Magnus Carlsen Leads by Example

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen Shows Up for Consolation Match

Magnus Carlsen, the World Chess Champion, was defeated by Jan-Krzysztof Duda in a hotly contested semi-final match in the Chess World Cup that came down to tie-breaks. Because of this Carlsen found himself in the position of playing a third-place consolation match against Vladimir Fedoseev.

Not only did Carlsen show up for this match but he opened it with what some are already calling one of the most brilliant games of Carlsen’s career. I think this sort of thing speaks highly of Carlsen but also sets an important example for champions to come.

Magnus Carlsen is following the example set by the previous champion, Vishy Anand. That’s a testament to both of them.

The Contrast

For some champions this sort of loss can lead to petulant behavior. Novak Djokovic, considered the best tennis player in the world at the moment, recently lost in his bid to win an Olympic gold medal and behaved with less elan.

Djokovic threw his tennis racquet into the stands in a fit of rage. He refused to play in a scheduled doubles match with his partner, thus depriving them both of an opportunity for a gold medal. This sort of behavior is something that young players see and emulate.

Poor Behavior is Contagious

When top level golfers like Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau feud publicly, hurling nasty insults at one another, they somehow convince themselves it’s good for ratings, that people love watching such spats and unprofessional behavior.

It’s true videos of Djokovic and the two golfers make headlines and people are interested in such things. It’s also true that poor behavior of this nature is contagious. Future top-level golfers, tennis players, and others will emulate these champions. That’s not good for sports and it’s really not great for society.

What I find interesting is that while most people rightly criticize the tantrum thrown by Djokovic, and others like him, people clearly want to see more of it. That’s a shame.

It’s more than just a championship match, it’s about how to behave in your own life. We are all going to lose at something in life and it’s always going to be painful. If we fight against our despair and go back out, even for a consolation match, it makes our society a better place.

Imagine if, in a rage, Carlsen decided not to play. The chess world never gets to see today’s brilliancy.


The ability to handle defeat with grace is an admirable character trait. I far prefer the example Magnus Carlsen sets than that of Djokovic.

The old adage that people enjoy watching a train wreck remains. As for me, I prefer a true champion, both on the playing field and in life.

Tom Liberman

Vishy Anand Shows a Chess Cheater Real Class

Vishy Anand

What Happened

Chess India hosted a charity event, Checkmate Covid, to help those suffering from the results of Covid-19. In it a variety of celebrities played former World Champion Viswanathan, affectionately called Vishy by his many fans, Anand in a simultaneous exhibition.

One of those pitted against Vishy Anand was billionaire Nikhil Kamath. Kamath played a virtually flawless game after which Vishy Anand told an interviewer: Yesterday was a celebrity simul for people to raise money. It was a fun experience upholding the ethics of the game. I just played the position on the board and expected the same from everyone.

With just a few seconds left on his clock Kamath achieved a winning position and Anand resigned. Anand could have continued playing and flagged his opponent, that is to say, won the game because his foe ran out of time. Vishy Anand chose not to do so and that is the focus of my blog today. Why resign to someone who is clearly cheating, in a charity event of all things?

Who is Vishy Anand

Vishy Anand is the former World Chess Champion having defeated Alexei Shirov in 2000 after having lost two previous championship matches against Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. The two are often considered among the greatest chess players in history.

He then defended the title three times before losing it in 2013 to Magnus Carlsen who is also considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player in history. During Anand’s championship defeats and victories, he never complained about a loss or bragged about victory. He is universally considered one of the classiest chess players in history, an assessment with which I agree wholeheartedly.

That is why this cheating scandal so angered the world. Not shocked. People cheat, even in charity events, everyone knows that. It’s just that Vishy Anand is such a fantastically kind and generous person, his fans and friends were absolutely outraged at the disrespectful behavior of Kamath. Chessnetwork, also a classy and kind fellow, posted a video about the transgression in which you can sense his rage.

Why did Anand resign when he knew full well Kamath was cheating? Because Anand was true to himself, a mantra of the Libertarian. You want to cheat? That’s on you. I only answer to myself. Anand realized he was in a losing position and resigned because that’s sportsmanship. It all but brings tears to my eyes and I’m not spewing hyperbole.

The Apology

Kamath issued an apology, if you can call it that, after figuratively every chess player in the world called him out. In it he blamed other people for being stupid enough to believe he, Kamath, could beat Anand in a chess match. It is ridiculous that so many are thinking that I really beat Vishy sir in a chess game, that is almost like me waking up and winning a 100m race with Usain Bolt.

Yeah, blame other people for their anger at your cheating. That’s the opposite of Anand. People are enraged and continue to be so, go figure.


Be like Vishy. That’s my conclusion. Be the better person. You’re not helping anyone else; you’re helping yourself.

Tom Liberman

Movie Monday – The Right Stuff

The Right StuffI’m keeping the momentum going on my Movie Monday series with a look at one of my all-time favorites, The Right Stuff. The movie is based on a book by Tom Wolfe that is historical fictional written about the Project Mercury Space Program of the 1960’s. Interestingly Wolfe has said the didn’t particularly like the film but I suspect that happens in the transition between novel and screenplay fairly frequently. They are different mediums and changes must inevitably occurs.

Let’s get back to why the movie is so darn good, at least from my perspective. One of the major themes of the movie is the fight between practicality and blind courage. The astronauts and test pilots are portrayed as both brave and moderately reckless whereas the engineers and politicians are more calculating and careful. Generally courage is portrayed in a more flattering light but the line about what makes the planes fly being “funding” rings true. I think both are necessary components to greatness.

The other beautifully portrayed theme is between the Mercury astronauts and Chuck Yeager who was not chosen for the program because of his lack of a college education. Yeager and the test pilots laugh at the foolish astronauts who have no control but are simply along for the ride but in the end the courage of both groups is aptly displayed.

The flying scenes, particularly Yeager in his attempt at breaking the altitude record, are spectacular and the moment when he goes for the height record and sees the upper atmosphere and stars is truly wonderful. Left out of Mercury … so close and yet so far.

For me the greatness of the movie is the competition between the astronauts as they fight to be the first American in space  (lest we never forget, Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space) and that between Yeager and Scott Crossfield as they fight their own battles.

These proud men compete with one another with all their skills and because of this emerge winners one and all. That is a life lesson that we seem to have forgotten here in a United States where winning is the only thing.

I would urge everyone to compete with sportsmanship as hard as they can and find victory in the effort regardless of the final outcome. Somehow winning has become more important than playing fairly. It is ok to cheat as long as you aren’t caught. It’s ok to foul someone going in for the winning points. I think the world would be better if placed our emphasis on the competition, not the victory. On our behavior, not the outcome.

I pride myself on pragmatism and I can see how people would call me a dreamer but there is evidence of sportsmanship all the time. We see it when a softball team carries an injured rival around the bases, when a basketball player intentionally misses free throws, in rowing where competitors rescue other races. We all applaud it when we see it but somehow we choose to win rather than play with style.

Anyway, that’s what I took from The Right Stuff. Do you agree?

Let me know in the comments.

Just to get a plug for my upcoming novel the idea of sportsmanship is going to be one of the main themes of my fourth book, the Sword of Water. In the book it’s not a matter of losing a game but your life in a world where thugs who understand, but do not believe in, honor can manipulate those who do to the detriment of their country and to the world.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire