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Chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen: ‘Bobby Fischer is my dream opponent’

Editor’s Note: ‘The Silk Road: Past, Present, Future’ travels east to west along this ancient trade route, exploring how traditional culture, arts, and trade have developed in the 21st century. This month we profile Scandinavia.

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What would you ask the world's No. 1 chess player?

We put your questions to Norwegian Magnus Carlsen

CNN  — 

Magnus Carlsen is used to breaking records. At 13 he became the world’s youngest chess grandmaster. Six years later, at the age of 19, the baby-faced Norwegian was named the World No. 1 – again, the youngest player to hold the title.

Now 25-years-old, the international poster boy of chess might have been one of the youngest players at the prestigious 2015 London Chess Classic – but that clearly wasn’t going to stop him taking home the trophy on Sunday.

We sat down with the chess genius, asking him questions posed by YOU using the hashtag #AskMagnus. And we were inundated with questions from the public – everything from Carlsen’s eating habits to his ultimate opponent.

Here are some of the best:

Magnus Carlsen: “Probably Bobby Fischer at his best. Because the precision and energy that he played with is just unmatched in the history of chess. So Bobby Fischer from 1970 to 1972.”

MC: “Usually a salad or an omelet to get some energy. Something that’s not too heavy.”

MC: “I think there are many cultural reasons. Chess has generally been a man’s game and thus more men start playing chess – so the numbers are much greater.

“I think the chess community could be better at including girls and women in chess. Because sometimes for a very young girl, it’s not the easiest community to get into.”

MC: “Computers are here to stay, obviously. But I consider myself, at least stylistically, part of the old generation. I feel that I have more in common with the players who are 35 to 40 now, then the ones who are a few years younger than I am.

“I think computers have evened out the playing field but it is not very good for the creativity in chess. Computers have definitely pushed the theory along, which is interesting from a purely scientific viewpoint. But from a sportsman’s viewpoint, and also from an artist’s viewpoint, it’s not helped.”

MC: “Most of the time the variations that are most relevant are four or five moves ahead, because for the next four or five moves you can calculate every reasonable possibility.

But if it goes much further the possibilities are too diverse and it’s just too time-consuming. And also the probability of mistakes are very high.

But if the position is simple, then I can calculate as many moves as I want.”

MC: “All games between beginners are decided on pieces being blundered on almost every move. So I guess the most useful thing is just do exercises – which pieces can you capture in this particular position?

“And learn some basic checkmating patterns. Because even if you capture all of your opponent’s positions, you need to learn how to checkmate, otherwise you’ll probably end up stalemating your opponent all the time.”

MC: “Probably Kasparov when he was young – pre-1984.”

MC: “It’s hard to pinpoint one. There are several players who I find it difficult to play against. Probably the most difficult is [World No. 6] Levon Aronian.

“I have a pretty good score against him, but he’s probably outplayed me more times than anyone else at the top.”

MC: “I don’t know about right now, because right now I’m not playing particularly well. But I think me at my best versus Garry at his best would be very interesting. I think I would have a fair chance of winning – but I would be pushed to the limits in every game, by the sheer power and energy in his playing.

“As for Bobby Fischer, I think I’d probably have a good chance to beat him. But you never know.”

The questions kept rolling in on Facebook too…

How many hours do you practice chess a day? #AskMagnus – René Leon Colmenares

MC: “I never had a schedule, never really liked being told what to do in chess or in school.

“So my first trainer would sometimes give me some homework that I wouldn’t really like – sometimes I’d do it, sometimes I wouldn’t. But then instead I might have thought about some chess problems in my hea or read a chess book or just moved the pieces around a bit on my own.

“And I think it was just as useful training in the long run. So basically the answer is each day – not very much. But I think about chess all the time, I read about chess all the time.”

What is your favorite chess book and favorite non-chess book? #AskMagnus – Matthew Thompson

MC: My favorite chess book, from when I was 10 or 11, was probably a book of Vladimir Kramnik’s games – he’s actually been one of my main opponents for some years now. But I really liked the style he played when he was young.

“Non chess book? It’s a little book I read all the time from four to five years old. It’s a little book of all the flags in the world – including population, area, all the municipalities, counties in Norway, all the data.”

What was your childhood like? Do you have time for friends? #Ask Magnus – Jaakko Kauranen

MC: “As a child I was pretty active – I used to play football, skiing in the winter, very much liked hiking in the mountains with the family.

From when I was eight I would go to school, then play football with my friends, go home, do some homework, do some chess stuff, and still I would find time to hang with my friends.

I guess there was just very little idle time, I didn’t play computer games or things like this. I was very active in general.”

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