Magnus Carlsen is worried Russia will steal his chess data and hand it to his opponent.
The name Magnus Carlsen may not mean anything to you, unless of course you’re a chess fan.
The 25-year-old Norwegian is the reigning World Chess Champion, achieved after becoming a chess grandmaster at the age of 13.
But while he is a prodigy and has been dubbed the “Mozart of chess,” he also has a problem and has called upon Microsoft to help solve it.
Carlsen is currently preparing to play Russian chess prodigy and grandmaster Sergey Karjakin. Karjakin is a formidable opponent, but that’s not what has Carlsen spooked.
It’s the fact that he is Russian, which raises suspicion that Russian hackers may decide to try and aid Karjakin’s preparations by stealing as much data as possible from Carlsen.
Preparing for a 12-match chess battle against another prodigy for the title of World Chess Champion requires playing a lot of chess.
This is increasingly done using chess computers, which can be set up to try different strategies as well as being a testing ground for new strategies by a player.
That information is of very high value to an opponent, if they can get their hands on it. Knowing potential strategies in advance allows for the preparation of counter attacks and strategies to elude any traps.
And yes, it also looks like a clear case of cheating that’s very hard to prove.
The Telegraph reports that Microsoft Norway has guaranteed him “a safe training environment and secure communication and collaboration tools,” though they did not elaborate on what that entails.
Such a guarantee should at the very least relax Carlsen and allow him to better focus on his preparations.
Suspecting Russia of hacking isn’t in any way far fetched. You can’t fail to have noticed there’s a highly-charged US Presidential election happening right now. Russia has been accused of leaking data from Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton staffers. Hacking a chess player would be child’s play for them.
The World Chess Championship 2016 takes place between November 11-30 in New York, in the renovated Fulton Market Building.
The winner will walk away with the title and around a $1.1 million prize fund. However, it may not be as simple playing 12 games.
If the score ends up being tied, then a further four rapid chess matches will occur followed by five blitz chess two-game matches.
If the players are still tied after that, then an Armageddon game will occur to decide things as it always ends with a victory.