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When Masters Clash

Grandmaster Clash: One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed

The previous article may cast doubt on Seth Stevenson’s description of “Carlsen’s enormous brain”, but his Slate article on the Sinquefield Cup was surely the best chess tournament report of 2014 written for a general audience. His portraits of the world’s best players included:

Levon Aronian, the world No. 2, is a trim, 31-year-old Armenian in tailored clothes. Sadly, his distinctive eyewear will turn out to be more remarkable than anything he accomplishes in this tournament. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave—colloquially known, like many a Frenchman, by his three-letter monogram—is the weakest here by ranking, though, at 23 years old, MVL still has time to level up. Veselin Topalov, 38, is a former FIDE champ, but he now clings to world No. 6. The balding Bulgarian, narrow in face and lapel, is the eldest here by far and is already contemplating his inevitable fade from the top 10. He’s grown tired of the travel and the time spent away from his family. He doesn’t have the same thirst to study the game anymore, to keep up with new trends. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” he told me in a quiet moment when I asked him about his retirement plans. “I’m not going to show little kids how to move the pieces around. I’ll have to think about it.”

Or how about this in reference to Magnus Carlsen (note that here on chess24 Carlsen’s manager Espen Agdestein denied a couple of the claims Stevenson made in the article):

Carlsen is the only active chess player in the world whom someone other than chess geeks might recognize. That’s partly due to his accolades (grandmaster at 13; simultaneous world champion of standard chess, rapid chess, and blitz chess; highest-rated player of all motherfreaking time) and partly due to some external factors (a Western not Soviet upbringing; his excellent spoken English; his Viking bone structure, fjord-colored eyes, and hay bale of hair). Carlsen is followed everywhere he goes by a small Norwegian news team captained by a beautiful blonde woman who interviews the champ on camera after every one of his matches. He’s arguably the biggest international celebrity in a 10-mile radius. Maybe 20.

Of course what made the Sinquefield Cup such a good journalistic opportunity was that in arguably the strongest tournament of all time Fabiano Caruana went on an incredible seven game winning streak.

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