The recently crowned world champion 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway is in many respects an anomaly.
But, then, so are most chess grandmasters. It has been said that the only thing top players have in common is that they play chess.
There seems, for example, to be no identifiable aptitude for the game. Heredity does not play an obvious role. Grandmasters, for example, do not produce children who become grandmasters.
Carlsen’s unusual profile begins as the first World Champion from Western Europe since Emanuel Lasker ceded the title to Jose Capablanca in 1921.
At 22, he is also the second youngest – Kasparov, a few months younger – to attain the crown. He is also the first to attain the security of millionaire status at the beginning of his career.
His approach to most chess matters is markedly sui generis. In his recent match with Viswanathan Anand, he was not accompanied by a second – the only one to do it alone in a competition of such importance in modern chess history.
Opening and middle game preparation – for which seconds are invaluable – is not critical for Carlsen, as it is for virtually all of his grandmaster colleagues. His focus, instead, is to gain the upper hand in the endgame where he relies on nearly infallible intuition and a willingness for battle until the possibilities of the position and often his opponent are exhausted.
Seemingly destined to win, he is not afraid to lose.
Below is a ninth-round win by Magnus Carlsen against Viswanathan Anand from their World Championship Match in Chennai, India.