Luke McShane

Triple crown for Carlsen

Doing your job, and not a jot more – ‘quiet quitting’ – became one of the buzzphrases of 2022. In The Spectator, Stephen Daisley lauded this as the philosophy of the clear-eyed pragmatist, not the layabout, and wondered when more young employees would cotton on.

Was Magnus Carlsen thinking along the same lines? For the time being, he remains the world champion in classical chess, and many believe that his job, his grand duty, is to defend the title at all costs. So there was much consternation when he announced in July his intention to abdicate, leaving the title to be contested between Ian Nepomniachtchi and Ding Liren later in 2023.

It seems to me that Carlsen sees his job differently. The title is a bauble, but his real job is to prove, repeatedly, that he remains the best player in the world. If he can do that by playing online in his pyjamas, that’s a lot more appealing than enduring a six-month treadmill of training camps to prepare for a world championship match.

The World Rapid and Blitz Championship is the next best thing, where two world titles are up for grabs in a five-day stretch. The world’s best players (with very few exceptions) all convened in Almaty, Kazakhstan, between Christmas and New Year. Even for the elite, speed chess is a bumpy ride, but over 13 rounds of rapid and 21 rounds of blitz, the usual suspects tend to rise to the top. Still, even by Carlsen’s standards, taking the gold medal in both disciplines was an exceptional triumph. (Last year, in Warsaw, he got a bronze in the rapid and finished 12th in the blitz.)

Carlsen needed a little luck in this topsy-turvy game from round 14 of the blitz event, which featured four pawn promotions.

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