General Feb 18, 2021 | 8:37 PMby Colin McGourty

Magnus Carlsen picks Chess Fantasy Football Team

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen holds the rare claim to fame of having ranked no. 1 out of over 7 million players of Fantasy Premier League, before finishing the 2019-20 season in 10th place. In the run-up to the Opera Euro Rapid he was challenged to do something a little different and pick a team of chess players. Anish Giri was among the 13 players to get a mention, Mikhail Tal doesn’t play where you might expect, and one legend earns a place as the manager!

Magnus was gifted a framed copy of his topping the incredibly competitive Fantasy Premier League table 

Magnus Carlsen’s Fantasy Premier League exploits go far beyond a casual hobby, but when it came to picking a chess football (soccer) team he was definitely in the mood to combine fun with serious strategy. Hence the player he chose to put behind his defence!

Here’s what Magnus had to say about his line-up, which features a 3-man defence:

1. Anish Giri, goalkeeper (Dutch, 26 years old)

I think we will put a contemporary player in goal. We will put Mr Anish Giri. He’s a good player who rarely loses, but he also doesn’t win enough games or tournaments to warrant a place in the outfield.

 2. Tigran Petrosian, centre-back (Armenian, 1929-1984, 9th World Chess Champion)

I will go for Tigran Petrosian, the former World Champion. He’s going to get you a lot of clean sheets. He will get you some attacking returns as well, so I feel like he’s an obvious choice.  

 3. Mikhail Tal, centre-back (Latvian, 1936-1992, 8th World Chess Champion)

It seems a little counter-intuitive, but the thing is that in the later part of his career he had two of the longest unbeaten streaks of all time – very decent security there at the back, while also providing quite a lot of attacking.

4. Jose Capablanca, centre-back (Cuban, 1888-1942, 3rd World Chess Champion)

And then, of course, we have another famous, almost invincible player, who is Capablanca. He rarely ever lost games and he seems like the perfect defence guy.

The 4-man midfield got off to a false start as Magnus named another of his modern rivals…

5. Wesley So, central midfielder (Filipino/American, 27 years old)

You know what? We’ll go with another contemporary player, Wesley So. His general mind-set is fairly defensive and he’s extremely hard to dribble past. He can be poisonous when he does decide to attack and he can get you quite some points.

Magnus later decided, however, only to have two players in central midfield, and concluded, “So is out of the team!” You might say Wesley got his revenge for that snub in the final of the Opera Euro Rapid.

Magnus switched to:

5. Magnus Carlsen, central midfielder (Norwegian, 30 years old, 16th World Champion)

I could be one of those no. 8 midfielders who’s just running all over the pitch – good work-rate, both boxes, and so on.

6. Anatoly Karpov, central midfielder (Russian, 69 years old, 12th World Champion)

He has great tenacity in defence and is a surprisingly poisonous attacking player, who has a wonderful understanding of the game.

7. Boris Spassky, wing-back (Russian, 84 years old, 10th World Chess Champion)

I think Spassky is good. He did play with a lot of energy, though. Probably a little bit too creative to be there.

8. Emanuel Lasker, wing-back (German, 1868-1941, 2nd World Chess Champion)

Lasker deserves to be in the team, but Lasker is probably more of a tricky winger. He’s actually playing out of position, unfortunately, so he’ll have to be a wing-back. We can still use his trickery.

The attack featured players from different eras, while Magnus also chose a manager!

9. Paul Morphy, left winger (American, 1837-1884)

He was definitely ahead of his time. He was good - both positionally better than his contemporaries as well as being a Romantic player with a great tactical eye. So he will be on the wing.

10. Garry Kasparov, central striker (Russian, 57 years old, 13th World Chess Champion)

He’s just an absolute menace. I think he’s a little bit like the modern Ronaldo, to be honest - absolutely professional, ruthless and unstoppable.

11. Bobby Fischer, right winger (American, 1943-2008, 11th World Chess Champion)

Fischer as well. He can certainly get into the box and he definitely cannot be left out of the team.

That just leaves:

12. Viktor Korchnoi, manager (Russian/Swiss, 1931-2016)

We need a manager as well. That would probably have to be Korchnoi, who would be constantly barking directions at the team and be disgusted with every move!

The full line-up in all its glory!

What do you think of Magnus’ team? What team would you pick? Let us know in the comments below!


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