This is one of the first stories I did for VMAN. I go in and out of phases of playing a lot of chess and wanted to meet and interview Carlsen. When I first suggested it, Stephen immediately insisted on seeing a photo of him, then rejected it on the basis that Carlsen wasn't attractive enough, a reason he'd often use for dismissing subjects. When Carlsen signed on to be the face of G-Star—an advertiser—I used the opportunity to insist they were insisting we cover the launch of the new campaign, which was certainly not actually the case, but came in handy when Stephen repeatedly tried to kill this story based on Carlsen's looks.
TEXT ELLIOTT DAVID (Murphy Carmichael is a pseudonym)
If you're a true genius, there's really no when about it—it's not something that one day activates: you just always are. "I don't remember," says Magnus Carlsen of the day he first held a chess piece. The 19-year-old Norwegian currently holds the top rank in the standings maintained by the esteemed authority Federation lnternationale des Echecs. "I think I was like five-and-a-half-years-old. It was probably at home—my father taught me—but I don't remember what my first reaction was." At age 13, Carlsen was awarded Grandmaster status, making him the third youngest player in history to achieve the revered designation.
Carlsen is known for his rogue, unexpected chess style, so it makes perfect sense that he made the unanticipated jump to, of all things, fashion. Carlsen stars as the face of the new G-Star Raw Fall/Winter 2010 campaign, alongside Liv Tyler. And while there's a certain level of celebrity that of course comes with being the best chess player alive (and one of the greatest of all time), there's an entirely different type of fame that comes with starring in a major international fashion campaign. "The fashion world is superficial," he says in his deep, contemplative Nordic voice, using the term "superficial" in a considered way, to imply fashion is a visual and therefore more comprehensible medium, as compared to high-level chess, in which concepts and tactics are difficult to see, even in hindsight. "The chess world is a bit more of a closed world, because if you don't understand what's happening, it's not that easy to enjoy it. But G-Star is trying to make it more accessible," he says, which could certainly heighten Carlsen's fame. "Being a celebrity is not really a role for me, but being recognized for what I do, whether it 's in fashion with G-Star or in chess , it's something I appreciate." Appreciation or not, Carlsen's got his pieces aligned to capture the world's attention.