Chennai: Did Magnus Carlsen have any second? Was he communicating with his seconds using Skype? Or did he play the world chess championship match against Viswanathan Anand without any help? These were the questions that were doing the rounds when the Norwegian world no. 1 drew the first four games against five-time champion Anand.
Carlsen, who was in Chennai with a team comprising of his father, manager, chef, doctor and security, initially refused to reveal his seconds. So mediapersons from across the world even debated whether there was a possibility of the challenger playing the big match all by himself.
But after winning the championship, the Mozart of Chess clarified on his seconds. “My childhood friend GM Jon Ludvig Hammer worked for me,” Carlsen said. But again, the new world champion was careful as he refused to reveal the names of the other seconds. “I may be using their services in my next year’s match,” he added.
While Carlsen communicated with his seconds only through Skype, Hammer was down in Chennai after the match concluded. “I arrived on Sunday morning. Once the match got over, I decided that I wanted to take part in the closing ceremony and the celebration. So I made a quick dash to Chennai,” he told Deccan Chronicle.
The new world champion treated his important second, childhood friend and current Norwegian national champion Hammer at the Italian restaurant on Sunday night. Only six months older to Carlsen, Hammer, who has a rating of 2612 elo, had worked full time with his celebrated compatriot since June this year.
“Our strategy was to get a position that allowed Carlsen play his game against Anand. The Indian is renowned for his computer preparation. He could be extremely dangerous. So, our main objective was to make sure that Carlsen should not get busted in the opening. Then, Carlsen will do the rest and he did that brilliantly,” said Hammer.
On how the camp felt after Carlsen experienced difficulties in game three, Hammer said that Anand’s performance was impressive in the first couple of games. “We understood that the match was going to be very close and very tough. We also anticipated nervousness in Carlsen as he was playing his first world championship,” he added.
According to Hammer, game four was the turning point for Carlsen. “Before the event we thought that if Carlsen avoided losing with black, he could win the match. In that context, game four was crucial because Carlsen showed that he could play for a win with black pieces,” he added.
Noting that a lot of Norwegians have been inspired by Carlsen’s play, Hammer said that he himself has decided to focus on chess fully. “I can’t copy Carlsen. But I try to mimic his style of play,” he said, adding that the opportunity to work closely with Carlsen had helped him learn more.
While Hammer believes that it was too late to aim for the world title, he has set his eyes on reaching the top 100 in the world. “I want to show to the world that I have become a stronger chess player after this experience. I am going to focus on my career now. I will start with London Classic open tournament in December,” he added.