The reason Magnus Carlsen has failed on the national team

Magnus Carlsen under EM for landslag i november, her mot Danmarks Sune Berg Hansen. Foto: Tarjei J. SvensenMagnus Carlsen under EM for landslag i november, her mot Danmarks Sune Berg Hansen. Foto: Tarjei J. Svensen

Simen Agdestein: «It’s actually a bit strange.»

by Tarjei J. Svensen

On Friday the 42nd Chess Olympiad will take off in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. It’s Magnus Carlsen’s last tournament before the World Championship match against Sergey Karjakin in November, and likely his last classical event of the year.

For the sixth time the 25 year old will lead the Norwegian national team in the chess olympiad. This year he will play along with 26 year old Jon Ludvig Hammer, 17 year old Aryan Tari, 23 year old Frode Urkedal and 23 year old Nicolai Getz, making it one of the youngest in the whole event.

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The team is ranked 12th among the 181 nations much thanks to the strength of the first board.

While the World Champion has completely dominated in individual tournaments, things have gone less well in his last four team events.

Erna Solberg med første trekket for Ivan Saric Foto: David Llada

Erna Solberg med første trekket for Ivan Saric Foto: David Llada

In Tromsø 2014 it was the loss against Ivan Saric in the 10th round that destroyed what could have become a good performance. The big blow came in Khanty Mansiysk in 2010, where three ugly losses caused a significant rating drop.

In Dresden in 2008 it was not a big disaster, but a couple of draws too much and the surprising loss against Finnish Tomi Nybäck led to a performance below expected.

The fact that the Norwegian enjoys being on his own, was last proven in the European Team Championship in Reykjavik last November. Carlsen lost twice, one of them a shocking loss against Yannick Pelletier, led to a rating drop of 16 points.

In total Carlsen has actually dropped 43 rating points in the last four team events with Norway.

His last good performance was in the European Team Championship when he scored 6,5 out of 9.

Carlsen: «I have to stay focused the whole time»

Det norske laget før matchen mot Tyskland i EM for lag i Reykjavik. Foto: Tarjei J. Svensen

Det norske laget før matchen mot Tyskland i EM for lag i Reykjavik. Foto: Tarjei J. Svensen

So why don’t you perform better on the national team, Magnus?

«In a way it’s a different setting. It’s hard to be as well prepared for the games. But mainly I have just not played well enough. There have been different reasons. In the Tromsø Olympiad it wasn’t that bad. If I didn’t have the terrible loss in the 10th round, it would’ve been okay.» Carlsen says, referring to his loss against Ivan Saric in round 10. 

«On Iceland obviously it all went wrong. But at least I improved by scoring a normal result during the last four rounds. I just have to stay focused the whole time.»

«Is there anything you will change or do differently this time?»

«I think I just have to be better at following my usual routines, things like that. It’s easy to forget in events like this.», Carlsen says.

«It’s your last tournament before the World Championship match, how important is the chess olympiad for you personally?

Magnus Carlsen i Tromsø i 2014. Foto: David Llada

Magnus Carlsen i Tromsø i 2014. Foto: David Llada

«It’s very important to get a good implementation. I want to show myself from a better side than I did in previous Olympiads. In addition I want a good team spirit.»

The Chess Olympiad is mainly a team competition, but gold, silver and bronze medals to whoever has the highest rating performance on each board, are prestigious awards for the top players.

«It would’ve been nice to score the best performance on the 1st board, and total. It would be fun.»

The last Norwegian to do that in a chess olympiad, was actually Carlsen’s own manager Espen Agdestein who took the bronze on board 3 back in 1994.

Previously Jon Ludvig Hammer took the silver in the European Team Championship in 2009, while Carlsen won silver in 2007.

Simen Agdestein: «It’s a bit weird»

Smen Agdestein mot Tysklands Daniel Fridman i Tromsø. Foto: Paul Truong

Smen Agdestein mot Tysklands Daniel Fridman i Tromsø. Foto: Paul Truong

Simen Agdestein chose not to play for Norway this year, but took part in nine Olympiads in the last, four of them along with Magnus Carlsen. He accepts Carlsen’s reasoning for his disappointing performance for Norway

«It’s about focusing on other places. It’s a bit strange anyway. It means that even Magnus is vulnerable. There are things that show up, and it does actually affect his play. It shows that he has a potential for improvement and can become even better.», Agdestein says.

«Do you think he’s eager to prove himself for the national team?»

«I think he likes playing in team events. He enjoys all of it. And I think he has ambitions for the team on behalf of Norway. He enjoys it because it’s something different than being alone.», Agdestein says.

«You have played along Magnus many times, how much does it effect the others if he performs well?»

«It can go both ways. They may feel pressure too. But in the big picture, it can be a great inspiration. I think it is having the World Champion on the first board, it gives them a chance to play against the big guys. Magnus can beat anyone, so it means all matches will be open.»

The Norwegian team in the open section, and the women team, left for Baku on Wednesday. The opening ceremony is on Thursday, while the 1st round is on Friday at 1pm.

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