Grandmaster FlashDec 01, 2011
Just a few decades ago, the world’s top chess players enjoyed almost mythical status across the globe. There were bon vivants like Boris Spassky, quiet killers like Anatoly Karpov brash iconoclasts like Garry Kasparov, and megalomaniacs like Bobby Fischer. Their matches brimmed with geopolitical intrigue; some had million-dollar sponsorship deals thrown their way.
After the Cold War ended, though, international chess drifted into irrelevance—at least until a Norwegian prodigy came along. Magnus Carlsen, 20, is the top-ranked chess player in the world—and perhaps the last great hope in a generation to become a breakout star. We sat down with him to talk fitness, big paychecks, and playing chess with Liv Tyler.
Lotus: Does your versatile chess style on the board reflect your personality away from the board?
Magnus Carlsen: I strive for harmony in my game. I also like harmony in my life. I'm not fond of conflicts.
How do you prepare for a big match?
I eat healthy food and try to control my blood sugar level. And I like to sleep until just a couple of hours before the game starts—this way I don’t have time to build up too much tension. A lot of players nurse coffee or tea for the caffeine buzz, but you stick to orange juice.
Do you have any vices?
I do have a drink occasionally, but during chess games I feel the best way is not to be dependent on stimulants.
You’re known to enjoy skiing and football. Do you still have time to do both?
Yes—I try to do as much sport as possible. I also like tennis. Being physically fit is very important to a chess player—you need to have energy to focus during a long game and a long tournament.
You’re making more than a million dollars a year from chess itself and from endorsements—have you treated yourself to anything big?
Not yet. I’m not a materialistic kind of guy. It’s good to know that I have money in the bank—it gives me freedom to concentrate on what I enjoy doing.
Are you still modelling for G-Star—and have you played chess with [G-Star model] Liv Tyler?
I fronted G-Star’s fall/winter collection together with Liv and the spring/summer collection with [Bond girl] Gemma Arterton. And yes—I played chess with Liv. She wanted a lesson after New York Fashion Week last September. We went to the Village Chess Shop in Greenwich Village and discussed the game for an hour. After that I played some locals in Washington Square Park while she watched.
What can you tell us about her chess skills?
She had some experience, and she was fascinated by the game. I was impressed that she really seemed interested—she was very focused during the whole session.
Do you drive?
I don’t have a licence yet, but I’ll probably get one soon. Perhaps I should consider a Lotus? They seem fun!"*
*We swear we didn’t pay Carlsen to say this.