Magnus Carlsen: From Chess World Champion to Poker Star

June 8, 2023
Mark Patrickson

Magnus Carlsen, number one chess player in the world and former world champion, looks to have set his sights on poker after relinquishing his world title after a decade of ruling the roost.

A few weeks ago, the man many consider the best chess player of all time was lining up against some of the best poker players in the business at the EPT Monte Carlo.

"I came here to this exact location in Monaco in 2007,because I was playing a tournament here. And I came to watch the European Poker Tour because Alexander Grischuk, who was like back then a top ten player — is still like a very, very good chess player — he was playing here in the Main Event. So I went to watch him play."

Carlsen spent some time talking to PokerNews and PokerStars to give his thoughts on the recent discipline switch.

There are many chess players who play poker on the side. PokerStars Team Pro WGM Jennifer Shahade is one who plays at a high level in both games. Chess streamer WFM Alexandra Botez is also seen playing poker a lot more these days.

Carlsen told the interviewer that he thinks new Chess World Champion Ding Liren would also make a great poker player.

"I think the current World Champion Ding here should be really strong," he said. "I know from talking to him, he calculates really quickly in chess…is really, really good at math. So I'm sure he could do well."

The Norwegian then explained how he thinks poker is an interesting challenge but he doesn’t hold any ambition for the future. Unsurprisingly, however, analysis of key hands in live events has shown the chess king to be more than capable of thinking his way through a hand.

"I don't like to take a lot of pride in my poker.So I'm trying to, you know, learn a little bit, so it doesn't bother me that much. But if I do something really stupid, then that's to be expected. So that's fine."

He also explained how the similarities between chess and poker are closer than people might think.

"I think the similarities between poker and chess are more than people would think. Of course there is perfect information in chess, but still, you make a lot of decisions based on, like, imperfect calculation. So in that sense, it's a little bit of the same."

With the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, we might get the chance to see Magnus Carlsen back in action again at the felt. With no world title to defend and an admitted lack of work on chess in recent months, Carlsen could be ready to get stuck in at the greatest poker series on the calendar.

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