Many chess fans are wondering why Magnus Carlsen, who played the Tata Steel tournament ten times in a row, isn't present in Wijk aan Zee this year. Well, one reason might be a number of very interesting meetings he's had in the United States.
Early January Magnus Carlsen traveled to the U.S. together with his manager Espen Agdestein for several sponsor and promotional events. The first stop was Las Vegas, where Carlsen performed a simul against twenty opponents . The special thing was that Carlsen and his opponents were having a heart rate monitor attached to their bodies during the games.
Nordic Semiconduction, who provided the device and who are one of Carlsen's sponsors, stated that they hope using a heart rate monitor will be introduced at chess events. Here's a video report by VG (see a report by NRK here):
About a week later, on Wednesday, January 16th Carlsen was the guest of honor at a dinner party thrown by billionaire investor Yuri Milner, a famous Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Milner is an investor in e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and Groupon. The dinner was held at Milner's mansion in Silicon Valley.
These events in the Bay area were to benefit America's Foundation for Chess and the 1st Move school programs. Eric Anderson was the person behind Carlsen's home visits, to the Churchill Club, as well as the luncheon at Silicon Valley Bank.
Carlsen played chess against several tech CEOs, including e.g. Art Levinson, who has been the chairman of the board of Apple since Steve Jobs passed away in October 2011. Carlsen also played against Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook. Last Thursday the following picture was posted on Carlsen's Facebook page:
Carlsen: “Teaching Mark Zuckerberg some chess. Incredibly quick learner, glad he is at Facebook!”
A day later, Carlsen joined an event held at the Computer History Museum's Churchill Club, where he was interviewed for an hour by Peter Thiel, an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager (and e.g. co-founder of PayPal). The world champion obviously discussed chess, but also talked about e.g. the strengths and weaknesses of computers, the value of thinking fast, and the importance of eating well.
This Friday Carlsen will meet another big name in tech: the founder of Microsoft and rich philantropist Bill Gates. “(...) the charity of his work, as he does so wonderfully much better and effective than all governments around the world. That's what I think is really admirable,” said Carlsen to TV2.
The two will be guests in Skavlan, a Norwegian-Swedish television talk show hosted by Norwegian journalist Fredrik Skavlan. Previous guests in the show include Michael Palin, Sinead O'Connor, Wyclef Jean, Judit Polgar, Bruno Mars, Ruby Wax, Robbie Williams, Jon Bon Jovi, Richard Dawkins, Kevin Costner, Will Smith and David Guetta. Carlsen also was a guest in the show of 14 October 2011.
Later this month, Carlsen will (finally) be back at the chess board in Zurich.