How world champion Magnus Carlsen rode the chess boom

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Norway’s World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, makes a move in game five against Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia, during the FIDE World Championship at the Dubai Expo, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

(Front Office Sports) – World chess champion Magnus Carlsen has both stoked and parlayed a boom in chess interest to turn his fame and dominance in the age-old game into a major business.

Carlsen cofounded Play Magnus in 2013, the same year he became world champion. The company has expanded from a training app to include a playing platform, lessons, and a publishing arm.

In February, it listed on the Oslo stock exchange, becoming the only publicly traded chess company in the world.

  • Play Magnus saw both its revenues and expenses grow in the last year, with third-quarter earnings growing 176% year-over-year to $5.5 million.
  • However, expenses have risen along with revenue, and the company posted a $5.3 million pre-tax loss in the quarter.
  • Play Magnus had $22 million in cash as of Nov. 15.

The company has worked to bring mainstream interest to chess through its PogChamps tournament, which features popular non-chess streamers and other celebrities.

Interest in chess has risen over the last year, particularly after the release of the hit Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit” in November 2020, which was streamed by 62 million households in its first 28 days.

Popular chess playing and teaching site chess.com added 1 million accounts each month for the 12 months starting in March 2020 — including 2.8 million in November of that year.

Carlsen began the defense of his title last Wednesday against grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi. The first three games of the 14-match tournament ended in draws.

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