“ Wijk aan Zee is the perfect environment for me. I can focus entirely on chess here.” World Champion Magnus Carlsen is already taking part in the Tata Steel tournament in the Netherlands for the seventeenth time, which started last week, and the annual trip to Wijk aan Zee is not bored yet. “I have such good memories here and it‘s always so quiet here.”
Because of the Netflix series, The Queen’s Gambit, the chess has gained quite popularity lately and the Norwegian grandmaster can also appreciate the series. “Television shows and films about chess have been made many times, but there has always been very bad chess. This series, on the other hand, is beautifully visualised and the chess scenes are beautiful. There were parties in it that I didn‘t know.”
The chairman of the Dutch chess union, Bianca de Jong-Muhren, is also enthusiastic about the series that takes place in the sixties of the last century, in which orphan Beth Harmon learns to play chess at an early age. In no time, she steams on to the top of the world. As the only woman in a man’s world.
“ It‘s a great series. Online chess has therefore taken a huge boost and the sale of physical chessboards, which has increased about tenfold in the Netherlands”, says De Jong-Muhren, who also saw that at the end of last year, 14-year-old Eline Roebers won the world title online. Like a Dutch Beth Harmon.
A special app is now being developed for all chess lovers. “A kind of Tinder (dating app, red.) where you can get in touch with people who also want to play chess.”
Back to reality in Wijk aan Zee, where until 31 January the annual Tata Steel tournament will be held. This time without an audience, because of the coronameasures. “Of course, that’s not ideal,” says 30-year-old Carlsen, who has already written the tournament seven times.
“ One of the fun aspects of this tournament is that there are always so many people coming for it. I would have liked to have them there this year, but I am, of course, used to doing my job.”
Carlsen did not hesitate about the trip to the Netherlands despite the still circulating coronavirus in the world. “I have great faith in the organisers,” explains Carlsen. “They wanted the tournament to continue and did everything they could to make it safe for us.”
Unlike The Queen‘s Gambit, there are no women involved in the Tata Steel tournament, but the reigning world champion likes to see that differently in the future. “In general, the chess world is not very accessible to women. It’s too much dominated by men. It‘s not easy for women to break through.”
“ I don’t think we should organise separate tournaments, but mixed tournaments,” says Carlsen. “Men and women are equal. There is no reason to think of why women cannot participate in chess tournaments.”