From checkmate to the catwalk: the chess star turning heads

Kevin Rawlinson
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:59

While the transition from sportsman to model is a fairly obvious one for some of football's megastars, it is a path less well trodden by chess grandmasters.

But Magnus Carlsen, the man called "the Mozart of Chess", has followed the likes of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo into the glamorous world of fashion modelling, posing for a high street clothing chain in his first shoot.

The Norwegian, who became the youngest player ever to top the world rankings earlier this year aged just 19, posed at the G-Star Raw fashion shoot alongside Hollywood star Liv Tyler.

"I think people will be surprised to see me like this. Surely just as surprised as I was when I was picked for this," said Carlsen, who admitted to being no fashionista before the shoot.

Carlsen, who beat the former world champion Anatoly Karpov and drew with chess great Garry Kasparov in 2004 aged just 13, told The Independent recently that he took up the game as a child because he wanted to beat his older sister at it. "That was my first goal; I was always very competitive growing up," he said. Now sitting atop the official FIDE chess rating list, Carlsen – who lives with his family near Oslo – finds it difficult to walk the streets of his hometown without being mobbed by adoring fans. He also appears on chat shows in his homeland.

"In Norway, we are not good at many things, so when you win you become popular," he said. "And now chess has become popular, too, and people are changing their idea of the game."

Carlsen has been coached by Kasparov – the man most consider to be the greatest chess player ever – since 2009. Kasparov gained the top spot in chess for the first time aged 20 years and nine months. His student did it just a month after his own 19th birthday.

"Before he is done, Carlsen will have changed our ancient game considerably," Kasparov told Time magazine in January. Carlsen had turned down Kasparov's offer of coaching in 2005 because he felt he was developing in his own way. "I didn't feel I was ready for that kind of systematic coaching," he said. However, he later took up the offer and said of his master: "Everything Kasparov says is worth something in chess. It's great to work with him but also demanding. He expects a lot."

The Norwegian state broadcaster NRK published pictures of Carlsen taken at the shoot for Dutch jeans company G-Star Raw, as well as a behind-the-scenes video of Carlsen with his co-star Liv Tyler. Carlsen is also being tipped to take to the catwalk during New York Fashion Week.

Carlsen will compete at the second London Chess Classic tournament, which will be held at Olympia Conference Centre from 8 to 15 December.

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