Winning the world title was easier than getting to his personal elevator. Or so it seemed for Magnus Carlsen. As he left the dais, he was caught in a phalanx of cameras and people that our cricketers are perhaps used to but the Norwegian phenomenon certainly wasn’t.
Before the exit where nobody it seemed had had enough of him, Carlsen had cameras whirring every time he leaned forward and spoke. More when his face broke into his boyishly handsome smile.
“Finally,” he said. “It feels good. It has been tough both here and in London but I have been treated very well in India, was made to feel comfortable and gradually I started to settle in and play to my strengths. I am sorry it turned out the way it did,” he said.
Anand may have felt that Game 5 was where it turned away from him but Carlsen said it was the two earlier games that changed the course of this contest. “I think games 3 and 4 were the turning point. I could sense he was vulnerable as well and from that point, I settled in and just stopped worrying about the occasion. After Game 4, I thought I could seize the initiative. That game gave me a very good feeling.”
If Anand was not at his best, Carlsen said he would like to take some credit. “I would like to take some responsibility for his mistakes, that’s for sure. It’s always been that way. People crack under pressure even in world championship matches. I tried to make him sit on the board and play long games.” From an almost no-risk position, Carlsen said he tried to win the 10th game too. “I was just trying to play solidly in the opening. As the game went on, he drifted a bit and I thought I should try to win. But after the time control, there were some complications and I decided to shut down. It was a good end.”
Carlsen flat-batted questions on his girlfriend, plans for his birthday (November 30), named only Jon Ludvig Hammer among his seconds and said he would be looking forward to representing his country in the Chess Olympiads Norway is hosting next year. And he accepted he rarely works on his openings, preferring to focus on middlegames and endgames. “That comes with a lot of tournament practice and is just one of my strengths.”
There are many more, such as the ability to bring the instinct of a fighter to the chess board and create symphony on it at the same time. It makes him a Mozart but also a Muhammad Ali. Now you know why living up to great expectations seems like normal service for him.