OROn his Instagram account, Magnus Carlsen imagined a Photoshop match against Beth Harmon, the fictional heroine of the hit Netflix chess series The Queen’s Gambit. “I think it would be close,” he wrote.
In reality, Carlsen is alone at the top of the world game, the great matchless of his generation. But he says there’s no reason why Harmon couldn’t happen to him one day in the real world, if a game with a notoriously chauvinistic storyline can become more hospitable to its would-be female superstars.
“This is a problem that has been around in chess for a long time,” the Norwegian said in an interview with Zoom. “Chess societies have not been very kind to women and girls over the years. Certainly there needs to be a little change in the culture. “
Carlsen said that change would be “massive work” and suggested that at this point girls’ enthusiasm for the game is waning. “There is not that much difference between boys and girls,” he said. “The difference is purely later.”
Even if the Netflix series is seen as a possible catalyst for change, Carlsen’s comments contrast with a long history of sexism at the top of chess. Nigel Short, former world number three in Britain, has repeatedly argued that men are “hardwired” to be better at the game than women, despite the disagreement of neuroscientists – and claimed a “huge abyss of skills”. Bobby Fischer said that there were no top-level players in their day because “they just aren’t that smart” and “should strictly stay at home.” Even Garry Kasparov, who later resolved from your comments and he was an advisor to the creators of The Queen’s Gambit – he once claimed that chess “doesn’t fit right in with women.”
Carlsen has a couple of amusing reservations about the TV series, like the way his players are often shocked by a checkmate move they haven’t seen coming, which “never happens,” but his portrayal of Harmon isn’t a of them.
One of the best features of the show, he said, was the reprimand it delivered to the game’s most primitive voices. “I love the fact that once Beth started having results and once it became clear that she had great ability, there weren’t many ‘I don’t think she can be good because she’s a girl.’ All of that disappeared. It was very, very nice to be judged on her ability and not on her gender. “
In the real world, Carlsen argues that the current structure of ‘open’ tournaments for any player alongside the women’s-only competitions is useless. “I think it should be one or the other,” he said. “Either there should be only open tournaments, or only men’s and women’s tournaments. I don’t think that, in principle, women have a less natural ability to be great at chess than men. “
Carlsen has other concerns about the structure of the game, as he considers that the existing world title format, the best of the 12 “classic” games with a quick chess tiebreaker, is no longer fit for purpose. With increasingly thorough computer analysis exhausting the number of truly original options available with the luxury of time, his most recent successful defense against Fabiano Caruana in 2018 was based on the tiebreaker, after the 12-game series ended in 12. ties.
“In terms of world championship matches, it is becoming increasingly difficult to create opportunities,” he said. “With so much time and preparation for the opening, both are great equalizers, and it means that your pure chess skill becomes a little less important.” Sometimes, he added, the classic game can be an “absolute effort.”
As a result, Carlsen will play fewer classic tournaments over the next year. You may choose to spend a little more time with your fantasy football team, which has seen a decline after its remarkable 10th place last year to a modest 164,898 at the time of writing. To reach such heights again, he said, “it would take a tremendous amount of luck.”
Most significantly, however, he is involved in the launch of the $ 1.5 million prize fund. Champions chess tour, a series of 10 tournaments that begins on Sunday. (In addition to being the face of the competition, he won it. For an indication of Carlsen’s dominance as a playing force and brand, consider how strange it would be for Lewis Hamilton to have clinched the Lewis Hamilton Driving Championship.) succeeds the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour that began this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic shutdown head-to-head.
The game will include fast, lightning, and apocalyptically titled Armageddon variants of the game. The series, of which Carlsen is obviously the prohibitive favorite, comes amid a boom in the popularity of online chess, thanks in part to Netflix and the pandemic, and slightly parental-like growth in matches being streamed on Twitch, with excited commentators in the background.
There is a danger in that change, Carlsen admits. “Maybe if everyone grows up playing flash and blitz chess, that can, in a very long-term perspective, make young players worse.” But in the short term, he’s more concerned about a corresponding increase in cheating in online gambling, at least among the masses whose play and possible use of chess engines are not tracked by video cameras or screen monitors.
“In tournaments that I play, it is not a concern,” he said. “However, I see that for others, you can undermine your joy of playing if you know that your opponent may be cheating.” In general, online gambling, “there’s just no way around it. A lot of people are going to cheat and it sucks. “At least, he adds, they tend to get caught in the end.
You wonder if Carlsen, who enjoyed an astonishing 125-game undefeated streak in classical chess, up to a surprise loss last month, he might sometimes appreciate a bit of cheating from his opponents to make things more interesting. Have you ever wanted a rival of the caliber of Kasparov, Fischer, or even Harmon? “No, even if there is no Nadal or Federer, you can still lose against Gasquet or Nalbandian, that’s their problem,” he said, with some ruthless precision on his opponents. And it looks like he’s in no danger of losing his appetite for the fight. “In every world championship game, he still turns into that heavyweight fight.”
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