As some of you already know, Magnus has been in town this week. On Tuesday, he perused the Marshall Master’s tournament, observing top boards and mingling with the regulars.
As readers of this blog will know, I have repeatedly attacked journalists in the past for producing puff piece after puff piece when interviewing Magnus. When he was on 60 minutes, I was so excited to see him finally confronted with the question: why didn’t you play in the world championship cycle? Imagine my disappointment, when once again he was only asked the fluffiest of cotton candy quality questions.
So… when the time came for Q&A at this event, I summoned the courage and tried to frame the question on all of our minds as tactfully yet pointedly as possible, in order to maintain my own journalistic integrity.
As you know, the track star Usain Bolt has raised controversy in the past, particularly in the 2008 Olympic Games, by slowing down before the finish line. Many fans take this as unsporting, and feel robbed of witnessing him perform at his highest level, through to the finish line. It goes without saying that Bolt can slow down all he wants without breaking any rules of the race, but the fans no doubt are left in a disappointed daze, wondering just how fast a time he may have achieved had he simply kept running.
Similarly, Magnus has refused to become the youngest world champion of all time. When confronted with the above analogy together with the question of whether he would play in the next world championship cycle, he responded simply by saying “if you can finish 100 meters in 9.58 seconds then you can do whatever you want.”
His answer is uncannily accurate, and because it was so specific and off the cuff, I can’t help but wonder whether he is a fan of Bolts, and had himself considered this analogy previously.
In any case, his time at the Marshall Chess Club was cherished by all, and without a question it was the most festive and interesting event I have ever seen held there during my short tenure.
Raven Sturt nearly pulled out a major coup in the simul as well, by winning a piece against Carlsen and at one point Houdini gives him a clear winning advantage. The game is a king’s gambit, with 3.Nc3! Naturally, 3.Nf3 and the now fashionable 3.Bc4 are much more common. When I spoke with the Sturt after the game, he admitted that he had actually just recently prepared some lines against this 3.Nc3 variaiton, and it shows, as he achieved a winning advantage against the world number one with it. After 14.Qf3, Magnus simply drops a piece, though Sturt does not handle the resulting position accurately, and Magnus is able to once again gain the upper hand with rook activity.