Messi vs Ronaldo – but not football

by Frederic Friedel
11/20/2022 – This is a picture of the two greatest football players of our generation – perhaps in the history of the game. Rivals on the field, here they are engaged in a chess match. Well, not really. It was for a photo shoot, staged by Louis Vuitton, the French luxury fashion house, specializing in handbags. Sagar Shah tells us what the campaign was all about. | Photo: Annie Leibovitz for Louis Vuitton

ChessBase 17 - Mega package ChessBase 17 - Mega package

ChessBase is a personal, stand-alone chess database that has become the standard throughout the world. Everyone uses ChessBase, from the World Champion to the amateur next door. It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it.


Louis Vuitton published a photo that has simply gone viral. It shows Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – arguably two of the greatest ever footballers ever – playing chess! But what is so special about this photo that it might well become the most viewed picture in the history of Internet? Why is it a marketing genius by Louis Vuitton? Why is chess used in the photo, and who are the two world-class chess players whose game is portrayed here?

IM Sagar Shah tells us all about it.

Sagar tells us all about the background of the photo shoot. He has even traced the game they have on the board (spoiler: it is from a game from Carlsen-Nakamura). Here's the game and the position on the board between Messi and Ronaldo:


The diagram in the notation shows the position on the board in the Louis Vuitton photo. You can read a more extensive report  on ChessBase India.


Incidentally Lionel Messi and Christian Ronaldo are my all-time favourites in football. Here are two images to illustrate, from an article I wrote in 2016. The screen grabs are from a game Barcelona vs Espanyol on December 18, 2016.

Messi, who is surrounded surrounded by ten players, i.e. the entire Espanyol team (except for the goalkeeper, who is 20 meters to the left), gets the ball. What does he do? In exactly six seconds this amazing player has worked his way past them all and gets a clear shot at the goal!

Messi's shot was parried by the goalkeeper, but his teammate and prodigy Luis Suárez, whose foot you see on the left, could easily tap the rebound into the goal. You can watch it all transpire in this Youtube video sequence. If I have got you in the mood, you can google for the most impressive Messi and Renaldo solo runs against hoards of opponents.

Fixing football

Messi and Ronaldo are real exceptions in the game, which is facing a real problem (as I predict you will see in the current World Championship in Qatar). I suggested a fairly audacious solution: Fixing football — how to make it interesting. I'd love to see your comments on that.


Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
Discussion and Feedback Submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

Frederic Frederic 11/21/2022 10:23
@mehmet17 - I loved Maradonna, and Pelé before him, and Bekenbauer, Kreuf, Gert Müller, Uwe Seeler. etc. And a dozen others. But Messi is a new dimension. His main weapon is what we in German call "Körpertäuschung" - "body deception?" Players are always trying to block the path he ends up not taking.
mehmet17 mehmet17 11/21/2022 07:39
Two great stars for sure. But none of them can conduct the match like Maradona ..
Frederic Frederic 11/21/2022 11:31
Flachspieler, they are not using a chessboard. They are playing a canvas trunk Braun. It sells for €9.455, but if you are quick you can get it for just €9.155: Glad you liked the article.
arzi arzi 11/21/2022 06:02
The cells on board are 8.5x8.5. The 0.5 cells are not for pieces, flash.
flachspieler flachspieler 11/21/2022 03:10
Count the cells on the board: they are not 8x8 ...
e-mars e-mars 11/20/2022 07:24
For once a very good picture depicting non-chess players contemplating a (real world) position OTB, like they are actually playing a game of chess. A picture which looks like very much plausible, nice colours, nice board. For a chance not the usual shallow, dull, stereotypical picture using chess as mean to make the subjects look like they are much smarter than they really are irl, where in fact the effect is exactly the opposite. Kudos to the photographer and whoever set this up.