Chess experts think Norwegian champ Magnus Carlsen 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 a vote of 87 in favour of his leadership and 62 against.