Magnus Carlsen’s Parents on Raising the World’s Best Chess Player
HOW DO YOU SPOT a chess prodigy? Is there a moment–perhaps when he makes a boldly brilliant move out of nowhere or plasters his bedroom with pinups of Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov–when it all becomes clear?
如何发现一个国际象棋神童？是不是有那么一个时刻——比如他突然做出了一个大胆聪明的举动，或者在他的卧室里贴上费舍尔(Bobby Fischer)和卡斯帕罗夫(Garry Kasparov)的海报——一切就一目了然了？
Well, that wasn’t quite how it happened for Henrik Carlsen and Sigrun Øen, parents of 23-year-old Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian who became a grandmaster at 13 and the youngest-ever world No. 1 at 19, and whose peak World Chess Federation rating (2,882) is the highest in history. Last November, Carlsen defeated Viswanathan Anand to become the World Chess Champion, a title he will defend against Anand later this year in a yet-to-be-decided location–possibly Norway.
但对于亨里克(Henrik Carlsen)和西格伦(Sigrun Oen)来说，事情并不是那样的。他们23岁的儿子、挪威人马格努斯(Magnus Carlsen)在13岁时就成为了国际象棋大师，并在19岁时成为有史以来最年轻的排名世界第一的棋手，他的国际象棋联合会(World Chess Federation)最高等级分（2,882）是有史以来最高的。去年11月份，马格努斯击败了阿南德(Viswanathan Anand)获得国际象棋世界冠军，今年晚些时候他将再度与阿南德对弈捍卫冠军头衔，不过截至目前比赛地还未确定，有可能在挪威举行。
Carlsen’s route to chess took a little longer than his subsequent stellar progression might suggest. Henrik, 52, a keen chess player himself, remembers introducing the game to Magnus and his older sister, Ellen, now 25, when his son was turning 5. But after a month or two, Henrik says, ‘I gave up, basically, in the sense that we continued to play chess occasionally, but I didn’t have any ambitions.’ He knew that legendary players such as Capablanca and Kasparov had understood the game–he clicks his fingers–‘just like that.’ Magnus and his sister, he says, ‘learned the rules quickly, and they could capture a piece, but to get two or more pieces working together, which is what chess is about, this spatial vision took a long time.’
At the time, Henrik reconciled himself to the fact that chess would simply be an enjoyable family pastime. ‘I felt, OK, they’re definitely not geniuses, but it doesn’t matter. Because I mean, we loved our children. Chess was something we could do together, just a hobby, like playing cards or anything else.’ In the meantime, there were signs that Magnus had the aptitude and the determination to perform impressive mental feats. Sigrun, 51, recalls her son sitting for hours with puzzles or making advanced Lego models, patiently working his way through pages and pages of instructions meant for children a decade older. ‘He had the ability to sit for a very long time, even when he was small,’ she recalls.
This quality has contributed in no small measure to his success; chess commentators draw attention to his ability to wear down opponents, to wait patiently for them to make the tiniest mistake. Magnus himself maintains that he is an aggressive player but that audacity isn’t always what’s called for. ‘When you play against the best people in the world, they see through your plans, and you cannot win with a swashbuckling attack all the time,’ he says. ‘You just need to take what’s there.’
His parents are eager to point out that he wasn’t an obviously faster learner than his sisters (he also has two younger siblings, Ingrid, 20, and Signe, 17) but that he kept on going, focusing his attention on a specific subject, such as car brands until he knew it inside out. When I ask Magnus about his childhood proficiency, he replies simply: ‘I didn’t particularly know if I was good at it or not; I just tried to do it.’
Then came a turning point. Just before Magnus turned 8, says Henrik, ‘Ellen suddenly understood enough to make it interesting for me to play with her.’ Magnus would sit to watch them and, a little later, join in. Henrik’s dilemma was that if he adopted poor strategy, his children wouldn’t learn anything, but he also didn’t want them to become discouraged. So he began to play with limited resources–just his king and a pawn–slowly adding pieces as they learned the game. Magnus’s interest started to grow, although Henrik maintains that ‘he just wanted to beat his sister.’ He had a competitive streak even as a small child? ‘Yes, absolutely,’ Sigrun says, ‘he still has that.’ More competitive than his sisters? ‘Absolutely.’ She laughs and gestures to her husband. ‘It’s not from me, it’s from him!’
Soon he was entering and very quickly winning tournaments. At home, during dinner, he began sitting apart from the family so he could study his chessboard while eating. ‘He was in the same room,’ remembers Sigrun, ‘so we could speak to him if we wanted to; he could hear what we were talking about if he wanted to join.’ Despite their unorthodox meals, they were, and remain, a close family.
There’s a particular bond between father and son, forged through a mutual love of chess. When Magnus was 12, Henrik took a year’s leave of absence from his job (he has spent recent years balancing his consultancy work in the oil industry with managing Magnus’s affairs) and took the children out of school so they could travel together throughout Europe, an experience that Magnus remembers as ‘more useful than staying in school that year.’ Now, he says, he realizes that a certain family resemblance is developing. ‘I think I’m becoming more like my father in a way,’ he says, laughing. ‘I’m cracking the same lame jokes!’ Many sons probably find themselves saying the same thing, but in the Carlsens’ case, there’s another dimension. ‘Whenever I lose,’ Magnus explains, ‘usually, I want to be alone, figure it out. A couple of times I’ve lost and I’ve been complaining to my father about it, and he says, ‘Just get up and stop whining.’ I think that’s the best advice I ever got.’
Sigrun, an engineer like her husband, is not a chess player, although she’s started to dabble with Play Magnus, an app that allows you to test your skills against the champion at various stages in his career. She describes herself as an introvert and dislikes the attention Magnus’s celebrity has brought, particularly when people approach him in the street. This happens even more now that he is modeling for the clothing company G-Star Raw, whose most recent ad campaign features him playing chess with the British model-actress Lily Cole. (Henrik remembers the reaction of Magnus’s sisters when his career took a turn toward fashion modeling: ‘He got a lot of credit for that. They thought, OK, now you’re getting somewhere!’)
西格伦与丈夫一样也是工程师，但她不玩国际象棋。不过，她已经开始尝试Play Magnus应用，这款应用允许玩家通过与职业生涯不同阶段的马格努斯对局来测试自己的水平。西格伦将自己描述为内向的人，她不喜欢马格努斯名人地位所带来的关注，尤其当人们在街上接近他时。现在这种情况甚至更多，因为他在担任服装公司G-Star Raw的模特。在G-Star Raw最近推出的广告中，马格努斯与英国模特兼演员莉莉•科尔(Lily Cole)进行国际象棋对弈。（亨里克回忆了马格努斯的姐妹们在马格努斯向时尚模特界发展时的反应：马格努斯获得了许多赞誉，她们认为，好吧，现在他小有名气了！）
Although Sigrun insists that she’s not starstruck by all the attention heaped on Magnus (‘I really don’t think so much about him as a world champion in chess,’ she says, ‘because he’s my son’), she did have to work through an emotional barrier when he was 9 years old and starting to compete regularly. As she watched him play in a match, all Sigrun could see was a little boy who looked unhappy, hunched over aboard as if he were struggling. Naturally, all she wanted to do was take him home. Afterward, she asked him if the contest had been painful for him. He looked at her with a blank, uncomprehending stare. No, he replied, he’d been having fun and was merely lost in thought. Now, says Sigrun, ‘I just want him to be happy. And as long as he’s happy, he can do whatever he wants.’