Magnus Carlsen of Lommedalen is now officially the world’s king of chess, and Norway stands to court lots more attention as his budding chess homeland. Carlsen already is open to the idea of Norway hosting the next World Championships, and his newfound wealth and celebrity are grabbing headlines, too.
Carlsen, who defeated defending world champion Vishy Anand on Friday, was formally presented on Monday with his gold medal, a traditional laurel wreath, a huge trophy and a check for the equivalent of around NOK 9 million (USD 1.4 million). While Anand was relegated to being the “runner up,” Carlsen took over his throne in a ceremony in Chennai, India, where the World Chess Championships took place.
He’d spent most of the weekend celebrating, summing up the past few weeks of intense chess and even playing basketball and football against Norwegian journalists. In typical Carlsen style, he was the top scorer in the basketball game and also scored a goal in the football match.
As he prepared to travel home to Norway, Norwegian media continued to be full of stories about the country’s new hero. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that the 22-year-old Carlsen stands to earn at least NOK 50 million this year and next.
“It’s always dangerous to talk numbers, but such speculation isn’t wrong,” Carlsen’s Norwegian manager Espen Agdestein told DN. He said Carlsen’s current sponsors (Oslo law firm Simonsen Vogt Wiig, Arctic Securities, media house VG, Nordic Semiconductor and Parallels) are all extending their agreements, while others are waiting in line.
The value of association
“The international sponsors aren’t after a spot on his jacket, but are more interested in marketing and being associated with him,” said Jacob Lund, former sponsor chief for Norway’s biggest bank, DNB. “What Carlsen has to offer is an image among innovators, those who are creative. There are a lot of international sponsors willing to pay a lot for that.”
Kjetil Try, one of Norway’s most high-profile advertising executives, told DN that “a handsome 22-year-old guy from Norway who’s become the world champion in chess can mean a lot of money.” He think’s Lund’s own estimate of NOK 30 million in sponsor income is low, and instead can be much higher. Nigel Geach of the European Sponsorship Association agrees, even though chess isn’t quite the same as football, baseball, golf or Formula 1 racing.
Norway’s own state oil company Statoil, meanwhile, turned down an earlier chance to sponsor Carlsen, claiming he wasn’t “within our sponsor framework.” Statoil instead sponsors football and skiing, and also backed the Arctic Race of Norway this year.
Norway ‘hot candidate’ for next championships
While interest in Carlsen remains sky-high, along with interest in chess itself in Norway, the former Russian chess president Alexander Bakh hopes Norway will arrange the next World Chess Championships. Carlsen himself and the chess president in Norway, Jøran Aulin-Jansson, are positive about the prospect.
It would cost around NOK 40 million to do that, “but there should be interest in that,” Aulin-Jansson, president of Norges Sjakkforbund, told DN. “And it helps to also arrange the Chess Olympics in Tromsø next year.”
The next world championships will be decided after the candidates’ tournament in Russia in March. Bakh, who has known the Carlsen family since he invited them to Russia and the Aeroflot Open in 2004, said that Norway is a hot candidate. He was invited to watch Carlsen play in Chennai by the new world champion’s father, Henrik Carlsen and the rest of Team Carlsen.
Norway’s own chess federation will soon meet with the country’s athletics federation, of which it is not a member. An ongoing debate over whether chess is an athletic pursuit has heated up again, “and I would say we’re having a dialogue,” Aulin-Jansson said. There are advantages should Norges Sjakkforbund join Norges Idrettsforbund, not least since chess players could then qualify for stipends and leave to pursue the game. On the other hand, Carlsen himself would have been held back from becoming a chess grand master at the age of 13, because of the athletics association’s rules regarding children.