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The Carlsen Disappointment Train

The internet can be a tough place to exist for anyone, especially a celebrity. It is undisputed that Magnus Carlsen is currently the best chess player in the world. However, it is also true that 2015 has been a forgettable year for the World Champion. He has not dominated his opponents like we are used to seeing and that has some people in the chess blogosphere worried. The headlines on Chess.com and other sites are glaring: Chess.comWhat’s Wrong with Carlsen?, UK TelegraphCarlsen’s Ratings Crash, and Norway News in EnglishFrustrated Carlsen Logged Shocking Loss. The most recent article, which triggered this post, was a video posted on Chess.com from ChessCentral titled Something’s Not Right with Magnus Carlsen. Some have speculated that Carlsen is not playing his best chess because he is bored, distracted, has found love, or is not as good as we thought he was. The reality is that this all stems from the notion that heroes are infallible and invincible. Even Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was not immune to having a bad 2015 with sanctions against him and having to step down temporarily as FIDE president. Bobby Fischer was an exceptional chess player but his persona and the mythology around him has eclipsed his chess play throughout the years. Some people will talk about Bobby as though he was an invincible force who never lost and never had days where he was just off. Bobby had some terrible losses during his ascension to chess stardom. The Chess.com forum has an excellent post that asks this very question and users have submitted some particularly brutal games from Fischer’s early days. This one is especially devastating and it comes from a 1964 simul in San Francisco:

I have games in my personal archives from Chess.com that are better than this game, but a loss like this is not indicative of Bobby’s character as a whole just as a streak of poor results are not indicative of Magnus Carlsen’s personality or his chess ability. Is there something wrong with Magnus Carlsen? Probably. Is he playing poorly because he is bored? Probably. What else is there in chess when you are the World Champion? He has reached the pinnacle of chess and is still incredibly young, so how much higher can he go? I, for one, hope that he has found a girl who melts his heart and is distracting him from the board for a little while. That is partially because I am biased and want Nakamura to have a shot at the title in 2016, but also because Magnus needs that kind of balance in his life to maintain his health and sanity. Even if there is something wrong with him, it only goes to prove that he is human, he is fallible, and that there is nothing wrong with that.