Magnus Carlsen, a 22-year-old Norwegian, won the world chess championship today with a personal style that defies the cerebral, reserved tone of the game.
Carlsen defeated India’s Vishwanathan Anand, who had held the crown since 2007, by drawing the 10th game in the competition that started on Nov. 9 at a luxury hotel in the southern Indian city of Chennai, Anand’s hometown. Carlsen, who will turn 23 on Nov. 30, becomes the second-youngest person to claim the title and with it $1.5 million in prize money.
“Carlsen’s charisma and popularity around the world” will be a “good boost for chess,” said Susan Polgar, a winner of four world chess championships and one of the tournament’s official commentators. “He has a different style and a very good sense of humor. I think we can just sit back and enjoy the Magnus show for the coming years,” she said.
Carlsen has modeled for apparel brand G-Star, appeared on U.S. television’s “The Colbert Report” and was named as one of Cosmopolitan magazine’s sexiest men of 2013, alongside actors Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman. Carlsen became the world’s youngest grandmaster in 2004 and has been the highest rated player since July 2011, according to the World Chess Federation.
Anand, 43, and Carlsen faced off in a soundproof glass chamber, and their play was streamed live on the Internet. The Chennai city government erected a giant chess board on the Marina beach to follow their moves.
Prior to today’s match, Carlsen had a three-point lead over Anand, requiring the Indian to win the last three games to avoid defeat.
In India, a country obsessed with cricket, Anand, or Vishy as he is popularly known, is a national icon who has inspired children to take up the game. He became the national chess champion when he was 15 and became the country’s first grandmaster three years later in 1988.
“He’s a legend, and he’s done a lot for chess in India and Asia, so he’s a fantastic role model,” Polgar said in a telephone interview before today’s game. “The popularity of chess in India is phenomenal and the attention to the match was absolutely incredible. It gave a huge boost to the popularity of the game.”
Russia’s Garry Kasparov was the youngest to win the world title at the age of 22 in 1985 when he beat compatriot Anatoly Karpov. Kasparov remained the undisputed champion until 1993.
Deep Blue, a supercomputer built by International Business Machines Corp., beat Kasparov in 1997 after losing to him the previous year. The competition was made into a movie released in 2003 called Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine.