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Magnus Carlsen, A Chess Child Prodigy Grows Up

Long hailed as the future of chess, the Norwegian-born grand master is now, at the ripe age of 23, the reigning world champion. The next question: will he be the greatest of all time?

New world chess champion Magnus Carlsen
New world chess champion Magnus Carlsen
Pierre Barthélémy

OSLO — It’s a rainy day in Norway"s capital, and a fire is burning in the luxurious building of investment bank Arctic Securities. Next to the hearth, a chessboard reminds us that the organization is a proud sponsor of new world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. Lounging on a couch, with part of his shirt untucked from his trousers, the 23-year-old is nibbling on peanuts.

The last time we met was in 2008. He was just a teenager back then but already one of the games’ top prospects, “the Mozart of chess,” in the words of The Washington Post. At the time, we retraced the conventional steps of a child prodigy gifted with an exceptional memory. He had just won one of the world’s most difficult tournaments, in the Dutch city of Wijk-aan-Zee, at just 17.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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