Magnus Carlsen, the world’s best chess player for the last decade, is leading the Premier League’s official fantasy football table, beating over seven million players.
The grandmaster is enjoying his best season ever in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game and held onto top spot on Sunday after moving to the summit thanks to a fine Saturday in which his captain, Mohamed Salah of Liverpool, scored twice to earn 32 points.
Upon reaching the top of the standings he changed his Twitter profile to reflect his lofty position, it now reads: “World Chess Champion. The highest ranked chess player in the world. Current (live) #1 Fantasy Premier League player.”
Carlsen currently leads the standings by one point, but could be overhauled on Monday by the second-placed Nick Tanner, and his team ‘winorloseonthebooze’. Monday’s evening kick-off in the Premier League sees Crystal Palace host Brighton, and with Carlsen having no players in his starting XI to Tanner’s three (Brighton’s Matt Ryan and Lewis Dunk, plus Palace’s Martin Kelly), the chess player could easily be knocked off his perch.
Carlsen claims his success in fantasy football is down to luck. The chess champion’s team, Kjell Ankedal, finished among the top 3,000 players in the 2017–2018 league, following three other impressive seasons.
It took Carlsen just six weeks to make it into the top 1,000 this season and he has been mounting a charge for the top ever since. In addition to his various successes with chess and football, Carlsen also works occasionally as a model.
Asked to comment on his success this season, Carlsen cited the Opta data used by FPL players to track footballing form. “In fantasy football I’m both an optimist and an Optamist,” he told the Guardian in a one line email.
Carlsen, like many Norwegians, is obsessed with both the Premier League and its fantasy league spin-off. In 2017, eight players from Norway were in the top 50 FPL players in the world.
According to chess journalist Tarjei Svensen, who has known Carlsen since he was eight and follows all of his games. “His ability at fantasy league has been known for a couple of seasons now, but this season has been exceptional and he’s had another good week,” Svensen said.
He added: “His rise up the charts is incredible. He had a really good year for a while last season and then he dropped a couple of hundred places at the end of the season, but he was still in the top 1,000.”
Svensen reckons Carlsen excels at FPL because of a phenomenal memory for Premier League details. His level of knowledge about English football is amazing, which must help him a lot,” he says.
When he was asked about the success of his FPL team on Norwegian TV in October, Carlsen was worried such questions would jinx his performance. Still, he climbed from 162 in the table to the top three.
Carlsen said: “In chess, you know when you’ve done well and when you’ve done poorly, but it’s hard for me to take praise for fantasy league, when I’ve just been lucky.”
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