Unibet’s brand ambassador Magnus Carlsen is in the middle of defending his world championship title. Carlsen has been world champion since he defeated Viswanathan Anand in 2013. He successfully defended the title in 2014, 2016, and 2018. The current world championship match was postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We had the opportunity to talk to Magnus Carlsen about his thoughts of the competition so far and how your mindset should be against an opponent as Ian Nepomniachtchi .
You have played eight matches and are well in the lead - How happy are you with your own performance this far?
The last three matches have been like a dream. The sixth match is a performance I am very proud of. It was a match where everything happened, and I am happy with the way I played, being patient and managing to find openings to win the match. Nepomniachtchi defended well but slipped up at the end of an eight-hour long match. It didn’t happen too much in the seventh match, ending with a solid remis. Then Nepomniachtchi lost the eight for not being focused enough, maybe he was affected by the sixth match.
Would you say that after the sixth match this one almost counts as one and a half points for you?
One thing is to lose a match, but as important is how you react to it. I feel like his level of play has been affected in a negative way after that loss. I think Nepomniachtchi has been using the day off to prepare a little extra to deliver a good next game.
Around move number 100, what is your mindset at this point?
Around move 100 I only think of being patient. Not focusing on winning right ahead, knowing that I have time, and making sure I don’t repeat a move.
When you have a lot of aspects to think of at the same time as the bricks are moving fast - the chances of a repeated move must be high?
Yes, definitely, when you move pieces over time you can end up in repeated positions randomly. It is a bit special when we at a time were playing a hybrid between Bullet and rapid, and at the same time have to write down every move we make. It absolutely takes a bit focus from the board, but that is how it is.
Under the sixth match, when did you think that you might win?
I felt like I had a good position at around move 120 but I wasn´t sure that I would win. It was all about trying to challenge Nepomniachtchi as much as possible. At around move 130, I felt pretty sure that if he couldn't do something extraordinary, I would have good chances of winning. A couple of moves later, I was sure that no one could take this win away from me.
What is the feeling like when you know that no one can take this win away from you?
That breakthrough after a lot of difficult matches where I haven’t been in the lead even once, was a big relief. I have been feeling a bit tired lately, but I have been thinking that he is feeling even worse. A lot of the time in the matches I have spent time having time-trouble, so I have not been able to drink or eat like I should, so it is of course hard to reset right away after a win - but a day off came along very well.
I expect the championship to go into a different phase now. A desperate opponent is a dangerous opponent. This is not over, and I need to focus going forward!