Magnus Carlsen, the 22-year-old Norwegian who has been the most dominant chess player since 2010, skipped the London Chess Classic in December, where he had competed every year since the tournament began in 2009, and did not play in the Tata Steel tournament in the Netherlands in January, the first time he had missed it since his breakthrough performance there in 2004, when he was 13.
Carlsen instead went on a promotional tour. He showed up at the International Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, where he was interviewed while playing 20 people at the same time. (He defeated them all.) He traveled to Silicon Valley, where he met with Arthur D. Levinson, the chairman of Apple and Genentech; Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal; and Facebook’s most famous founder, Mark Zuckerberg. (He gave Zuckerberg a chess lesson at a private dinner.)
At Google headquarters, he played 10 players simultaneously — defeating them all. Carlsen also stopped in London for an interview with a Norwegian talk show host along with Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder. They played a blitz game onstage, and considering the circumstances, Gates acquitted himself well and showed that he knows something about how to play.
The talk show host asked Gates when, if ever, he suffered from a feeling of inferiority, and Gates, gesturing at Carlsen, replied, “When I play chess against him,” according to a Reuters report.
Carlsen returned to tournament play at the Zurich Chess Challenge. His time off did not appear to be a problem: Carlsen took first place ahead of a field that consisted of Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Boris Gelfand and the world champion he dethroned, Viswanathan Anand.
One of Carlsen’s best games was a victory over Caruana, who was Black. Caruana used the Berlin Defense, and gaining an advantage against it is difficult. After 15 moves, chances were roughly equal.
But Caruana inexplicably postponed castling, advanced his pawns while his king was in the center and only then castled queenside, exposing his king to danger.
Magnus Carlsen picks up where he left off.