You may err against God in a game of chess and still could hope to get away with it. Not against Magnus Carlsen. He will eat you. Alive! Viswanathan Anand is not the first one to find that out. He will not be the last either.
Carlsen is not the first one to discover that chess is a game of several less-than-perfect moves. If everyone could always find the best move every time, there will be no fun in playing chess. When you have many promising-looking moves to choose from, you sometimes end up choosing one of the weaker ones. Chances of you doing that are particularly high when you have been playing for hours, when the game reaches the endgame. Be assured, Carlsen will be ready for you.
Twice Anand erred from positions he could have drawn. Once Anand seemed on course for a stunningly brilliant win that could have brought him back into the match, and erred. Carlsen beat him. Anand made three fatal blunders. Carlsen made none. The margin for error at the highest level in sport is thin. It is almost non-existent against Carlsen.
He is not the first genius to move a chess piece. His rival in the just-concluded match himself is one. Bobby Fischer was there before him. There were Jose Raul Capablanca Paul Morphy too.
Carlsen uses his rare gift almost to the maximum. He found out that a game of chess could well begin in the endgame. What if only a relatively small percentage of the games went to the ending under normal circumstances. What if most Grandmasters would happily draw at the sight of an equal or slightly inferior ending: you could after all save your energy for another day, especially if you were playing black. You offer a draw, and get it most of the time — that is, if Carlsen is not your opponent. He doesn’t accept offers of draw. He doesn’t offer it, either.
Playing to win
He believes in playing till the end. He wants to win every game he plays. That is why he became the World No.1 at 19 and the World champion at 22. That is also why he is already the strongest player of all time.
He is playing at a level that we have not seen since Bobby Fischer, who didn’t possess the level-headedness that Carlsen has though.
The American didn’t just lose his grip on the crown, but on his game and his mind as well. Fischer had the potential to dominate world chess for a long time after being crowned the World champion in 1972, but he didn’t even turn up to defend his title.
Carlsen has not just the potential but the will too. It is difficult to see anyone of his current rivals snatching his crown in any time soon. This is one reign that could last for a while.
And Carlsen is good for world chess. He has the charisma to attract more people to chess; he has been voted as one of the sexiest men by Cosmpolitan and has modelled for global brands. The entire world followed his campaign in Chennai.
It is not as if his game is without flaws. His openings are less than perfect; he may take quite some time before he could achieve the theoretical mastery of Anand or Garry Kasparov. He may not ever reach there, even. He may not need to. Hasn’t he won the World championship without it?
The fact is, a perfect opening could only make you feel better at the beginning of the game, but once the real game begins, Carlsen would begin to make you feel uneasy. He could create something out of nothing. Like a magician.
He would go on playing correctly for so long, tirelessly, that he would force you to make an incorrect move. And that is all he needs. Carlsen is very young. He could only get better. That is a scary thought.