Magnus Carlsen at 12: 'Why was I born without any chess talent?'

Magnus CarlsenMagnus Carlsen plays Viswanathan Anand in Chennai from November 9-26 (Reuters)

It is the most anticipated world championship match since the Fischer-Spassky title clash in 1972. A new era has possibly dawned, where one of the greatest players in the history of chess, Viswanathan Anand, plays Magnus Carlsen.

In Norway, like in India, chess is in the shadow of more popular TV sports such as skiing and football. Despite his being recognised in the streets regularly, Carlsen's fame hasn't led to an increase in the number of chess players.

When I first saw Carlsen as a nine-year-old in April 2000, I knew he was something special. It may sound like a cliché, but he was different. Not only because he looked around three to four years younger than his actual age, but because he had completely outplayed a strong friend of mine to reach a winning position.

He made a couple of mistakes and drew the game, but he had already made a huge impression on everyone.

Still, the fact that this shy little kid would become the world's best chess player and a possible world chess champion was beyond all expectation. At that time, I attended Grandmaster Simen Agdestein's chess class at the Norwegian High School for Top Athletes.

Agdestein, with eight caps for the national soccer team and the only chess celebrity in the country at the time, was also impressed by Carlsen and decided to hire civil worker Torbjørn R Hansen - now a strong International Master - to have training sessions once a week with Carlsen. This produced instant results.

Being 19 at the time, I also took part in the tournament in Germany and ended up ahead of Carlsen on points. I had jokingly pointed this out to him, to which he replied, with a grin, asking me, who faced stronger opposition. Of course, his opponents were considerably stronger than mine.

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