13 May 2013

Carlsen on Confidence

Let's interrupt this series on GM Carlsen's competitive record, last seen in More Early Carlsen, to highlight a section of the interview from Magnus Carlsen on Charlie Rose. The following discussion starts at 21:30 on the clip embedded in that post.

CR: Every champion has to have confidence. [...] As you said about Anand, 'I'm going to take you down'.

MC: You need to be absolutely confident. It's always better to be overly confident than pessimistic. I realize sometimes after a game that I was actually way too confident. I was way too optimistic, but if you're not optimistic, if you're not looking for your chances, you're going to miss opportunities. There are plenty of players in history who have been immensely talented, but they are just too pessimistic. They see too many dangers that are not there, so they cannot perform at a high level.

CR: That's very interesting: 'They see dangers that are not there, so therefore they don't play at the highest level.'

MC: Yes. I realize from time to time -- people who are not particularly strong players, but who still are very good players -- could be one of the best if they just had more confidence. When I'm analyzing with them, when I'm looking at chess, I realize they know everything about the game, but nevertheless they cannot play.

CR: There's a missing thing, like a winner's edge.

MC: You need to have that. You need to have that edge, that confidence. You need to have that absolute belief that you're the best and that you'll win every time.

CR: Were you born with that?

MC: I don't know.

CR: Were you born with something so that when you learned chess those two things merged, they came together. There was a confidence and once you had the skills, the confidence served your skill and your skill served your confidence.

MC: It didn't come immediately for me.

CR: At what age did it come?

MC: I think it only came a few years ago.

CR: How old are you now?

MC: I'm 22. I think at about age 16 or 17, I realized that I'm probably going to be the best at some point and I need to be more confident -- I need to take a different approach because before that sometimes I would be too pessimistic. At first that change in approach was a total disaster. I would lose several games because I would constantly overestimate my chances. Eventually that became a good thing, because when my playing strength caught up to my optimism, that was it.

CR: Well said! I love the idea that at 16 you knew that you were going to be the World Champion. You just knew.

MC: I didn't 'know', but I had a good idea.

CR: Because you were beating everybody or because you just...

MC: It was a feeling I had because before that I was always surprised how far I was going. At that point I realized 'now it's time'.

Rose jumped the gun when he said, 'you knew that you were going to be the World Champion'. GM Anand, the reigning World Champion, will have something to say about that later this year.

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