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Magnus Carlsen: “How can I ever show up at a chess tournament again?”

Wolfgang Wee Uncut is a conversation-based in-depth podcast that hosted the World Champion, Magnus Carlsen a couple of days ago. In between the standard chess banter, Carlsen opened up about shame, doubt, and anxiety he experiences after losing chess games.

Sometimes we watch a player like Magnus play so brilliantly and charismatically, but we don’t imagine how he must be feeling after a failure or during some very critical games. The World Champion admitted the overwhelming mental situation he gets in after a bad performance, and more specifically he stated:

“..If I’m going to play like this I will have to quit playing chess. And I sometimes get this feeling of anxiety. Especially felt it during the World Championship in 2016 when I was in a bad position after 8 and 9 games. I thought: How can I ever show up at a chess tournament again? after having experienced what I considered the largest humiliation I could envision on the board. How could I ever return after this?”

As you might recall, the reigning World Champion survived a scare in the regular games before eventually dominating the rapid playoff. Going into the 2016 match, Carlsen was considered the clear favorite, but he struggled to take the lead despite several chances in the early games of the match. Karjakin put up a staunch defense under pressure, saving bad positions repeatedly.

Magnus continued: “...I just laid down on the floor, in the fetal position, and thought: ‘How am I going to manage this? How will I get through this?’ But a few hours later I felt it was all right. But it was an acute feeling of having the world fall apart”.

On how he gets his mind together again, the World Champion quoted: “...I’m realistic enough to think that it isn’t natural for me to have the same top performance now that I had when I was 22 and 23.”

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2 comments
Jimmy Havey 3 mo

Love you Magnus

Edwin kalerwa 3 mo

Being number 1 in the world comes with its pressures, & you will have to learn how to live with that. Be reminded that other top players who wish to beat, follow or come after you, will make it harder for you than you can do the same to them. It is easier to come down than stay up. So it’s up to you to prove it otherwise and retain your pole position.