Colin McGourty

5 months

Magnus Carlsen: “I feel classical probably will be phased out”

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen talked to CCO Danny Rensch for 25 minutes during a landmark State of broadcast. Magnus, the figurehead of the Play Magnus Group, talked about joining, but also many other topics, including the future of the game, his ambitions and why Alireza Firouzja stands out from the crowd.

The State of stream saw the official announcement that had completed the purchase of the Play Magnus Group, the parent company of chess24. If you want to get an idea of what the future holds, it’s a must-watch.

The highlight for chess fans, however, was perhaps a 25-minute interview with World Champion Magnus Carlsen. We’ve transcribed his answers below.

On agreeing to the buyout

I think it’s going to be great for both fans and players, as simple as that, that now it will be easier for all the best players to compete in the same events and it will be easier for the fans to follow.

"That’s really an exciting prospect for me as well, to be competing with the best in the world online even more frequently than I used to.

For me as a chess player, that’s certainly the motivation, but I’m of course a shareholder as well in the Play Magnus Group, and for that it’s also exciting all the new possibilities that we have both with our apps and Chessable, the new possibilities for integration there. It’s going to be fun to see, and hopefully generally just great for the chess fans."

On his chess ambitions

"I don’t have a lot of ambitions for what to accomplish, but I love the game, I love playing, so that’s all the ambition that I really need, and that’s why I’m going to continue to compete in the events that I enjoy."

On Fischer Random and classical chess

"I would also like to mention Fischer Random Chess, which I would love to see more of in a classical, or at least a slower time control."

When it comes to regular chess, I feel that classical probably will be phased out a little bit, at least at the top level. At least that’s what I think should happen.

"I think that the possibilities for discovering new ideas in the opening, especially, are somewhat limited, and you can see that in faster time controls there’s still more than enough scope to play and the game works in a great way.

Obviously this is at the top level. At other levels it doesn’t matter as much, but in faster time controls it matters a lot less. It’s probably better to have it that way, because people have the familiarity with the positions, people can see their own theory that they play without it becoming too boring, so I think that’s one of the big reasons why faster chess is the way to go."

Also a lot of the audience, or most of the audience, is online anyway, so I think there’s no reason why we shouldn’t play the games mostly online as well.

On the level of play over-the-board compared to online

"I feel like in speed chess I play a little bit better online, probably because I’m more used to that. As you said, it’s two slightly different ways of seeing the board, but I’m not sure in the long run it will matter too much in terms of the quality.

I also really like the hybrid events, where you play online but in person, in more of an eSports setting. I think a lot can be done there, and in the future, to make that very, very exciting as well."

On the Speed Chess Final being no.2 only to Game 6 of Carlsen-Nepo

"I expected it to be popular. The exact numbers I don’t really have an opinion on, except that if it’s comparable with the classical World Championship then that’s a good thing, and I think in the future we’re probably see that online events will just be more and more popular."

Also, we’ll see what happens with the next classical World Championship.

On slower Fischer Random events

"I’d love to see that in the near future. That’s really one of my main wishes for chess coming up, to play slower Fischer Random Chess. True, there are going to be some positions that are just fundamentally a little bit boring, where you sort of have to follow symmetry for the first moves, but I think there are going to be so many possibilities as well, and I feel that the formats that we have had now for Fischer Random have been exciting enough, but if you have a little bit more time then you actually have some more scope to really dig into the position and to see the subtle differences there are between those positions and regular chess positions. I’m all for that, both from a sporting perspective and just from the perspective of learning."

On Duck Chess

"I haven’t played Duck Chess, but I watched Hammer stream a little bit of Duck Chess the other day, and I thought, let me try to sit through one game of this."

"My first impression was, whoever thought of Duck Chess just thought, “how can I take chess and make it just really boring?” It seems that the games are just a lot slower, it’s harder to checkmate. I guess there are some other weird tactics, but I just found it incredibly boring. But I know that other people like it, so that’s fine."

On whether he’ll stream on his Maskenissen Twitch channel

"I have to say that your pronunciation is abysmal! I think Maskenissen will be back, that’s for sure, for different events. Maskenissen has never been retired, it’s just been rested, and he may be coming back in the near future, or at least in the medium future."

On streaming while playing

"I haven’t done it too much, but I generally find it interesting and I think sometimes if your brain is not working too well it can be useful, because you articulate your thoughts a little bit, and I have found it at times useful, but I think it takes a little bit of time getting used to, for sure."

"As for commentating, I like doing that. That’s something that I occasionally enjoy a lot."

On who he hasn’t played in blitz matches

"There are a lot of people that I haven’t played. Alireza is probably the best player that I haven’t faced. Actually, I don’t think I’ve played a single game, but I also think if you’re going to play the very, very best, the very toughest opponents at the most exciting time controls, then that’s maybe not something you do casually, that’s maybe something you do in a more serious match."

Carlsen and Firouzja in 2019 World Blitz Championship

Sadly it looks like we're not going to see Carlsen-Firouzja in the 2022 World Rapid and Blitz, as he's not on the line-ups | photo: Lennart Ootes

"In general terms, that’s something I’m definitely interested in."

I love playing blitz against some of the very best in serious matches. There’s nothing more exciting than that!

On the strongest young players

Obviously Alireza is head and shoulders above everybody else when it comes to basically every format.

"Among the others, I wouldn’t say... if you’re talking as an all-rounder, I don’t think there’s anybody who really stands out. All of them have very distinct strengths and weaknesses, which is to be expected from people at that stage in their career. People like Alireza, who is so well-rounded in all formats and he’s basically just one of the top guys, it’s rare to be that as a teenager, so for the others, a lot of them are very promising, but I wouldn’t say that as an all-rounder any of them really stick out."

On a potential DrDrunkenstein bot?

"I don’t know, I haven’t thought about that. One of my friends, Assios, made a bot whose repertoire was partly based on hyper-bullet games, and then you could see a lot of the Lefongs, Qc2xh7, and so on, so it would be fun to build a bot based on my drunken bullet games… I shouldn’t say drunken, though, because I was never drunk, I was a couple of drinks in in many of those games."

On playing in the Pro Chess League

"I’ve been contacted by a couple of teams. I actually agreed to be on the list for a team, a couple of hours ago… I’m not promising that I’ll even play this season, but it’s very much possible."

"I enjoyed the first season that we played a lot, with the Norwegian team. Obviously there have been revelations about that team after the fact, that I will not… I enjoyed the format a lot. I remember, speaking of Drunkenstein, that was one of the original sessions, there was one of these rounds where you play 8 games against one division or something. I did play that from a bar once, having a few drinks, so that was a lot of fun, and I think I scored 7.5 that time, so it’s a great event, a fine sense of camaraderie in the team, and I guess now there’s an in-person final as well, at least I hope!"

On it being a big day for chess

"Thank you so much and I’m definitely excited for all the possibilities we have for the future. It’s going to be a great day for chess."

See also Officially Acquires Play Magnus, Carlsen Signs As Ambassador


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