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Norwegian chess grandmaster and the current World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen loses on chess financing

NordenBladet – Chess experts think Norwegian chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen* (28) may have damaged his reputation by allegedly trying to influence voting on a major financing issue for Norway’s national chess federation. It failed Sunday night, blocking the effort that could have ended the state lottery’s monoply on betting in the country.

Norwegian authorities have allowed the state-sanctioned Norsk Tipping to have a monopoly on betting for years, in return for funneling most of Norsk Tipping’s money into funding for sports. Revenues from various Norsk Tipping gambling ventures are allocated among Norwegian sports federations including the one for chess (Norges Sjakkforbund).

Carlsen hasn’t been impressed with the funding provided to the chess federation, however, and thus supported a bid by the gaming company Kindred, which owns Unibet. It offered to provide the equivalent of NOK 50 million over five years in return for support to effectively bust Norsk Tipping’s monopoly.

Gave up delegates
The offer was up for a vote at a chess federation meeting on Sunday, just after Carlsen established a new chess club and personally financed membership fees for the first 1,000 people to join it. That in turn would have given him the delegates needed to influence voting at the meeting.

In the end, however, Carlsen seemed to bow to criticism that he was threatening Norwegian sports federation’s democracy by giving up 35 of the delegates his new club’s membership would have allowed. A total of 132 delegates voted against Kindred’s financing offer Sunday night, while just 44 voted in favour.

Carlsen’s new club, Offerspill SK, issued only a short statement afterwards, noting that the chess federation’s meeting “unfortunately voted ‘no’ to the Kindred agreement.” The club would now move forward, it stated, with “several” events in store. It had no futher comment on the defeat.

Split the federation
The financing issue deeply split the federation, with Carlsen’s own former coach in his childhood Simen Agdestein, coming out hard against him. “Magnus has suffered a serious setback on this,” said Agdestein, whose brother has long served as Carlsen’s manager, told state broadcaster NRK. “It had looked like he wanted to carry out a coup against a democratic process. Magnus has enormous power, and can carry with him thousands of folks sitting at home.”

Simen Agdestein declared that “chess players won’t let themselves by bought, we’re not terribly concerned with money.” He said it was “just great that there was such a large majority” at the chess federation meeting against the funding from Kindred.

He and others had claimed that the federation would have been “in crisis” if it had accepted Kindred’s offer, since it likely would have been excluded from Norway’s national athletics federation.

The uproar within the chess federation had also prompted a lack of confidence vote in the federation’s president, Morten L Madsen. He survived it, however, and will continue as president after of vote of 87 in favour of his leadership and 62 against.

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* Sven Magnus Øen Carlsen (born 30 November 1990) is a Norwegian chess grandmaster and the current World Chess Champion. In addition to his success in classical chess, he is also a two-time World Rapid Chess Champion and four-time World Blitz Chess Champion. Carlsen first reached the top of the FIDE world rankings in 2010, and trails only Garry Kasparov at time spent as the highest rated player in the world. His peak classical rating of 2882, achieved in May 2014, is the highest in history.

A chess prodigy, Carlsen tied for first place in the World U12 Chess Championship in 2002. Shortly after turning 13, he finished first in the C group of the Corus chess tournament, and earned the grandmaster title a few months later. At age 15, he won the Norwegian Chess Championship, and at 17, he finished joint first in the top group of Corus. He surpassed a rating of 2800 at age 18 and reached number one in the FIDE world rankings aged 19, becoming the youngest person ever to achieve those feats.

Carlsen became World Chess Champion in 2013 by defeating Viswanathan Anand. In the following year, he retained his title against Anand, and won both the 2014 World Rapid Championship and World Blitz Championship, thus becoming the first player to simultaneously hold all three titles. He defended his classical world title against Sergey Karjakin in 2016, and against Fabiano Caruana in 2018.

Known for his attacking style as a teenager, Carlsen has since developed into a universal player. He uses a variety of openings to make it more difficult for opponents to prepare against him and reduce the effect of computer analysis. He has stated the middlegame is his favourite part of the game as it “comes down to pure chess”. His positional mastery and endgame prowess have drawn comparisons to those of former World Champions Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Vasily Smyslov, and José Raúl Capablanca.



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