Never mind the “Are you the new Bobby Fischer?

“Women hate me, I repel them!” was something you never expected to hear from World Champion Magnus Carlsen, but that was his reply when asked if he had “female support” for the match. He came up with more memorable one-liners, but while Sergey Karjakin had looked something of a bunny in headlights at the New York opening press conference, Fabiano Caruana was utterly composed as he answered in his own relaxed, straightforward manner. We didn’t learn much that was new, but both players seem ready for the battle that starts tomorrow!

Londonban ünnepélyesen megnyitották a címvédő norvég Magnus Carlsen és az amerikai kihívó, Fabiano Caruana világbajnoki döntőjét. Az ünnepséget megelőző sajtótájékoztatón mindketten kedvezően ítélték meg esélyeiket, alaposan felkészülve várják a 12 játszmásra tervezett mérkőzést. A pénteki első, magyar idő szerint 16 órakor kezdődő játszmában Fabiano Caruana játszik világossal.

Never mind the "Are you the new Bobby Fischer?

Never mind the "Are you the new Bobby Fischer?"question. This exchange will be the highlight of the Carlsen Caruana press conference. Magnus Carlsen [jokingly]: "Women hate me, I repel them."

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FIDE World Chess Championship Reigning FIDE world chess champion Magnus Carlsen, who will defend his title against US challenger Fabiano Caruana (right) speaks during the FIDE World Chess Championship press conference in central London. (Photo by Jonathan Brady/PA Images 

Pre-match Press Conference of the World Chess Championship Match!

Pre-match Press Conference of the World Chess Championship Match!

Pre-match Press Conference of the World Chess Championship Match!

Those behind the opening press conference of the London 2018 FIDE World Chess Championship had clearly learned from the New York experience, and this time the “official speeches” from FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, Agon CEO Ilya Merenzon and sponsor PhosAgro CEO Andrey Guryev were kept to the bare minimum, as the focus turned straight to questions for the players. Danny King presided, and you can rewatch the answers below:

The contrast between the players was apparent in one of the first questions, on whether their ages and the excitement around the match was, “making chess cool.” Magnus was instantly quotable:

Personally I’ve found chess the coolest thing in the world since I was 8 years old, so I think it’s always been that way!

Fabiano didn’t compete to provide anything as succinct, but gave a calm, relaxed reply:

I think that chess is definitely becoming cooler and there are a lot of people in the celebrity world, movies and music, who have an interest in chess, so I think it’s definitely gaining more exposure and I also think that chess is a great thing and definitely can be very beautiful and can also be cool and accessible to the larger audience.

Let’s take a look at the players in turn:

Magnus Carlsen

The current Chess World Champion has been known to brush off “softball” questions at times, but if he did that in the opening press conference it was always with charm and wit. His ritual on a game day?

I think nothing too exciting, unfortunately, just try to eat well, sleep well, prepare well, play well!

Does he feel different before this match compared to earlier matches?

You always feel a bit differently. I’m a bit older, so I feel a bit older, and it’s a colder place so I feel colder, but apart from that it’s always a lot of the same – it’s much anticipation and excitement to get this thing started. I know that I’m facing a formidable opponent, but I’ll do my very best to win again.

How much is a match about psychological warfare?

I think most of all it matters what moves you play and what you do on the board, but there is an element of psychology, an element of bluff in chess. It’s not as prevalent as it is in other games or sports but I think people are aware of it, but it’s not going to be the main story I think this time. I think we’re just both pretty much focused on making the best moves and take it from there.

Does he have “female support” for the match?

I don’t think so. Women hate me, I repel them! (smiles)

We also got to see another side of Magnus that has become more prevalent in recent years, a willingness to be disarmingly honest about his own potential weaknesses. Spanish journalist Leontxo García noted that Magnus had identified controlling his emotions as his biggest problem after the Karjakin match was over. Had he overcome that?

Well, I mean your question is very upsetting to me, so apparently not! (smiles)

After the joke, though, we got a revealing quote:

No, I think I’m a bit calmer than I was back then, but the question remains to see if I play any better. Recently I haven’t, but I’m confident that I’m capable of more. Probably recently I’ve been almost apathetic, sometimes, so it’s taken a turn in the other direction, so I need to find some middle ground, I suppose.

When he was asked if he considered himself the favourite or the underdog for the match, he took it as well as he could… 

It’s been a while since I’ve considered myself an underdog, to be honest! If you’ve been the number one ranked player in the world for 7 years and you’ve won 3 World Championships in a row, and you consider yourself an underdog, then there’s something seriously wrong with your psyche, I think. Having said that, obviously Fabiano is a tremendous player, his results this year speak for themselves and I know that if I continue to play in the same vein that I have been recently then I will probably not win, so I need to step it up, but I have great confidence in my powers to do exactly that.

Once again, that theme that Magnus hasn’t been at the top of his game and will need to improve for the match if he’s going to win.

Fabiano Caruana

Of course looked at from Fabi’s perspective, playing his first title match against a player who’s been as dominant for so long as Magnus is a daunting experience. He was asked what the World Champion’s weaknesses were:

I don’t think that Magnus has any clear weaknesses. Usually the mistakes he makes are very individual and they don’t have a clear pattern to them, and I think this also goes for most of the players at the very, very top, but that being said, he still makes mistakes, we all do, and the only challenge is to be ready to take them when they come.

That quiet determination was evident in the other answers, where Fabi again and again fielded questions relating to his nationality and a certain great predecessor. He must have heard it all countless times recently...

 ...but he patiently replied. Was he playing for America?

I mainly try to approach tournaments as an individual. Of course if I have a success I also would like to share it with the United States, but at the board chess players are on their own. But of course, yes, I’m proud to be representing the US in basically the highest honour in chess.

Why had he “changed” nationalities back and forth from the US to Italy?

I never changed nationalities. I had dual nationality from birth and I changed federations when I was 13. I was a kid and I was living in Europe and this was mainly to get back to my roots - my mother’s Italian - and when I changed back to the United States when I was in my 20s this was a personal decision. I do feel connected to both countries. I would like to represent them both, but only one is possible, and I live in the United States and represent the US now, and I feel very much an American, but I do also cherish my Italian roots.

Is he the new Bobby Fischer?

I think that the comparison is still early. If I become World Champion then the comparison will be more apt, but in terms of chess style and the course of our lives, I hope, I don’t think that the comparison is quite true, but of course it’s very flattering to be compared to such a great player.

One bizarre snippet from a recent interview was sadly debunked - Fabi is not an "aspiring filmmaker from Brooklyn":

And finally, to the question on female support? Again, there was no attempt to compete with Magnus in providing a witty response. Just yet another composed, straightforward response:

The main female support I have is from my mother, which is I think the most helpful. I also have a lot of friends, including female friends!

If Fabi can maintain the same composure on the board at the start of the match we may get the “too close to call” match most neutrals have been hoping for!

There’s still going to be a short opening ceremony at which who has White for Game 1 will be determined, but otherwise it’s time to get down to business. Check out our Special World Championship page for the full schedule...

Norwegian Twitter translation trafficker Tarjei Svensen strikes again sampling another Carlsen interview, this time with VG. The tabloid newspaper spoke with the World Champ (in his native language) as he wrapped up preparations for the upcoming match with Fabiano Caruana.

Some interesting quotes by Carlsen in a recent interview with VG (subscribers only). In this thread. 👇#CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "I know more chess than I did in 2013, but still my rating is lower and my results are worse. It just doesn't make sense." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen says he may not have the same energy as he used to have when he peaked: "I felt that I didn't have as much energy against Karjakin in 2016. But it's not just in World Championships, tournaments as well." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "Keeping in mind how incredibly stubborn I was back then ... I never stopped playing for a win, almost no matter what. I've noticed the last few years that I can't force myself to concentrate and look for tiny chances." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "If I have to sit for four hours extra even with only 2 percent winning chance in order to avoid a draw, it's worth it. But I haven't had the same drive and energy the last few years." CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen thinks the two long wins he had in #SinquefieldCupwas very positive. "It was incredibly satisfiying and a very good sign." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "I am trying to pull myself together in order to get a better physical shape. And to become better mentally. I hope I will succeed. Sinquefield Cup was a good sign. By the way, when I think about it, I also played well there last year. After that, it went downhill!"
Carlsen "Caruana has two Candidate evens on his belt. It will help him. But I hope the experience from the other WC matches can help me in the beginning. You can prepare mentally as much as you want, but when you get there and sit at the board, there is something extra, pressure"
Carlsen: "I am not sure if anything can come as a complete surprise to me. But obviously it will help if I don't blunder knights and bishops like crazy." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "If it's tiring for me, it will be even tougher for Caruana." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "Having enough energy will be extremely important. I am not going to say I am old, but it's easier as a 21-22 year old than as a 27-28 year old to be able to float on youthful energy. I have to be more conscious about these things now." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "I am still a child in my brain, so why not youthful energy?" #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "On paper this is my absolute worst opponent. That's why I think the match will be different than previously." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen says he will prepare differently this time: "It's clear that Anand and Karjakin was very much based on preparations, while Caruana thinks different and doesn't depend on preparations as much." CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen on Caruana's greatest stength: "His middle game! He will likely feel that he in some middlegames can navigate better than me. That's what he will aim for." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "In long endgames, I still think I have an advantage against Caruana. He can work on it, but I don't think he can equalize my edge in only a few months." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "I have an advantage that eventually will be gone, but if I get a few punches in the beginning - not necessarily speaking about winning games - then the pressure on Caruana will become worse." CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen on Anand-Carlsen in Chennai in '13: "Even though it was my best WC match until now, the first three games sucked. If Anand had used his opportunity there, history could've been very different." #CarlsenCaruana
Carlsen: "No WC title can be taken for granted, not in any format. It would be huge for me if I am able to win again." #CarlsenCaruana
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