Mozart of Chess: Magnus Carlsen

At age 21, chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen is the number one player in the world and says he loves to see his opponents squirm.

Simon: '51.

Magnus Carlsen: Wow.

Simon: You see, mem-- your memory isn't--

Magnus Carlsen: It's not what it used to be.

Chess players are pretty pokerfaced. But occasionally Magnus will flash the smile of someone who knows it's all over but the handshake while Nakamura dives deeper into doom. Magnus was playing brilliantly and he knew it.

Simon: Is there anything in life more satisfying than that feeling when you're playing brilliantly?

Magnus Carlsen: I don't know. But it's really, you know, up there.

Simon: It's pretty good.

Magnus Carlsen: Yes.

The spectators seem as mesmerized as the competitors. They're all chess players, of course. If they weren't, it would be like watching paint dry. Worldwide, a hundred thousand are watching on their computers. The suspense keeps building until end game by which time, it's cutthroat.

Simon: Do you enjoy it when you see your opponent squirm?

Magnus Carlsen: Yes. I do. I enjoy it when I see my opponent, you know, really suffering when he knows that I've outsmarted him. If I lose just one game, then usually, you know, I just want to really get revenge.

Simon: This is war, isn't it?

Magnus Carlsen: Yeah, yeah.

For 50 years, chess was war. It was a battleground in the Cold War with the Russians who were dominant. But then an American came along. His name was Bobby Fischer. In 1972, he took on the Russian champion Boris Spassky and he won. It was an international spectacle.

And the enthusiasm has not waned. Back in London, just down the corridor from where Magnus is playing, 500 novices are learning how to master kings and queens.

Simon: Do you ever play any grownups?

Kid #1: Yes. Yep, I do play grownups. In fact, I'm getting the hang of playing grownups.

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