Today we are going to look at why not only training your actual playing skills over the chess board is important, but also why it’s so important to stay fit. Be the best version of yourself!
The world champion Magnus Carlsen has always made sure to emphasize the importance of physical exercise to him. Pretty much whenever he has the chance to do so, he will go and play some soccer, shoot some hoops, swim, or anything he sees fit.
“Why? You’re only sitting quietly at that table while playing a chess game, right…?”
Well, that’s not exactly right…
Let’s have a look at why chess training isn’t the only form of training you should be doing, shall we?
We want a healthy brain generally in life, and of course while we sit at the chess table as well. Essentially, the brain is what coordinates all our thoughts and put them into action. We all know this, right?
What you might not be aware of, or at least not to this extent, is that “research shows that being physically active may help to promote brain plasticity, maintain cognitive function, and reduce the risk of developing dementia.” This study, carried out in 2009, shows many different benefits through a healthy lifestyle, with keeping a healthy mind being one of them.
Whether Magnus actually knows of this study, is not known (I was going to say “unlikely”, but you never know with MC…), but that he knows the principles that this article underlines, I’m sure of! As well as physical exercise resulting in his brain working better, it also makes him feel well. It can’t really be emphasized enough how important this is while you’re playing a game!
Hiking with his family is one of Magnus’ favorite activities (or at least one he’s seen doing a lot), and in addition to it being so good for your body and brain, it’s also a social activity. This is a very nice way to hang out with friends and family, catching up, and staying connected.
We set the bar high, so I’ll continue with the Magnus-comparison (none of us will come close to his level, but it’s always fun to see what the best players are doing, and try to do somewhat the same!).
Magnus has made it his “thing” to win long games. Without any proof of what I’m about to say, I’m fairly sure no other player (at least world-class player) has more 50+ moves wins than him.
“Why do you think that is, Joachim?”
I’m glad you asked!
The thing with Magnus is, that due to his desire to go for long hikes and strenous workouts, he is used to a lengthy “combat” (I know a hike with family isn’t a combat, but you get the jist). He won’t just leave in the middle of a soccer match, or stop walking when the top of the mountain is 1 km away.
No, he keeps on going! And if he’s losing a tennis match, you can be pretty damn sure he’s going to give it his best to try and turn it around!
That’s also why he wins so many endgames in chess.
When two world-class players reach the endgame, it’s always going to be a close game. Us mortals, we can reach the endgame with a huge imbalance piecewise, being a knight or a rook up. That doesn’t happen to the big boys. Hence…
If they want to win, they will have to grind! And that’s exactly what Magnus does so much better than all the rest! He stays sharp, and is willing to push for that full point, when others might just go “ahh, let’s call it a night. I’m happy with a draw here. Besides, I’ve got some friends coming over tonight…”
Apart from the last bit, I think this is the essence of what differs Magnus from a lot of players. Obviously he is better than many opponents when they reach the endgame, but for sure he scores a lot of bonus-goals by share dedication to the game!
In this game Magnus is playing black against another very strong player. Without going into too many details, for most of us it would be quite hard to calculate who’s better and possibly winning.
Actually, I’ll take this even one step further and say: A lot of us would assess this position as boring, no potential, and a dead draw…
Well, luckily it wasn’t “us” who played this one. With surgical precision, Magnus went on to win this game true to his style: No winning tactics, no mumbo-jumbo, no opponent blundering (actually not even a clear mistake!). Just straight up precision, dedication and grinding!
(if you’d like to know the rest of the game, let me know below, and I’ll share the ending with you)
Nutrition leads the way
The title of this paragraph could have been “juice”…
Magnus has always been a big fan of juice. If you google “magnus carlsen juice”, you will get a ton of pictures!
Whether it’s a fact or not, there has at least been carried out some studies suggesting the added fuel orange juice will give you, like this one, saying their participants enhanced their performance compared to the subjects who were given a placebo drink.
Now, obviously the term ‘nutrition’ would incorporate so much more than just orange juice. I’ll give you an example of my own, whenever I fancy being a “good boy” and eat healthy during an entire day:
- Breakfast: A bowl of oatmeal, combined with several different grains and seeds, and a cut-up banana on top.
- Lunch: Wholegrain slices of bread, with different types of spread, plus some fruit (apple, pear, grapes, you name it!).
- Dinner: Vegetarian tacos, with lots of beans, carrots, salad, cheese, corn…and probably some more things I can’t think of right now!
- Evening food: A couple of slices of bread and one piece of fruit.
(The term “evening food” is a bit sketchy, but I’m not quite sure to call it, since I keep being told that this meal doesn’t really apply to the rest of the world…dinner is the last meal! :p Can you confirm or deny this in the comments?)
This is (one of) my recipe(s) for a good day. This way I feel better, and I know I will be able to perform better at the chess table. Unfortunately “perform better” doesn’t equal to “win every game”, so please don’t call me up just to shout at me if you lose just after you had an apple…
So, is Magnus not really any better?
He’s not better than all the others at every aspect of the chess game, but overall he is the best player. Some might even say by a mile (I’m one of them…).
And let’s be clear here: He is not better only because he drinks orange juice or goes hiking in the mountains, but what I’ve been trying to get across is how it all adds up! His nutrition and lifestyle adds to the whole.
Start drinking orange juice, win games!
This is a mild exaggeration, but I think you see where I’m getting at. A healthy lifestyle leads to a healthy life, and in chess terms it leads to a killer instinct and share determination to play the best you can, and stay sharp for a longer period of time.
And of course:
Combine it all with chess training!
If you start drinking orange juice after reading this, I would love to hear about it in the comments section! Anything else is obviously also fine to put there, along with any sorts of questions you might have.
It’s 2 am here now, so until next time: