Magnus Carlsen won the prestigious Tata Steel Chess Tournament (formerly Corus Steel Chess Tournament) yesterday after defeating the joint Top position and GM from Netherlands Anish Giri (of Indian origin) in a Tie-break match.

Carlsen won this tournament for the record sixth time and some people have already started calling him “Roger Federer of Chess“!

However what was more interesting was Anish Giri’s continued Twitter banter with Magnus Carlsen – which forms the topic of this blog. Anish Giri is one of very few top chess players who are active on Twitter. Furthermore he is one of very few sports-persons who indulge in sarcastic, witty, sometimes controversial and rude comments on Twitter. Here is what Giri tweeted after his defeat in the Tie-break.

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Giri was leading the tournament all along till last round. When Giri was asked after 11th round (with 2 more to go and when he was the sole leader) about a possible tie-break he dismissed the question saying that it was too premature to think about tie-break since he was clearly the leader at that point. But the way he expressed it was very interesting! He said it was “like marrying and skipping your wedding night”.

So when when Carlsen caught up with him for the shared top spot and the tie-break actually happened, Chessbase reported it with the headline: Tata Steel Chess: “Tomorrow is the wedding night

Since there had to be only one winner, they played a tie-break which Giri lost. So one can say that Giri’s tweet was as a sore loser and filled with sarcasm, or it was probably by an outspoken person who likes playful exchanges.

If you have followed Anish Giri on Twitter you would think that it is the latter. Here are more examples.

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“One tweet in a row…” 🙂

Or check this sarcastic tweet by Giri when Carlsen recently blundered and lost a piece and the game. A rare blunder by Carlsen. But this backhanded compliment was for the Carlsen’s fans across the world who often say that he is so much ahead of his peers that he can give away a piece against the strong players and still win!

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Here is one more after Young Indian GM Vidit Gujarathi won the Challenger section of Tata Steel Chess Tournament and qualified for next year’s Main category. Giri came up with a pun on “we did it”.

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Sometime back he took a crack on Carlsen (without naming him) who supposedly left early for preparation and didn’t wait till dessert. Giri brilliant used the chess lingo and asked if it was a “blunder or a sacrifice”?

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Then he teased Carlsen who played against Giri and “just managed” a draw.

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And going back ever further, he teased Carlsen by an intelligent remark on “Larsen”!

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Bent Larsen was a Danish chess grandmaster known for his imaginative and unorthodox style. There is also a Larsen opening named against him. But the positive influence Giri was referring to was Magnus’ girlfriend Synne Cristian Larsen who was also present at the Isle of Man chess tournament!

Giri regularly comments on some of his rivals in a friendly manner but he comments on Carlsen more often!

But he does not shy away from commenting on himself. After he lost a game quickly and badly in a recent chess tournament , just before the rest-day, he tweeted this – posting photo of “an undeserved” mango lassi (undeserved because he lost the game)

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Giri is frank enough to crack jokes at himself and post this as his New Year Resolution.

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If you look at comments on his tweets, many people criticize him (mildly to harshly, depending on whether they are Carlsen fans) for being too outspoken, punching above the weight (One comment said: “Carlsen is #1 in the world. You are #15. So shut up”) or engaging in cheap tactics to distract opponents or irritate them.

This got me thinking about the bigger question. What is that thin line between trolling and showing sportsmanship and playful teasing? And is it related to your performance and your overall stature (and that of your target too).

If Giri is not performing well consistently then his tweets would be seen in bad light – as if he is a sore loser or incapable of beating opponents on board and hence venting it out on social media. If he is performing well, then it would be seen in more friendly way. Or may be not. It would be perceived as arrogance. But it is not about performance. You cannot change your personality, your attitude towards life completely based on whether you are doing well or having a lean phase.

It is really tricky to be on the right side of that fine line. So I think one should do it if it goes with the personality and it comes out as a part of who you are. If one tries to mimic someone else or create a facade it would not last long.

Closer to home, Virendra Sehwag is one such player who likes to tease, attack, fight on Twitter and he does it naturally. It is part of who he is. And his batting style reflected the same. So unless you stoop too low and hit below the belt I think it is OK to do such things.

Chess definitely needs people like Giri to break perception of being a too serious game with no smiles and no fun.

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