Whether you enjoy chess or know little, there are always one or two outside associations with the game; it’s played by very clever people and they have a lot of patient deliberation. Magnus, directed by Benjamin Ree, takes us inside the life of unique world chess champion Magnus Carlsen and on the way offers us a wonderful insight into the mind of a true, naturally-gifted genius.
What’s interesting about my aforementioned assumptions is that Magnus slightly flips that generalisation because although Carlsen is definitely a virtuoso, his initial state of mind or style isn’t always perfect. As we begin the documentary in the earlier days of his life, he announces that his goal is to eventually become a world chess champion. Over the coming years he plays and wins numerous tournaments but when the big moments come up, the pressure overwhelms him and his usual affinity with the game suffers.
There is a reason for this slight slip though because Magnus plays the game somewhat differently to others. While for most it takes years of training and learning the processes of Chess, Magnus is eventually known as the ‘Mozart of chess’ because of his unwavering attachment. Now, obviously, he’s also learned the game inside/out but his slight rogue nature means he can throw even the most talented player off the trail and it’s fascinating to watch.
Another important factor the documentary highlights is Magnus’ connection with his family because most of the time they’re helping him by just being there and, later on, this plays a vital part in his progression. We also learn that when he was much younger his parents, Henrik and Sigrun, noticed he didn’t do things in the same way as other kids. While many played, he analysed situations and they felt he often drifted off to other places in his mind but instead of worrying, and panicking, they gave him things to learn and eventually helped adapt his love for chess.
It wasn’t all plain sailing because although winning tournaments made him feel great, the better he got, the more pressure built and so we also learn that Magnus is all about the story of controlling and changing this, so he can go on and achieve even greater things. Magnus Carlsen is an interesting character and I enjoyed watching the music in the maths that enables the movements he makes. Whereas some take years to train, you can tell how he reads the game effortlessly.
The conclusion of everything is the build up and games against 5-time world champion Viswanathan Anand, which also happens to be Carlsen’s very first attempt at winning the major title, but will the pressure get to him this time? If you don’t know, you’ll have to enjoy the tension and either way, it’s still a very touching finale to witness because Magnus is an utter treat and a truly exceptional insight into a remarkable mind.
Magnus is out to own on DVD and VOD on December 12th. Order it here!