn't going to work. Because I wouldn't do it really or enjoy it. So what he would do instead is that at the school where I had the trainings with him that there was this massive chess library so he was just like yeah pick out books. You can have anything you can have anything at once. Just pick out books you like and then you give back the next time. So that's what I did instead. Yeah I just absolutely rated. Then my next tournament I will try out one of the openings from that book if it was an opening book and so on. Does it feel like a struggle like challenging? Like to be thinking those positions there's a fun and relaxing. No it's completely fine. I don't like if it's a difficult position to figure out you know like to calculate. Then I go on to something else. Like if I can't figure it out then you know I go on. Change it so that's easier to figure out.
Prominent Chess Personalities And Advice
Garry Kasparov (01:40:37)
There was a point in your life because probably I was interested in being your coach or try at least training with you. Why did you choose not to go with him? That's a pretty bold move. Was there a good reason for this? No. The first like homework exercise he gave me was to analyze. Like he picked out I think three or four of my worst losses and she wanted me to analyze them and give him my thoughts. And it wasn't that there were painful losses or anything that was a problem. I just didn't really enjoy that. So I felt that this whole structured approach and everything. I just felt like from the start it was a hassle. So I loved the idea of being able to pick his brain but everything else I just you know couldn't see myself couldn't see myself enjoying. And at the end of the day I did then and always have played for fun that's always been like the main reason. It's great that you had the confidence to sort of basically turn down the approach of one of the greatest chess players of all time. At that time probably the greatest chess player of all time. I don't think I thought it that way. I just thought this is not for me. I wouldn't try another way. I don't think I was particularly thinking that this is my one opportunity or anything. It was just yeah I don't enjoy this. Let's try something else. When you were 13 you faced Kasparov and he wasn't able to beat you. Can you go through that match? What did that feel like? How important was that? Was that how epic was that? We played three games. I lost two and I drew one. Right but one draw. No the one draw. But didn't you say that you kind of had a better position in that? Yeah I remember that day very well. There was a blitz game. This was a rapid tournament. And there was a blitz tournament the day before which determined the pairings for the rapids. And for people who don't know super short games are called bullet. Kind of short games are called blitz. Semi short games are called rap. And classic chess I guess is like very super long. Yeah basically bullet is never played over the board. So in terms of the board chess blitz is the shortest. Rapid is like a hybrid between classical and blitz. You need to have the skills for both and then classical is long. The blitz tournament which didn't go so well. Like I got a couple of wins but I was beaten badly in a lot of games including by Gary. And so there was the pairing that I had to play in which is pretty exciting. So I remember I was so tired after the blitz tournament like I slept for 12 hours or something that I woke up like okay I'll turn on my computer. I'll search chess space for Kasparov. And we'll go from there. So before that I hadn't spent like a lot of time specifically studying his games. It was super intimidating because a lot of these openings I knew I was like oh he was the first one to play that. Oh that was his idea. I actually didn't know that. So I was a bit intimidated before we played. Then of course the first game he arrived a bit late because they changed the time from the first day to the other which is a bit strange. But everybody else have noticed it but him. Then he tried to surprise me in the opening. I think like psychologically the situation was not so easy for him. Like clearly it would be embarrassing for him if it didn't win both games against me. Then like I was spending way too much time on my moves because I was playing Kasparov. I was double checking everything too much. Like normally I would be playing pretty fast in those days. And then at some point I calculated better than him. He missed a crucial detail and had a much better position. I couldn't convert it though. I knew what line I had to go for in order to have a chance to win. But I thought like I'll play it more carefully. Maybe I can win still. I couldn't. And then I lost the second game pretty badly which it wasn't majorly upsetting but I felt that I had two black games against Kasparov both in the Blitz and Thrapid and I lost both of them without any fight whatsoever. I wasn't happy about that at all. I was like less than I thought I could be able to do so. To me, yeah I was proud of that but it was a gimmick. I was like a very strong IAM but had GM strength. I was like it can't happen that a player of that strength makes a draw against Gary once so well. Yeah but I understand I'm 13 but like still I felt a bit more gimmicky than anything. I mean I guess it's a good thing that made me noticed but apart from that it wasn't. And for people who don't know I am as international master and GM as grandmaster and you were just on the verge of becoming a youngest grandmaster ever. I was the second youngest ever. I think I'm like the seventh youngest now. I mean these kids these days. Kids these days. Yeah. But I was the youngest grandmaster at the time. In the world. So you say it's gimmicky but there's a romantic notion especially as things have turned out. No for sure. And have you talked to Gary since then about that? No not really. I think he's immersed. He's still bitter. He's like no I don't think he's bitter but I think the game in itself was a bit embarrassing for him. Even he can't see past like. No I think he's completely fine with that. I think like in retrospect it's a good story. He appreciates that. I don't think that's the problem but it never made sense for me to broach the subject with him. Yeah I just it's funny just having interacted with Gary now having talked to you. There is a little thing you still hate losing. No matter how beautiful like that moment is because it's like in a way it's a passing of the baton from like one great champion to another. Yeah. Right. But like you still just don't like the fact that you didn't play a good game from a Gary Gary's perspective. Like he's still just annoyed probably that. Yeah. He could have played better. And we did so we did work together in 2009 quite a lot. And that corporation ended early 2010 but we did play a lot of training games in 2009 which was interesting because he was still very very strong. And at that time it was fairly equal. He was at playing me quite a bit but I was fighting well so it was pretty even then. So I mean I appreciate those games a lot more than some random game from when I was 13. And maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about but I always found it at least based on that game you couldn't tell that I was going to take his spot. Like I made a horrible blunder and lost to an Usbeck kid in the World Rapid Championship in 2018. And I mean granted he was part of the team that now won gold in the chess Olympiad but he wasn't a crucial part. He barely played any games. Like I would think that he would become world champion because he beat me. I'm always skeptical of those who said that they knew that I was going to be world champion after that game or at all at that time. I mean it was easy to see that I would become a very very strong player. Everybody could see that but to be the best in the world or one of the best ever. It's true. That's part of the session. It is hard to say but I do remember seeing Messi when he was 16 and 17. But hasn't that happened with other players though? Yeah but I just had a personal experience. He did look different than there's like magic there. Maybe you can't tell he would be one of the greatest ever but there's still magic. But you're right. Most of the time we try to project, we see a young kid being an older person and you start to think okay this could be the next great person. And then we forget when they don't become that. Yeah exactly. That's I think what happens. But when it does become. Or maybe some people are just so good at seeing these patterns that they can actually see. Aren't you supposed to do that kind of thing with fantasy football? Like see the long shot and bet on them and then they turn out to be good? That's a tough point. No you make a lot of long shot bats and then some of them come good. And then people call you a genius for making them bad.
Greatest chess player of all time (01:49:54)
Well let me ask you the goat question again from fantasy perspective. Can you make the case for the greatest chess player of all time? For each yourself, Magnus Carlsen, for Garak Esparov. I don't know who else. Bobby Fisher, Mikhail Tal. Anyone else for Hikaru and Nakamura? Just kidding. Yeah I think I can make a case for myself. For Garian for Fisher. So I'll start with Fisher. For him it's very very simple. He was ahead of his time but that's like intangible. You can say that about a lot of people. But he had a peak from 1970 to 1972 when he was so much better than the others. He won 20 games in a row. People the way that he played was so powerful and with so few mistakes that he just had no opposition there. So he had just a peak that's been better than anybody. The gap between first and second and second was greater than it's ever been in history at any other time. And that would be the argument for him. For Gary he's played in a very competitive era and he's beaten several generations. He was the best. Well he was the consensus best player I would say for almost 20 years which nobody else has done in at least in recent time. The longevity. For sure also at his peak he was not quite the level of Fisher in terms of the gap but it was similar to or I think even a little bit better than mine. As for me I'm of course unbeaten as a world champion in five tries. I've been world number one for 11 years straight in an even more competitive era than Gary. I have the highest chest rating of all time. I have the longest streak ever without losing a game. I think for me the main argument would be about the era where the engines have leveled the playing field so much that it's harder to dominate and still I haven't always been clear number one but I've been number one for 11 years and for a lot of the time the gap has been pretty big. I think there are decent arguments for all of them. I've said before and I haven't changed my mind that Gary generally edges it because of the longevity in the competitive era but there are arguments. People also talk about you in terms of the style of play so it's not just about dominance or the height or it's just the creative genius of it. Yeah I'm not interested in that. In terms of greatest of all time I'm not interested in questions of style. So for Messi you don't give credit for the style for the stylistic. I like no I like watching it. But you're not going to give points for the so Messi. No I mean the best ever because of the finishing. No because of the finishing is because of its overall impact on the game is higher than anybody else's. Okay he contributes. He can just contribute more to winning than anybody else does. So you're somebody who is advocated for and has done quite a bit of study of classic games. What would you say is the number one or maybe top three games of chess ever played? That doesn't interest me at all. You don't think of the nose. No I don't think of it. I find the games interesting I try to learn from them but trying to rank them has never interested me. What games pop out to you is super interesting then. These are things like old school games where there's interesting ideas that you go back or you find surprising and pretty cool that those ideas were developed then. Is there something that jumps to me? Yeah there are several games of young Casparev before he became world champion. If you're going to ask for my favorite player or favorite style that's probably the youngest part. The youngest part. Can you describe stylistically or in any other way what young Casparev was like that you like? It was just an overflow energy in his play. So aggressive attacking chess. Extremely aggressive dynamic chess. It probably appeals to me a lot because these are the things that I cannot do as well. That it just feels very special to me. But yeah in terms of games I never thought about that too much. Is there memories big or small? Weird? Surprising? Just any kind of beautiful anecdote from your chess career. Like stuff that pops out that people might not know about. Just stuff when you look back it just makes you smile. No so I'll tell you about the most satisfying tournament victory of my career. So that was the Norwegian championship under 11 in 2000. Before that tournament I was super anxious because I started like kind of late to chess. I played my first tournament when I was eight and a half and a lot of my competitors had already played for a couple of years or even three or four years at that point. And the first time I so I played the under 11 championship in 1999. That was like little over the middle of the pack. I'd never played against any of them before so I didn't know what to expect at all. And then over the next year I was like edging a little bit closer. In each tournament I felt like I was getting a little bit better. And when we had the championship I knew that I was ready. That I was now at the same level of the best players. I was so anxious to show it. I remember I was just the feeling of excitement and nervousness before the tournament was incredible. The tournament was weird because I started out, I gave away a draw to a weaker player whom I shouldn't have drawn to. And then I drew against the other guy who was clearly like the best or second best. And at that point I thought it was over because I thought he wouldn't give away points to others. And then the very next day he lost to somebody. So then the rest of the tournament it was just like I was always like playing my game and watching his. And we both won the rest of our games but it meant that I was half a point I had. Like the feeling when I realized that I was going to win, that was just so amazing. It was like the first time that I was the best at my age. And at that point you were hooked. Yeah, at that point I realized I could actually be very good at this. So you kind of saw what did you think your ceiling would be? Did you see that one day you could be the number one? No, I didn't think that was possible at all. But when did you first? I thought that could be the best in Norway. The best in Norway. At that point. When did you first? Because I started relatively late. And also I knew that I studied a lot more than the others. I knew that I had a passion that they didn't have. And they saw chess as something like, you know, it was a hobby. It was like an activity. It was like going to football practice or any other sports. Like you go, you practice like once or twice a week and then you play a tournament at the weekend. That's what you did. For me it wasn't like that. Like I would go with my books and my board every day after school. And I would just constantly be trying to learn new things. I had like two hours of internet time on the computer each week. And I would always spend them on chess. I think before I was 13 or 14, I'd never opened a browser for any other reason than to play chess. Would you describe that as love or as obsession or something in between? It's everything. Yeah, everything. But it wasn't hard for me to tell at that point that I had something about the other kids didn't because I was never the one to graphs something very, very quickly. But once I started, I always got hooked and then I never stopped learning. What would you say? You've talked about the middle game as a place where you can play pure chess. What do you think is beautiful to you about chess? Like the thing when you were 11, what is beautiful to me is when your opponent can predict every single one of your moves and they still lose. How does that happen? No, like it means that at some point early, your planning, your evaluation has been better. So that you play just very simply, very clearly. It looks like you did nothing special and your opponent lost without a chance. So you're, how do you think about that? By the way, are you basically narrowed down this gigantic tree of options to where your opponent has less and less and less options to win, to escape and then they're trapped? Yeah, essentially. Is there some aspect to the patterns themselves, to the positions, to the elegance of like the dynamics of the game that you just find beautiful that doesn't, that, that, where you forget about the opponent? General, I try and create harmony on the board. Like what I would usually find harmonious is that the pieces work together, that they protect each other and that there are no pieces that are suboptimally placed. Or if they are suboptimally placed, they can be improved pretty easily. Like I hate when I have one piece that I know is about the place that I kind of improve it. Yeah, when you're thinking about the harmony of the pieces, when you're looking at the position, you're evaluating it, are you looking at the whole board? Or is it like a bunch of groupings of pieces overlapping and like dancing together kind of thing? Say it's more of the latter that would be more precise that you look. I mean, I look mostly closer to the middle, but then I would focus on one, like there are usually like one grouping of pieces on one side and then some more closer to the other side. So I would think of it a little bit that way. So everything is kind of gravitating to the middle. If it's going well then yes. And in harmony. Yeah, in harmony. Like if you can control the middle, you can more easily attack on both sides. That applies to pretty much any game. It's as simple as that. And like attacking on one side without control of the middle would feel very non-harmonious for me. Like I talked about the 10th game in the World Championship, like that's the time I was the most nervous and it was because it was the kind of attack that I hate where you just have to, you're abandoned one side and you, the attack has to work. There was one side and part of the middle as well, which I didn't control at all. That's like the opposite of harmony for me.
Advice for chess players (02:03:06)
What advice would you give to chess players of different levels? How to improve in chess? Very beginner, complete beginner. I mean at every level. Is there something you can... It's very hard for me to say because I mean the easiest way is like love chess, be obsessed. Well that's a really important statement. But that doesn't work for everybody. So I feel like it can feel like a grind so you're saying if less it can feel like a grind the better. Yeah for sure. At least for you. That's for sure. But I'm also very, very skeptical about giving advice because I think again my way only works if you have some combination of talented and obsessions. So I'm not sure that I'd generally recommend it like what I've done doesn't go with what most coaches suggest for their kids. I've been lucky that I've had coaches from early on that I've been very, very hands off and just allowed me to do my thing basically. Well there's a lot to be said about cultivating the obsession. Like really letting that flourish to where you spend a lot of hours with the chessboard in your head and it doesn't feel like a struggle. No. So like just letting me do my thing like if you give me a bunch of work it will probably feel like a sure and if you don't give me I will spend all of that time on my own without thinking that it's work or without thought that I'm doing this to improve my chess. So in terms of learning stuff like books there's one thing that's relatively novel from your perspective people are starting now is there's YouTube there's a lot of good YouTubers.
Chess YouTubers (02:04:49)
You're part-time YouTuber. You have stuff on YouTube I guess. Yeah but if you've seen my YouTube it's most of the life. It's not it's carefree. They're not high effort content. Yeah. But do you like any particular YouTubers? Like I could just recommend like stuff I've seen so a good matter the Gotham chess what is live. I really like St. Louis chess club Daniel Narditsky and John Bartholomew those are good channels but these are something you can recommend. No all of them are good. You know the best recommendation I could give as a good matter purely. How much did he pay you to say that? You know so the thing about that is that I haven't really I have so I can tell you I've never watched any of his videos from from start to finish. I'm not like I'm not the target audience obviously but I think the only chess YouTube video that my dad has ever watched from start to finish is a gun matter and he said like I watched one of his videos I wanted to know what it was all about because I think a gun matter is like the same strength as my father maybe just a little bit weaker like 1900 or something my father is probably about 2000 and my father has played chess his whole life. He loves he absolutely loves the game. It was like that's the only time he's actually sat through one of those videos and he said like yeah I get it I enjoy it so that's the best recommendation I could I could give that's the only channel that my father actually enjoys. This is hilarious I talked I talked to him before this ask him if he has any questions for you and he said now he just just do your thing you know no he's so careful he wouldn't do that. He did mention jokingly about Evans Gambit I think is that a thing Evans Gambit is some weird thing he made up it might be an inside joke I don't I don't know but he asked me to well anyway yeah don't even get it's some yeah I didn't even really know what he made up. I didn't even realize that he placed the Evans Gambit like he plays a lot of gambit star wait Evans Gambit is a thing yeah yeah that's a thing like that's an old opening from the 1800s Captain Evans apparently and invented it while he mentioned that particular one yeah I don't know I don't know I don't think I've ever faced the Evans Gambit and in a game I feel like both of you are trolling me right now but I mean he's he's played a lot of other gambit maybe this is the one he wanted to to mention so this maybe this is called the Evans Gambit as well but I just know it as like the two two G4 gambit maybe this is the one like this one he has this one he has played a bunch and he he's been telling me a lot about his games in this line it's like no it's not so bad and I'm like yeah but you're pawned down yeah but I can I can sort of see it I can sort of I can sort of understand it and he's like he's proud of the fact that nobody like told him to play this line or anything he came up with it himself and there's this I'll tell you another story about my father so there there's this line that I call that I called the Henry Carlson line what's the um so at some point you know he never knew a lot of openings in in chess but I taught him I taught him a couple of openings as black it's the it's the Sveschnikov Sicilian that I played a lot myself also during the the World Championship in 2018 I won a bunch of games in 2019 as well so that's one opening and also taught him as
Henrik Carlsen (02:08:20)
black to play the Raghosin defense and then so the Raghosin defense goes like goes like this it's characterized by by this bishop move and so he would play those so things pretty pretty exclusively and as black and the tournaments that he did play and also the Sveschnikov Sicilian is like that's the only two of my sisters play I played a bunch of chess tournaments as well and that's the only opening they know as well so my my family's report is very narrow so this is this this is the system black goes here and then we all from white takes the pawn and black takes the pawn so at some point I was watching one of my my father's online blitz game blitz game and as white he played this this so this is called the Karakan defense he took the pawn it was taken back then he went with the knights it's opponent one here and then he played a bishop here so I I never seen this opening before I was like wow how on earth did he come up with that and he said no I just played the Raghosin with the different colors because if the knight was here it would be the same position I was like I never I was like how am I like one of the best 20 players in the world and I've never thought about that so I just started playing I started playing this line as white with pretty decent result and it results and it actually became kind of popular and everybody who asked about the line it's like I would always tell him yeah that's the Henry Carlson investigation I wouldn't necessarily explain why it was called that I would just always call it that so I really hope that this one at some point this line will be we'll find it's right full name in the yeah it finds its ways into the history books yeah can you what what what would you learn about life from your dad what role has your dad playing your life he started me a lot of things but most of all as long as you win a chess then everything else is fine I think my especially my father but my parents in general they they always wanted me to get a good education and find a job and so on even though my father loves just and he wanted me to to play chess I don't think he had any plans for me to be professional I think things changed at some point like I was less and less interested in school and for a long time we were kind of going back and forth fighting about that especially my father but also my mother a little bit it was times a little bit difficult they wanted me to go to school yeah they they sort of wanted me to do more school to have more options and then I think at some point they just gave up but I think that sort of coincided when I was actually starting to make real money of tournaments and after that you know everything has been so easy and like in terms of the family like they've never put any pressure on me or they've never put any demands on me they're just yeah my ass has to focus on chess that's that's that's it like I think they taught me in general to be curious about the world and to get a decent general education not necessarily from from school but like just knowing about the world around you and knowing history and being you know just being interested in society I think in that sense they've done well and he's been with you throughout your chess career I mean there's something to be said about just family support and love that you have that you know this world is a lonely place it's good to have people around you they're like yeah they got your back kind of you know yeah uh basically Shay but I think to some extent all the people you surround yourself with they can help you a lot it's the only family that only has their own interests at heart and so for that reason like my father is like the only one that's been like constantly in the team that and that is always been around and it's for that reason that I know he has my back no matter what now there's a cliche question here but let's try to actually get to some deep truth perhaps but people who don't know much about chess seem to like to use chess as a metaphor for everything in life but there is some aspect to the decision making to the kind of reasoning and involved in chess that's transferable to other things can you can you speak to that in your in your own life and in general the kind of reasoning involved with chess how much is that this transfer
Lessons for life (02:13:55)
to life out there it just helps to make decisions I mean of all of all kinds yeah that would be my main takeaway that you learn to make informed guesses in a limited amount of time I mean does it frustrate you when you know that you have geopolitical thinkers and leaders you know Henry Kissinger will often talk about geopolitics as a game of chess or 3d chess is that a two oversimplified of a projection or or do you think that the kind of deliberations you have on the world stages is similar to the kind of decision making you have on the chess board well I never I'm never trying to get reelected when I play a game of chess there's no special interest yet to get happy yeah that kind of no that kind of helps no I can I can understand that obviously for every action there's a reaction and you have to calculate far ahead it probably would be a good thing if more big players on the international scene thought a little bit more like like a chess player in that sense like trying to make good decision based on based on limited amounts of data rather than thinking about other other factors but it's so tough but it doesn't know you mean when when people make moves that they know are wrong for different reasons and they should know if they did some calculation they should know they're wrong yeah then exactly that they should know that are wrong and so much politics is like it's you're you're often asked to do something when you're when it would be much better to do nothing like no but that happens in chess all the time like you have you have a choice like I often tell people that in certain situations you should not try and win you should just let your opponent lose and that happens in politics all the time but yeah just let your opponents continue whatever they're doing and then you'll win don't try to do something just to do something often they say in chess that having a bad plan is better than having no plan it's absolute nonsense I forget what general said it but it was like don't interrupt your enemy when they're making a mistake yeah I think there also patroshan the former world champion said when your opponent wants to play the Dutch defense don't stop them I mean chess players will know that's it's the same thing actually this reminds me is there something you found really impressive about Queen's Gambit the TV show you know that's one of the things that really captivated the public imagination about chess people don't play chess or became very curious about the game about the beauty of the game the drama of the game all that kind of stuff is there in terms of accuracy in terms of the actual games played that you found impressive first of all they did the chess that did the chess well they did it accurately and also they
Queen's Gambit (02:17:19)
found actual games and positions that I never never seen before and really captivated me like I would I would not follow the the story at times I was just trying to wow where the hell did I find that game trying to solve the positions so Beth Harmon the the main character were you impressed by the place she was doing in the like was there a particular style that they developed consistently she was just at the end she was just totally universal like at the start she was probably bit too to aggressive but now she was absolutely universal you know wait what what were the what adjective he's universal in the sense that she could play in any any style oh interesting and and was dominant in that way so wow they said there was a development in style to throughout the show yeah for sure yeah and it actually happened with me a bit as well like I started out really aggressive then I became probably too technical at some point taking a little bit too few risks and not playing dynamic enough and then I started to get a little bit better at dynamic so that now I would say definitely the most universal player in terms of in terms of style are there any skills in chess that are transferable to poker so as you're playing around poker a little bit now how fundamentally different of a game is it what I find the most transferable probably is not like letting past decisions dictates a future thinking yeah but in terms of the patterns in the betting strategies and all that kind of stuff what about bluffing do you because I've left way too much it does seem you enjoy bluffing and Daniel Negron was saying yeah you had it good at it but
it yeah I was very little material to go by sample size small yeah no I mean I enjoy bluffing for the more the gambling aspects that this real of so not the technical aspect of the bluffing like you would on the chessboard not bluffing in the same sense but there is some element but I do enjoy it on the chessboard like if I know that like oh I successfully scared away my opponent for making the best move that's of course satisfying in that same way it might be satisfying in poker right that you represent something you scare away your opponent yeah the same kind of like yeah and also like you tell a story you try and tell a story and then they believe it yeah tell a story with your betting with your all the different other cues yeah do you like the money aspect the the betting strategies so it's like it's like it's almost like another layer on top of it right like it's it's the uncertainty in the cards but the betting there's so much freedom to the betting I'm not very good at that so I cannot say that I understand it completely you know when it comes to different sizing and well another I just haven't studied enough how much of luck is part of poker would you say from what what you've seen versus skill I mean it's so different in the sense that you can be one of the best players in the world and lose two three years in a row without that being being like a massive outlier okay the the the thing that more than one person told me that you're very good at is trash talking I don't think I am a lot of people who make those observations about me I think they just expect very very little so they expect from the best chess player in the world yeah they just anything that's non robotic it's interesting also when it comes to trash talking like I have the biggest advantage in the world that I'm the best of what I'm doing so trash talking becomes very very very easy because I can back it up yeah yeah but a lot of people that are extremely good at stuff don't trash talk and they're not good at it I don't think I'm very good at it it's just that I can back it up which makes it seem that I'm better and also you're even doing it now also being non robotic or not completely robotic help yeah yeah I'm you're not trash talking you're stating facts that's right have you ever have you ever considered that there will be trash talking and over the chess board and some of the big tournaments like adding that kind of component or even talking you know with that would that complete distract from the game of chess no I think it could be funny and when people play off fan games when they play blitz games like people trash talk all the time it's a normal part of the game so you you emphasize fun a lot do you think we're living inside of a simulation that is trying to maximize fun but that's only happened for the last you know hundred years or so no that's like the fun has always been increasing I think yeah okay it's always been increasing but I feel like it's been increasing exponentially yeah I mean the or at least the importance of fun but I guess it depends on the society as well like in the West we've has such Christian influence and I mean Christianity hasn't exactly embraced the concept of fun over over time so well actually to push back I think forbidding certain things kind of makes them more fun so sometimes I think you need to say you're not allowed to do this and then a lot of people start doing it and then they have fun doing that because it's like it's like it's doing a thing in the face of the resistance of the thing so whenever there's resistance that does somehow make it more fun oppressive regimes has always been a been kind of good for comedy no like yeah no but I heard yes supposedly like in the Soviet Union I don't know about fun but supposedly comedy like at least underground it's it's right yeah there's a well no it permeates the entire culture there's a dark humor yeah that sort of the cruelty the absurdity of life really really brings out the humor amongst the populace plus vodka on top of that but this idea that this is for example Elon Musk has that the most entertaining outcome was the most likely that it seems like the most absurd silly funny thing seems to be the thing so it happens more often than than it should and it's a popular stuff viral in our modern connected world and so the fun stuff the memes spread and then we start to optimize for the for the fun meme that seems to be a fundamental property of the reality we live in and so emerges the the fun maximizer in all walks of life like in chess in poker and everything I think you're skeptical no I'm not skeptical I'm just I'm just taking it all in but I find it interesting and not at all impossible do you ever get lonely oh yeah for sure
like a chess player's life is by definition pretty lonely because you have nobody else to blame but yourself when you lose or you don't achieve the results that you want to achieve it's difficult for you to find comfort elsewhere it's it's in your own mind yeah it's you versus yourself really yeah really but it's uh you know it's um it's part of the profession but I think any like sport or activity where it's where it's just you and your own mind is just by definition lonely are you worried that it destroys you oh no not at all as long as I'm aware of it then it's fine and uh I don't think the inherent loneliness of my profession really affects the rest of my life in in a major way what role does love play in the human condition in your lonely life of calculation you know I'm like everybody else uh trying uh you know trying to find love no not necessarily like trying to find love sometimes I am sometimes I'm I'm not I'm just trying to find my way yeah and my love for for the game obviously it comes and goes a little bit but there's like there's always at least some level of love so that doesn't doesn't go away but I think in other parts of life I think it's just about doing things that make you happy that give you joy that that also makes you more receptive to to love in general so that that has been my approach to to love now for quite a while that I'm just trying to live my best life and then the love will um will come uh when it when it comes and in in terms of romantic love it has come and gone in my life it's not there now uh but I'm not worried about that I'm more worried about you know not worried but more like trying to just be a good version of um of myself I cannot always be the best version of myself but at least try to be good yeah and keep your heart open what is this uh Daniel Joustin song true love will find you in the end wait may or may not but it will only find you if uh uh kind of if you're looking so I get to be open to it yeah it may or may not yeah yeah and no matter what you're gonna lose it in the end because it all ends a whole thing ends yeah yeah so that's a thing I don't think stressing over that like obviously it's so human that you can't help it to some degree but I feel like stressing over love that's the blueprint for whether you're looking or you're not looking or you're in a relationship or marriage or anything like stressing over it is like the blueprint for being unhappy uh just to clarify confusion I have um just a quick question how does the night move haha so the night moves in
Chess Basics And Instructions
How does the knight move? (02:28:45)
an L um and uh unlike in shogi you can move both forwards and backwards it is quite a nimble piece you can jump over everything but it's less happy and open position where it has to move from from side to side quickly I am generally more of a bishop's guy myself for the old's debate I just prefer quality over the intangibles but uh I can appreciate a good night once in a while last simple question what's the meaning of life Magnus Carlson there is obviously no meaning to life is that obvious I think we're here by accident there's no meaning it ends at some point yeah but it's still a great thing so yeah um you can still have fun even if there's no meaning yeah you can still have fun you can try and pursue your your goals whatever they may be but I'm pretty sure there's no special meaning and trying to to find it also doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me for me like life is both meaningless and meaningful for just being here trying to to make not necessarily the most of it but the things that make you make you happy both short term and also long term yeah it seems to be full of cool stuff to enjoy it certainly does and one of those is having a conversation with you Magnus it's a huge honor to talk to you thank you so much for spending this time with me I can't wait to see what you do in this world and thank you for creating so much elegance and beauty on the chessboard and beyond so thanks for talking to you brother thank you so much thanks for having me and uh I wanted to say this at the start but I never get really got the chance I was always a bit apprehensive about doing this podcast because you are a very smart guy and your audience is very smart and I always had a bit of imposter syndrome so I'll tell you this now after the podcast so please do do judge me but I hope you have enjoyed it I loved it you're a brilliant man and it's I love the fact they have imposter syndrome because a lot of us do and so that that's beautiful to see even at the very top you still feel like imposter thank you brother thanks for talking to them thanks for listening to this conversation with Magnus Carlson to support this podcast please check out our sponsors in the description and now let me leave you with some words from Bobby Fisher chess is a war over the board the object is to crush the opponent's mind thank you for listening and hope to see you next time bye! and I'm going to be right back in the next video and I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you enjoy it! You