Hallgeir Opedal begins with a disclosure. “I don’t know chess at all,” says the man who has written a biography of Magnus Carlsen.
The Norwegian book, Smarte Trekk, meaning Smart Moves, will soon have an English translation, according to the author who has also written a novel as well as books on football and popular science.
Opedal is here on the invitation from Carlsen. “I was commissioned to write the book on Carlsen because I didn’t know chess,” he explains.
“Magnus wanted the book to be written from a layman’s point of view, not that of a chess player. He felt that would bore the normal readers. His manager Espen Agdestein contacted me and told me about the book. I was only happy to write it.”
Opedal accompanied Carlsen on his tours in 2010-11. “I was in places such as Wijk aan Zee, London and Monaco,” he says. “After spending so much time with him, I found him a very nice person,” he says.
“He is just a normal kid, but is an incredibly determined person. He can be very witty. He is really a fun guy. He has no airs and is very honest; he has nothing to hide.”
He said the book was about how a young boy went on to become the best player in the world. “But all the journalists wrote about was the Garry Kasparov issue,” says Opedal.
“Magnus told me everything about it. He had asked his father to terminate the contract with Kasparov because they both had strong, different kinds of personalities.
Initially, Magnus had found the partnership very fruitful. Kasparov too was happy to work with Magnus, as it was a reason for him to get back to chess.”
The duo have since patched up, says Opedal. “Now they talk to each other, yes,” he says.
So could Kasparov be helping Carlsen in the match against V. Anand? “I can’t say anything,” he says.
He is also planning to write about Carlsen’s maiden World championship match. “Back home in Norway, people might be a bit disappointed with him after the two draws,” he says. “The expectations about Magnus are huge in Norway.”
Opedal, also a television producer, says it has been fascinating to watch Carlsen from up close. “I feel chess discovered Magnus,” he says. “It is as though chess is just made for Magnus.”