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 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 5-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)
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)
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!
What do you think of Magnus’ team? What team would you pick?
Let us know in the comments below!