Who were Carlsen's seconds? Who were the men who helped him beat Viswanathan Anand? Who helped him prepare?
These are all questions that were asked at various times during the World Chess Championship match between Viswananthan Anand and Magnus Carlsen. And the Norwegian champs response to most of those questions has been a shake of the head or a simple 'No.'
This even while Anand came out an revealed K Sasikiran, Sandipan Chanda, Radoslav Wojtaszek and Peter Leko as his seconds before the start of the match.
In an interview with the Hindu after claiming the title, the 22-year-old stuck to his guns and kept a wrap on the identities of his seconds.
"It’s mainly my decision. That’s the way I’ve understood it. It’s nice that I am going to play another World championship match (in 2014)," said Carlsen. "It doesn’t mean that I’m not very grateful for their hard-work. They have done a wonderful job. I think, it is nice for the future matches not to reveal too much."
The only name that has come out in the open is GM Jon Ludvig Hammer, who is also from Norway. On Norwegian television -- they have talked about what Carlsen looks for in a second: It's really more on having people around him that puts him in the right mood. Their ELO rating or strengths are of not as much consequence. Hammer has known Carlsen for a while and he was perfect for the job.
Carlsen also took help from computers to help in his preparation. Oslo firm Basefarm used a program that ran a powerful calculator which helped him analyse games. In fact, he had been connected to these powerful servers in India too, and while training in Norway.
But there is another human element that is just as important. Seconds can help you prepare for human opponents a lot better than computers. Computers don't feel the stress of a moment and they can't pile on any visual pressure on the opponent -- which is why Carlsen also depended on two others GMs - Ian Nepomniatchi and Laurent Fressinet.
Sources close to the Anand camp have told Firstpost that they already knew who the seconds were before the start of the match, so there was no mystery there for the Indian GM.
Fressinet, 32, is a good friend of Carlsen -- which is evident from this Youtube video (a must watch by the way). He is France number 3 and he finished second in the European Individual Championship in Plovdiv in 2012. He usually plays for France in team events but gave the European Team Championship a miss this year.
Nepomniachtchi is a 23-year-old Russian chess grandmaster and the 2010 Russian Chess Champion. As of November 2013, he was listed by FIDE as having an Elo rating of 2721. He has worked as a second for Carlsen before (the 2012 London Chess Classic and the Candidates tournament in March) and like Fressinet, he also didn't play in the European Team Championship this year.
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Updated Date: Nov 27, 2013 10:47:40 IST