"Magnus", film review, biography of world chess champion

“Magnus”: biography of the current chess World Champion Carlsen from Norway (only 26)



Director, writer: Benjamin Ree

Released: 2016

Format: 1.85:1, often 4:3

When and how viewed: 2016/12/4 on Amazon Prime

Length 78

Rating:  NA

Companies:     FilmRise

Benjamin Ree’s biographical documentary “Magnus” (2016), presents the 26-year old chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen (the “Mozart of Chess”) from Norway as a charismatic person. I covered yesterday, on another blog (link link) , the factual information on his retaining the World Championship at a recent match in New York City, which may have caught the admiration of Donald Trump (who personally likes winners).

The film shows his early childhood along the Norway coast, where his parents noticed his fascination for patterns and numbers even as his social skills languished, with the possible risk of autism. He quickly learned to play chess, and his social, communication and athletic skills started to catch up.

The film shirts to 2004 with a big win in an international tournament at age 13. In 2013, at age 22, he eked out a win in a major tournament despite losing a critical game with White (analogous to losing a critical game at home in baseball or football despite “home field advantage”) because a rival similarly lost. He traveled to India to play Anand on the World Championship. He struggled with bad positions but managed to draw each of the first four games, with Anand probably missing wins. He then went on two win the next two and then a third later, in a turnaround.

Shortly before the World Championship, Magnus gave a blindfold simultaneous exhibition against ten opponents, showing the ability to remember 10 games at the same time.

Carlsen’s style evolved from aggressive attacks and opening preparation (meaning the moves “are not mine anymore”) to positional play, endgame skill, and combativeness in the middle game, and the ability to fight when in inferior positions and coax opponents into errors, much as in other sports (the “turnover” in football). In the recent World Championship, he sometimes played systems with White regarded as less forcing and less “bookd” and simply outplayed his opponent in the middle game (especially in the speed-controlled tie breaks). There is something meritocratic and moralistic in the belief “the better player will win.”

Magnus also went to some training spas, where he played volleyball, swam, and developed an obvious interest in big league fitness (that would please Twitter’s “Blogtyrant”), and would become a men’s clothing fashion model. All of this fits in with Magnus’s present view of chess as a major athletic sport.

The film shows him with his family on holidays (you sort of expect to see a dog or cat but don’t), but does not get into his personal life as an adult.

Some of the family conversation in the film is in Norwegian without subtitles, which are needed. Magnus speaks perfect English with no accent, the way an actor could.

One wonders if NFL football coaches and players and MLN managers, coaches, players (especially pitchers), and owners would benefit from learning chess.

Picture: Rublevsky-Jakovenko, 1952, won in 50 moves by White, after move 23. This is a little used line in the Petroff (5 d3 instead of d4) to force an unbalanced pawn structure and possible active pawn majority and good knight v. bad bishop syndrome in the ending. I’m surprised it isn’t played more; this looks like the kind of play Carlsen likes.

(Originally posted: Monday, December 5, 2016 at 10 AM EST)