Carlsen named "Global Ambassador" for Unibet

by Johannes Fischer
1/31/2020 – At a press conference in Stockholm, Magnus Carlsen announced his collaboration with Unibet, a provider of sports betting, online casinos, online bingo and poker. In 2020 and 2021, Carlsen will act as a "global ambassador" for the gaming provider, which will be Carlsen's main sponsor for the next two years. | Photo: Magnus Carlsen on YouTube

Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.

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Tagline: 'Luck is no coincidence'

World Champion Magnus Carlsen's collaboration with Unibet, which has been cultivated for some time, is now official. Unibet is a subsidiary of the Kindred Group, the Malta-registered company which last year offered the Norwegian Chess Federation a sponsorship deal worth 5 million euros over five years. In return, the association was expected to campaign for the Norwegian market to be opened to international betting providers, and not just Norway's state-owned enterprises.

The betting firm found a kindred spirit in Carlsen, who lobbied for the chess federation accepts this offer and even founded his own chess club called Offerspill in a bid to influence the voting battle. But after heated debates, the Norwegian Chess Federation declined Kindred's offer, leading Carlsen to resign his membership from the chess federation (though he continues to represent Norway in international competition).

The Norwegian Chess Federation deal appears dead but, undeterred, Unibet supports Carlsen's Offerspill association, and now also Magnus himself as his primary sponsor. On Thursday they debuted a new television commercial in which Carlsen plays a starring role.


Unibet TV commercial

The commercial was shown in a livestream on Carlsen's YouTube channel


At the press conference, Carlsen said that he had been looking forward to working with Unibet for a long time, and he sees many similarities between himself and his new sponsor: "We share a lot of common values ​​and interests, such as an analytical approach to games."

The collaboration with Unibet is explicitly aimed at a global audience. And when asked, Carlsen said during the press conference that he would not campaign for Unibet in Norway, noting, "we adhere to Norwegian law".

In a tweet, Carlsen also reaffirmed his enthusiasm for this partnership and shared the commercial. The resulting twitter thread shows some of the criticism Carlsen is likely to face as a consequence of this deal. Many respondents raise concerns over the ethical implications of promoting sports betting, noting in particular that Unibet offers betting on chess itself.

Full press conference video

Carlsen enters the room at 5:15. After a Q&A session, Carlsen gives a brief lesson and plays a few moves with Rhodri Darch, Chief Commercial Officer at Kindred Group, beginning at 12:35.

Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson

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Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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michael allard michael allard 2/4/2020 07:09
This is a highly disdainful endeavor. Past world champions purported expertise for which they could not sustain. Witness Fischer and world politics. Kasparov as autodidact and expert in business, philosophy and world politics. Now we have a another who bothers not even to pretend the moral efficacy of conjugating a game that supposedly enhances cognitive skill with another notorious for emotional obcession. From my perspective Mr. Carlsen's stock has decreased significantly.
albitex albitex 2/4/2020 12:49
I don't agree! This is unethical.
Many people have ruined themselves with online gambling. Carlsen is world champion, already rich and famous. He doesn't need this, he doesn't need. This makes the matter even more serious.
Babysplitz Babysplitz 2/3/2020 05:32
Magus!!
Drop this idea immediately.
ALL THAT CHESS HAS FOR YOU. YOUR A MILLIONER ALREADY. ALL FROMM CHESS.

WOULD YOU A GAMBLING AMBASSOR IF NOT FOR YOUR CHESS SKILL.

PLEASE STOP THIS TERRIBLE IDEA IMMEDIATELY!!!!
adbennet adbennet 2/3/2020 03:25
sybillaloren wrote:
"Ideally, chess as a profession should pay on its own finacially. But it doesnt. Maybe this will help chess like it did poker."

Yes, it's a perfect opportunity for GMs to make a little side money. If wagering on chess takes off, then a small monetary encouragement to a GM can mean a big payoff to someone who bet against the line. This is precisely what has happened / does still happen in other sports.

As an aside, if two chessplayers want to wager on the outcome of their own game (as Leavenfish describes below), then this is NOT gambling, because chess is a game of skill and because the two players control the outcome. It's when third parties wager that it becomes gambling, and all the ethical issues arise.

I'm afraid this is further evidence that being good at chess doesn't mean one is automatically good at other things, because our world champion just got an F in ethics. At a minimum this casts a shade over his previous campaign with the Norwegian CF. But the future implications for rigged bets also seem to have escaped him. If I were to be exceedingly generous, then I could speculate that such devious behavior would never enter his mind. But that won't stop it from happening.
sybillaloren sybillaloren 2/2/2020 06:31
Ideally, chess as a profession should pay on its own finacially. But it doesnt. Maybe this will help chess like it did poker.
KIva78 KIva78 2/2/2020 02:29
The advert is typically very slick but mentions nothing about gambling - except at the end, when after years of hard work and preparation Carlsen will win the game because he "might be lucky"! What the actual ****? Just as advertising for alcohol doesn't show people vomiting their products into the nearest gutter, and just as adverts for cigarettes (now banned in the West, but sports sponsorship is encouraged) don't show people gasping for breath while in acute pain from cancer on a hospital bed, so gambling companies don't show people desperately throwing their money away on ridiculous games of chance - or maybe chess, hmm? After all, luck is no coincidence!
Nekthen Nekthen 2/2/2020 01:53
FIDE should intervene. Magnus cannot be World Chess Champion and a Global Ambassador for a gambling company. He drags down the reputation of FIDE as well as himself with this appointment
Sarangi53 Sarangi53 2/2/2020 01:22
A very unfortunate choice by Carlsen. Finacial advantage has blinded him. Betting is not something to be propagated and publicised at all. A pity.! He could have chosen something much more worthwile accepting less money.
Ryonen Ryonen 2/2/2020 08:06
I would love to see Magnus as global ambassador for something worthwhile, but betting companies just create misery for private profit. Bad move, Magnus.
melante melante 2/1/2020 07:03
@Laevenfish:
I like your system: it would finally "encourage" stubborn players to resign in lost positions instead of dragging things on hoping for unlikely miracles to happen! :)
KingZor KingZor 2/1/2020 05:34
Why is Carlsen associating with these vultures? They're just profiting off gambling addiction and helping to ruin lives. And so is he apparently.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 2/1/2020 05:13
I have no opinion.

But...I see 'this is bad'...with no real reasons given. Betting in chess already exists from what I understand. Betting on play taking place 'online' is a fools errand though. Where money is to be made 'by participants', cheating will happen.

Now a friend and I use to play a particular game in college 30 years ago:

We start a game of chess, with a clock...usually a 5 min game, with say a 25 cents bet on the outcome. At at any moment and for any reason, player 'A' could 'double the wager' (we used a cubed dice from some board game to keep track). If player 'B' declined (bad position, low on time for example), the game ended right there with 'A' winning the 25 cents. If player 'B' accepted, the bet would go to 50 cents and the game would continue...until mate/time forefit or the bet became too much 'for the position' to handle.

So, 25 cents, to 50 cents to 1 dollar to 2 dollars, 4 dollars, etc, etc. with the game ending if a 'double' of the bet was not accepted. Now, that was fun...even for a poor college kid.
sligunner sligunner 2/1/2020 02:33
What a tawdry sponsorship. The WORLD CHAMPION using his position to promote a betting company is beyond contempt, I'm afraid.
svr svr 2/1/2020 02:21
This is bad for chess, for sure. Chess should have nothing to do with betting and online gambling such as poker. What parent would take their kid to a club associated with activities that are even illegal in some countries.

Even some online commentators for top chess event broadcasts habitually bring up online poker as if they were paid to promote it for chess players. You can play online poker if you want, but you should keep it separate from chess. I hope responsible tournament organizers start selecting their invitees and commentators with this in mind.
Shakey Shakey 2/1/2020 10:15
Of all possible types of business, a betting company is surely one of the least positive for chess and for MC to be associated with.
melante melante 2/1/2020 09:39
I don't see how this can benefit either party: chess has nothing to do with gambling and should never be associated with it
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