CHENNAI, India – Dubbed a Harry Potter-like figure because of his youth, 22-year-old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen has won the chess world championship to become the first Western player since Bobby Fischer to hold the title.
Carlsen defeated defending champion Viswanathan Anand of India after a draw in Game 10 gave him the necessary 6½ points to clinch the win. Playing in Chennai close to where Anand grew up, the Indian finished with 3½ points after seven draws and three losses. Anand 43, had held the title for six years.
Carlsen becomes the youngest world champion since Garry Kasparov, who was also 22 – and a few weeks younger than the Norwegian – when he won the title in 1985. Carlsen is a former child prodigy who became a grandmaster at 13 and has been the world’s top-ranked player since 2010.
Speaking at a press conference after the victory, Carlsen said he was “very very happy to have won and to have completed this match. “Let’s write the history books later!” he added. Carlsen has won 60% of the total prize fund of $2.24 million, while Anand takes home the rest.
Carlsen went into the tournament as a big favorite over the defending champion but was cautious about his chances of winning. When it looked as if he was nearing victory, he told reporters: “This was a very difficult game. There was a fear of being mated all the time”.
The young Norwegian stands out amongst chess players, not only for his game but for his persona. A part-time model who has appeared on the front cover of GQ magazine, he exudes an affable personality, a BBC profile noted.
Chess champion Susan Polgar commentated on the game and described him as “having a different style and a very good sense of humor.” He will be a “good boost for chess,” she said, a view that was echoed by analysts who say he is likely to change the perception of the game.
Chess hasn’t regained the world attention it had when American Bobby Fischer, often regarded as the greatest of all time, mesmerized with his brilliance, winning the title in 1972 in Iceland, beating the great Russian player Boris Spassky.
With an eccentric personality, Fischer refused to defend his title in 1975 after a dispute over the playing conditions and became a recluse until 1992 when he came out of retirement to beat Spassky again in Yugoslavia, which was under U.S. Sanctions, leading Fischer to never return to the U.S. After a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service.