Simen Agdestein: playing with the nerds

10/19/2006 – Remember Simen Agdestein? Seven times Norwegian national chess champion? Trainer of Magnus Carlsen? Ballroom dancer? In a former life Simen was a national soccer player. Now the chess grandmaster is returning to the football pitch, as part of a team of super nerds. Here is some remarkable video footage.

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Simen Agdestein, 39 years old, is one of Norway's strongest grandmaster. Simen won his first Norwegian championship at the age of 15 and won it a total of seven times, including last year. He became an IM at the age of 16 and a grandmaster at 18. At the World Junior Championship in 1986 he came in second, ahead of Vishy Anand, Evgeny Bareev and Jeroen Piket.

BUT: there are other dimensions to Simen Agdestein. He is very likely the only player in history who represented his country in chess and in football*. Indeed, for a while he juggled an international career both in chess and soccer, doing so until a knee injury terminated his soccer career. Since then he has worked at a sports academy, teaching chess and football.

He is also the personal trainer of Norway's greatest chess prodigy, Magnus Carlsen, to whom he ironically lost in this year's Norwegian Chess Championship.

Recently Simen was in the news as a participant in a show structured after the BBC's "Strictly come dancing". Each celebrity is given a professional dance partner as a trainer, trying to get them to professional level in time for the show. The candidates are judged by the studio audience, and the lowest-rated contestants are replaced in the coming week by a new team. We reported on this escapade.

Now the Talented Mr Agdestein returning to the football pitch. Together with other celebrities he played against "Tufte", a team of selected super nerds without any soccer talent. They became a huge success in Norwegian TV last year. Agdestein played for "Plutokratene", who are billed as "Super nerds from the real world".

As a chess grandmaster Agdestein was invited to play in the match. We suspect the production team was unware of his soccer background. The team, however, definitely knew about him. Simen played together with Tufte's coach Erik Thorstvedt (a former Tottenham keeper) against France in 1989. In total Simen Agdestein has represented Norway in eight international matches.



The chess grandmaster and fomer soccer star scoring for Tufte

In the early 1990s a knee injury cut short his football activities and the difficult times that followed also reflected in his chess. In the interview in Nettavisen (see link below) he says: "It's not that I'm totally unable to play, but I'm not able to run properly. The knee hurts if I put too much strain on it."

How come he was playing in this match? "I was asked and it sounded like fun. Afterwards I discovered it was a pretty nerdy team, but I obviously belong to that bunch," he said.

Nettavisen has a short video clip from the match. You should definitely watch it, not just for the interview (in Norwegian) and Agdestein's strike, but especially for one of the most remarkable goals we have seen in recent times, scored by the player 22 in the last picture. Beckenbauer, Schmeckenbauer – this is soccer at its most entertaining.

The nerd match reminds us of the immortal Germany vs Greece game by Monty Python.

Information and links provided by Ole Valaker


* Paul McKeown of London, UK, informs us that "Simen Agdestein is not the only person to have represented his country at football and chess. Try IGM Vlastimil Jansa, who was three times Czechoslovak chess champion, played at several Olympiads and also, when younger, I believe, played association football for his country. Or Bela Soos, strong IM, who represented Romania at a number of chess Olympiads and also at association football. Other famous footballing chess players include Torkil Nielsen, who has been the Faroer national chess champion and, if I remember correctly, scored the goal in the Faroes 1-0 victory over Austria in a 1990 European championship qualifying game. Or Charles Wreford Brown, who coined the word, "soccer", etc. I think I will stop boring you here, but the point is made, is it not?" – Yes it is, Paul.



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