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Magnus Carlsen, 22, became the youngest-ever World Chess Champion on Friday after Viswanathan Anand settled for a draw in the tenth game of the 12-game title bout, giving the Norwegian a 6.5-3.5 victory.
The moments immediately following the coronation were hardly typical of a world conquest. A scheduling oversight forced Carlsen to wait by the side while Anand finished his media duties. When the microphone was finally passed to him, he was asked what would be the first thing that chess’s 16th World Champion would do right after the press conference.
“I don’t know... No champagne... I mean... We’ll see, I don’t know...,” he replied.
Despite his own protestations — “I am just happy to have won and competed. Let’s write the history books later” — the predominant sentiment is that with Carlsen’s triumph, the world of chess is on the threshold of a generational change.
It was not just Carlsen’s dominance — he beat four-time champion Anand thrice and stayed unbeaten, making the eleventh and twelfth games redundant — but what he represents, that had fans excited.
Carlsen is one of several young players populating the upper rungs of the ranking table, playing a brand of positional chess that is a departure from the more classical style of the previous generation that grew up learning the sport from books and not through computers. In attempting to describe Carlsen’s style, a long list of the game’s legends is invoked. Garry Kasparov called him a mixture of Bobby Fischer and Jose Raul Capablanca. Some have criticised Carlsen’s grinding style as cold and machine-like, but it has been an undisputed success.
Carlsen, who has been the World No. 1 for close to three years now, also became the highest rated player ever earlier this year, going past Kasparov’s mark of 2,851, long considered to be chess’s Bradman number. On the live rating list, Carlsen (2,872) is currently a massive 62.8 points ahead of the second-placed Levon Aronian. This dominance is a reflection of his showing in the tournament circuit, where he is a serial winner.
It is also Carlsen’s personality off the field that has set him apart from past champions. Young and marketable, Carlsen is the anti-thesis of the traditional image of the reclusive and recondite chess genius. He may be the star of a sport that is struggling to monetise itself, but a savvy team has helped position Carlsen as a