Even its staunchest defenders would struggle to describe chess as sexy, but the growing stature of Magnus Carlsen could change all that. Not only is the 20-year-old Norwegian the number two ranked chess player in the world, but he is also carving out a highly successful career in the world of fashion modelling.
Once known as the Mozart of chess, for his prodigious talent and astonishingly rapid ascent to the top of the game, today his brooding yet boyish looks and contract with the G-Star RAW fashion label mean he is just as likely to be compared to the teenage singer and heart-throb Justin Bieber as he is to the Austrian composer.
Garry Kasparov, one of the greatest players of all time and the young Norwegian’s former coach, has said of him: “Before he is done, Carlsen will have changed our ancient game considerably.” Ordinarily, Carlsen might visit the UK to compete at events such as the London Chess Classic, but this time he is here in his other professional capacity, as the face of the aformentioned clothing label.
Within the game, the response to his newfound celebrity has been “quite positive”, he says. “There are always going to be some jokes and laughter, but I think a lot of them appreciate that it might be very positive for chess.”
Carlsen’s association with G-Star RAW came a couple of years ago when he was spotted playing chess on Dutch television by an executive at the fashion label. Since then he has become the face of the brand, appearing alongside actresses such as Liv Tyler and Gemma Arterton on billboards and at New York fashion week.
The modelling career came as a “surprise”, having never thought of himself as a model. “It’s been interesting, so different from chess,” he says.
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