Carlsen: ‘Not in it for the money’

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Norwegian chess champion Magnus Carlsen could rake in millions after his “Play Magnus” chess company made its debut on the Oslo Stock Exchange last week and then sold joint broadcast TV rights to Norway’s two biggest channels. Carlsen made it clear, however, that “money has never been my main motivation.”

Chess champion Magnus Carlsen rang the bell when the chess company inspired by his talents was listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange last week. From left, Carlsen’s longtime manager Espen Agdestein, Carlsen, Play Magnus board leader Anders Brandt and Øivind Amundsen, director of Oslo Børs. PHOTO: Play Magnus

He was on hand to ring the bell when Play Magnus started trading on the Oslo Stock Exchange, to a somewhat mixed reception. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported how trading opened at NOK 24 per share, higher than the listing price of NOK 21, but then dipped when investors started cashing in on their gains. Despite a futher slide, Play Magnus was still valued at nearly twice the level set when it raised capital in March. Carlsen himself had invested NOK 120,000 in the company and ended up selling shares for NOK 25 million in connection with the stock issue.

He still held a stake worth around NOK 90 million after the trading festivities but was much more preoccupied with actually playing chess at the time: “I focus of course first and foremost on playing chess, but I have good contact with (Play Magnus’) management both directly and through my father Henrik, who’s a member of the board of Play Magnus,” Carlsen told DN. “I’m a chess player, motivated by competing and developing myself, so that’s definitely the most important for me. Money has never been my main motivation and won’t affect my chess career.”

Carlsen also noted that Play Magnus “fortunately has very competent management and staff, so what I contribute isn’t very time-consuming.”

Chess to get much more coverage
On Thursday, Play Magnus reported that the state-owned Norwegian Broadcastng (NRK) and Norway’s nationwide commercial broadcaster TV2 had jointly purchased Norwegian TV rights to the new digital Champions Chess Tour in 2021. It will be comprised of 10 tournaments featuring the world’s best chess players, with a goal of turning chess into an international TV sport.

Details weren’t revealed, but the broadcasting agreement “gives us important income,” stated Arne Horvei of Play Magnus Group, “and even more valuable is their (NRK’s and TV2’s) joint commitment to chess. Their expertise in broadcasting chess on TV is important for our work to commercialize the sport.”

The purely digital Champions Chess Tour was launched during this year’s Corona crisis, when all physical chess tournaments had to be cancelled. It included five tournaments with 25 of the world’s best players participating, and reached millions on various streaming platforms and TV.

The next Champions Chess Tour 2021 will run from this November to September 2021, with a total prize fund of USD 1.5 million. NRK and TV2 will divide the tournaments between them, and they have an option for the next season.

First loss since 2018
Carlsen, meanwhile, has most recently been playing in the annual Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger, his first with players physically present since the Corona crisis began. He also suffered his first loss after a 125-game unbeaten streak, at the hands and mind of Polish star Jan-Kzrystof Duda.

The grandmaster Duda is ranked 15th in the world but became the first player to beat Carlsen after two years, two months and 10 days, according to a press release from the Play Magnus companies. Duda admitted he hadn’t expected to win and thought “losing to Magnus is okay, it’s nothing terrible and that was relaxing me.”

“It had to happen at some point,” Carlsen said after his first classical chess loss since being defeated by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov at a tournament in Biel in July 2018, adding that “it’s very, very disappointing.” Carlsen has otherwise been in great form this year, after winning nine tournaments so far this year.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund