Magnus Carlsen: How do you become a chess grandmaster?

An avid chess player, Pacquiao is all too aware of the challenge he faces.

“I’ve fought some strong opponents in the ring, but I’ve never met someone like @magnuscarlsen in a game of chess,” said Pacquiao.

“I think being mentally flexible is very important during the game,” Carlsen told CNN Sport. The Norwegian, together with Anish Giri and the Polish child prodigy Jan-Krzysztof Duda, pondered the secret to becoming a chess grandmaster.

“Conditions will change during the game, something you thought was good may turn out to be wrong, the situation changes from attacks [to] defend,” said Carlsen.

“So it’s very, very important to be able to get through those changes without losing your focus and also a little bit without losing your cool.”

Giri is the number 1 Dutch chess player. Like Carlsen, he believes that the ability to stay focused and mentally agile for long periods of time is the key to success in the chess arena.

“Concentration is very, very important during the game […] because the thing about chess is it’s very brutal,” Giri told CNN Sport.

“Just a few seconds of loss of concentration and one hasty decision can ruin the whole game.

“And so it’s important to just keep the concentration all the time and of course you need mental stability for that.”

A glimmer of ambition

Carlsen has early memories of spending hours practicing the sport.

At the age of five, his father had taught him to play chess, but only later did his hobby become a full-fledged craft.

After graduating from primary school, he traveled the following year to play chess in Europe, collecting multiple awards and finally taking first place in the International Chess Federation (FIDE) grading list in 2010.

“Growing up, I always had to play against stronger players than me,” Carlsen says.

“But something happened when I was 16, 17 years old. I played against the best players in the world, my mentality changed a bit.

“So now I have to be the strongest. I have to have the strongest mentality to get the better of them. And I think after I changed that mentality, I went from one of the best players to someone who could actually be the best.” are.”

Playing against opponents more experienced than Carlsen certainly paid off.

In 2012, he won the London Chess Championship for a third time, but rose to fame that same year, when his rating rose to 2861, breaking Russian legend Garry Kasparov’s record of 2851 – which had gone unbeaten since 1999.

Carlsen’s stellar performance heralded his most memorable achievement to date, when he defeated Indian chess grandmaster Viswanathan Anand at the age of 22 to become world champion.

“I think there are many factors that can determine whether you become a very strong chess player, even a grandmaster or one of the best players in the world,” he says.

“For me personally it was all about putting in the time, of course. And for me I don’t think I could have ever gotten very far in chess without the levels again, that’s what drove it for me […] all these years, and as soon as I lose that, I’d quit.”

Magnus Carlsen (right) defeated Indian Viswanathan Anand (left) in the World Chess Championship match to become World Champion at age 22 in Chennai, India.

On the hunt for a coveted prize

Carlsen has taken the chess world by storm and is now chasing the first-ever NFT trophy in the history of the sport.

The coveted prize will be awarded to the winner of the 2021 Champions Chess Tour, in which the world’s most skilled players compete in ten blitz tournaments.

“NFTs are definitely something I’ve known about for a while. A lot of my friends love crypto, so they were talking about that a long time ago, and I think it’s really interesting that the tour that’s in the event now. And then we’ll see what the interest is. But sure, it’s going to be a fun ride for me,” says Carlsen.

“I know that with Top Shot, the NBA has already really embraced the NFT market, and I do believe that more and more sports are looking to make NFTs an important part of sports memorabilia.”

As well as adding another accolade to his packed trophy cabinet, Carlsen is also excited about the prospect of sharing his win with his supporters.

“Fans can purchase a version of the Champions Chess Tour trophy, as well as highlights and other chess moments from the tour. As long as I win the trophy, I’m very happy to share it with everyone!”

Hours of practice

Few have come as close to Carlsen’s brilliance in their chess endeavors as Giri, who became a grandmaster when he was 14 – making him the youngest person in the world to hold that title at the time.
A four-time Dutch chess champion, he defeated Carlsen in 22 moves at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in 2011. Since then, he has won numerous medals and is now the number 7 chess player on the world stage.

Like his colleague, he believes that spending time on training – often rather than other activities – sets the world’s best players apart from chess enthusiasts.

“To be a top chess player you certainly put in a lot of free time. It’s easier to say how many hours I didn’t play chess than to say how many hours I did. In my spare time I was just playing chess Of course I did all the things I had to do, like go to school, few other things I had to do,” says Giri.

“My mom sometimes asked me to clean my room or do the dishes or whatever, just to keep me away, just because it was abnormal, how much time I spent as a kid.

“I think this is also necessary if you want to be the best at almost everything.”

Four-time Dutch chess champion, Giri defeated Carlsen in 22 moves at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in 2011.

Keeping a Balance

For others, it feels instinctive to know that they have the ability to become champions.

Duda says that after he won the World U-10 Championship in 2008, he knew he would become a grandmaster.

“Overall it’s pretty funny, you know that when I was young […] It was very clear to me that one day I will become world champion.”

As a child, he was on his way to success and at the time undertook six hours of practice sessions with his coach. Although he has since reaped the rewards, it has been “very difficult” to maintain such a focus from an early age.

“It takes a lot of time, above all, you have to really focus on chess and only on chess. You have to play in many tournaments, think about chess all the time.”

At the age of 15 he became a grandmaster and won a series of prizes as a junior competitor, including the European U-14 Championship.

Now ranked number 15 in the world, he is known for his creative play style and ability to make quick decisions.

But even as a high-level competitor, Duda says it can be challenging to detach from his surroundings and give his full attention to the game at hand. From time to time, he says he interrupts his matches by getting up and walking, to maintain balance.

“I would say my concentration level is probably a little below my peers.

“Considering my age […] I should be able to do one thing at a time, but sometimes, you know, I like just thinking about something else during the game.

“You have to find a balance, as in everything in life really.”

‘You must really love the game’

world no.  15 Duda is known for his creative play style and ability to make quick decisions.

While all three grandmasters have taken alternate routes to success, their loyalty to their craft is what brings them together.

Giri says he has an unadulterated passion for chess that supports his ambition and fuels his desire to work hard.

“You have to really love the game, and that usually goes well with important traits. It should be okay to be alone normally, with no other people around and not feel like you’re missing out, just to to be good with you, yourself and your thoughts.

“Just get lost in something and forget everything else.”

Carlsen agrees.

“Personally I’m not 100% sure what the most important skills are for a top chess player because normally when people ask me how you do this and this and this, I don’t know, I just do it for a long time and I will tell you why something is right, something isn’t right,” he says.

“Have patience and analytical skills” […] learning from your mistakes is important.

“It’s important to make quick decisions and have confidence in them because they’re often based on fairly limited data.

“It’s very hard for me to say if my skills are transferable. I think a lot of people say that if you play some chess, it can help you in other parts of life.

“But if you only play chess, you’re only good at chess. So that’s what I know. So far I’ve only tried chess, so that’s the only thing I know I’m good at.”

Alvin Whitney of CNN contributed to this report.


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