ZEIT ONLINE: Magnus Carlsen, you will be defending your title as World Chess Champion in the United States in November, but we still don't know where. Will it be New York, Chicago, Los Angeles?
Magnus Carlsen: I really don’t know. I’m told that that there are just a few more details before the location is revealed. Hopefully we will get the answer soon!
ZEIT ONLINE: Chess players are celebrated for planning several moves ahead during matches. Why is it so difficult to plan world chess events more than a few months in advance?
Carlsen: Well, that is a good question, but I think we are going in the right direction. The country for the World Championship has been known since the closing ceremony in Sochi in 2014, and that is a first, as far as I know.
ZEIT ONLINE: Your success has stirred up tremendous enthusiasm for chess in Norway. Why don't you organize the World Championship in Oslo?
Carlsen: I’ll concentrate on my preparations and let others concentrate on deciding the location. Actually it’s Agon, the commercial partner of Fide, that finds the venue. Their aim is to find a venue that is good for chess in general and not only for me.
ZEIT ONLINE: Your tournament results on home turf have not been as good as those abroad. Why is that?
Carlsen: In chess, "home turf" isn’t necessarily an advantage. I don’t know exactly why, but maybe it’s a bit harder to be 100 percent focused when you know everybody and the environment is very familiar.
ZEIT ONLINE: No matter which tournament you play in, you are always the favorite. Millions of fans follow your games and are disappointed with poor results. How do you deal with the pressure?
Carlsen: I have my own way of measuring the standard of my games and play. Sometimes I’m almost disappointed, even after a win, if I feel that the level of the game was below my standards. So that’s it, the pressure comes from my urge to play chess well and to meet my own standards.
ZEIT ONLINE: You have been World Champion since 2013 and have been the world’s number one player since July 2011. What keeps you motivated?
Carlsen: My motivation is to learn. I feel there are still so many things in chess that I don’t know. I don’t know whether that will lead to playing better, but my curiosity with chess is still very high.
ZEIT ONLINE: Good players sometimes get bored by chess. They feel as though they’ve seen it all, that it lacks excitement. Does chess ever bore you?
Carlsen: Not normally, but after a loss it can be pretty dark. Then sometimes I ask what am I doing, why am I here at this silly tournament. But after a few hours, I look forward to getting my revenge in the next game.
ZEIT ONLINE: Is chess always on your mind? Or are you able to take some days or weeks off once in a while – without playing, watching games or analyzing positions?
Carlsen: Yes, but not so often. I like doing sports, hanging out with friends and things like that, but chess is almost always lurking in the back of my brain somewhere.
ZEIT ONLINE: What is it that first fascinated you about chess and what still fascinates you about the game?
Carlsen: I’ve always been fascinated by the patterns that develop on chess boards. Chess is easy to learn, but impossible to master perfectly.
ZEIT ONLINE: What was your happiest moment in chess?
Carlsen: When I won the Norwegian Championship for kids under ten in 2000. That feeling I will never forget.
ZEIT ONLINE: Sometimes chess is criticized as a waste of time and energy. Have you ever come across such criticism, and what do you think about it?
Carlsen: Sometimes I hear that, and then I always agree with them.