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Inspirational Articles


The Gift Cultivated Through Passion

“Honestly, we never thought of Magnus as a prodigy and bringing him up wasn’t in any manner different from bringing up my other children. We treated him in the same way as the others in the family because, as I said, he never appeared to be different in any manner.”

“He wasn’t different at all as child. He was pretty much the same as his sisters. We didn’t notice anything unusual at all. For instance, I am good with numbers. So was Magnus till he turned 5, but after that, he didn’t take interest in numbers at all.”

Responses by Magnus Carlsen’s father, Henrik Carlsen when he was interviewed during the heat of the World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Vishy Anand held in Chennai, India on November 2013.

Magnus Carlsen was born on 30 November 1990 in Tonsberg, Norway to Henrik Carlsen and Sigrun Oen who are both engineers by profession. The family stayed for a year in Espoo, Finland then move to Brussels, Belgium. In 1998, they returned to Norway in the town of Lommedalen, Baerum.

The touch of becoming a chess genius is already apparent to a young Magnus Carlsen. At two years of age, he could solve jigsaw puzzles with more than 50 pieces and turned to constructing different models of Lego, a toy that is already a challenge to most of the teenagers and with all honesty, the adults too. At the age of 5, to everyone’s astonishment, he could tell you the area, population, flag and capital of every country in the world. A deeper understanding of these circumstances would suggest that Magnus Carslen had the qualities of becoming a great Chess player.

Henrik who is also an internationally rated Chess player, taught him Chess at the age of 5. Typically as a child, Magnus Carslen showed little interest in the game. Until the age of 8, he developed the interest on his own. Also at that time, Magnus Carlsen was also interested in playing football and played a lot of footbal games till he reached the age of 12 and concentrating to chess and chess alone.

Magnus Carlsen, as a child prodigy, has not been put under the stern pressure from his parents. In fact, he has enjoyed a normal childhood who loves the great outdoors, fresh air and physical exercises. His parents, in 2003 took the entire family out of school for a year for an adventure of a lifetime, touring the entire Europe with their minibus. The plan was partly dictated by the international engagement of Magnus Carlsen to play chess.

The Road Less Traveled

When it comes to studies, a child prodigy seemed to be destined of losing the interest to enter school. Magnus Carlsen was at the age of 16 when he quit his studies. This is not a surprising move. In one of the articles here at this site, we also wrote about Bobby Fischer’s stopping from school at the same age.

When Henrik was asked about this, he remarked that at first, they encouraged him to pay attention to studies as well, stop playing chess, don’t participate in tournaments for a moment and so on. Magnus Carlsen eventually decided on his own to quit his studies. This was not hard for the family to accept because at that time it was clear that he definitely had a future in chess. In addition, being a Norwegian also helped. The high standards of social security system in Norway and other Scandinavian countries make it a lot easier for children to decide on things they enjoy the most. Chess became a priority for Magnus Carlsen.

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The Mozart of Chess

When being regarded as the “Mozart of Chess”, Magnus sounded a bit inconvenient of the compliment received. "I'm not sure why people have to talk like that. It's not something I ever think about." But he agrees that the life of a chess prodigy can sometimes be lonely. "I think that's the price of success in many walks of life. If you want to get to the top, there's always the risk that it will isolate you from other people."

Magnus Carlsen reiterates that it is a love of the game, not some stern work ethic that drives him on. "I spend hours playing chess because I find it so much fun. The day it stops being fun is the day I give up. Without the element of enjoyment, it is not worth trying to excel at anything."

The Father’s Advice

Young parents should not pressure their children into doing anything they want for their children. Let the children decide for themselves to do what they enjoyed doing with no expectations or milestones to achieve. We may not know that a child could develop interest on something and became attached to it – like Magnus Carlsen focus of chess and chess alone - which allow to pursue a career that he or she enjoyed the most.

“It was only when Magnus Carlsen started focusing on chess and we could see that he could switch himself off from everything else, did we realize that he turned out to be somewhat different from his sisters, or other children for that matter.

Since then, he has only been doing what he loves to do: play chess. And we didn’t stop him from following his passion.“ - Henrik Carlsen

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