In Norway, it’s “Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, all of the great days” rolled into one: That’s because 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen has beaten the defending champion, India’s Viswanathan Anand, to be crowned Chess World Champion.
The world No. 1’s victory Friday over Anand, the world No. 8 and an Indian fan favorite, came after 10 games in Chennai, India. Carlsen won three and drew seven, and earned the highest rating of all time with the 6.5-3.5 win.
“The match was shown on television, and I know that a lot of people who don’t play have followed it and that’s absolutely wonderful,” Carlsen said after the win. “I really hope that this could have positive effect on chess both in Norway and worldwide.”
It’s certainly had an effect in Norway. That “Christmas Eve” quote at the top was from Joran Jansson, president of the Norwegian Chess Federation. He was speaking to NPR’s Melissa Block earlier this week about what a Carlsen victory would mean.
Jansson told Melissa that one-fifth of all Norwegians watched the games being played in the Indian city, which is more viewers than skating and skiing, which are national sports.
Carlsen became a grandmaster — that’s the highest title in chess — when he was 13. At that same age, he drew with Garry Kasparov, regarded by many as the greatest player ever. But as this BBC profile notes:
“[I]f we want to characterize Carlsen’s chess style, we should turn to another sporting analogy.
“At his peak, Roger Federer was the complete tennis player. He had an astounding forehand and backhand, he could serve, volley and smash.
“Carlsen is the complete chess player. He is brilliant at strategy as well as tactics: he has mastery of the opening, the middle game, the endgame.”
So how popular in Carlsen? “You can’t open a newspaper without seeing his face. You can’t turn on the television without seeing something from Magnus. He’s everywhere now,” Jansson told Melissa.
As Reuters noted, Carlsen’s been called the Justin Beiber of chess and his “boyish good looks have earned him lucrative sponsorships, a modeling contract and coverage on tabloid front pages showing him poolside.”
And the BBC reported:
“He has already done a fair amount of modelling – some for a Dutch clothing company, whose brand manager Cherbanker Ray described Carlsen as looking like a ‘cross between a boxer and a ’50s gangster.'”
If you want to know more about Carlsen, The New Yorker profiled him two years ago (there’s a paywall).