What Are The Odds That Chess Is Sexy Enough For Sports Betting?

Joss Wood November 7, 2018 476 Reads
Chess Betting

The extreme spectator excitement that is the FIDE World Chess Championship kicks off on Friday, November 9.

US sports betting fans may not have made it past the first paragraph of this article. If so, they’re missing out on one of the fastest growing areas of sports betting.

Unibet says that it expects betting handle on the contest to be higher than that of some FIFA 2018 World Cup matches.

This year’s world championship is between Magnus Carlsen from Norway and Fabiano Caruana, born in Miami and holding US and Italian citizenship.

US has the first chance at the chess world championship since 1972

Carlsen is the favorite as the reigning champion. He is 27 years old and first won the championship in 2013. Since then he has retained the title every year.

Caruana is a year younger, and at 26 has a FIDE rating only three points lower than Carlsen. For stats lover,s Carlsen is rated at 2835 with Caruana on 2832.

If Caruana can create an upset victory, he’ll be the first American world chess champion since Bobby Fischer. In fact, “no player born in the United States has won or even competed for a World Championship since Bobby Fischer in 1972.”

During the Cold War, the world chess championship was a proxy battle between the US and the Soviet Union. A cultural war to demonstrate the philosophical superiority of either the capitalist or communist system.

Carlsen and Caruana have their future earnings on the line

Today, the bragging rights remain phenomenal, but there are big bucks at stake. The year before Carlsen first won the title, he made $1.2 million, mainly from sponsorships.

The New York Times stated:

“Carlsen sits at the center of a campaign carefully constructed by him and his handlers to use his intelligence, looks and nimble news-media-charming skills to increase his profile outside the sport, as if he were a tennis or golf star. Not since the days of Fischer, Kasparov and Karpov has a player managed to move so deftly beyond the world of chess into the world at large.”

Since winning the title, his marketability has improved. The effect was immediate. In November of 2013 Cosmopolitan selected him as one of the “Sexiest Men of 2013.”

By 2017, Carlsen reached an even higher celebrity peak. He appeared as a character in the Simpsons episode where Homer discovers he’s a chess genius.

For the two players, the London championship represents a lot more than just a trophy. And that means that there won’t be any slow play; no quarter will be offered or asked for. This is a contest where everything is on the line.

That makes it ideal for sports bettors. No chance of any game rigging here. Both players will be giving it their all, and that’s one reason why Unibet expects to take so much in wagers.

Ilya Merenzon, the CEO of World Chess, explained:

“The odds from the World Chess betting partner Unibet shows just how exciting this championship will be. It’s great to see the betting community from across the globe, as well as six hundred million chess fans, come together, proving that the sport is continually becoming even more popular.”

Tournament format makes for plenty of in-game betting

The competition will take place over 12 games. Unibet has set the chance of a win for Carlsen at 29/50, with 7/25 chance for Caruana and 9/50 chance of a draw.

In early betting, the chance of Carlsen winning the first game is 16/25 and 7/10 that the winner won’t be decided in less than 11 games.

OK, maybe the pace of a chess match isn’t as thrilling as motor racing, but things can change quickly on a chess board. That makes for in-game betting opportunities as the board position appears to lean one way or the other.

Chess may be a game of complete information; all the pieces are always visible, but it can also generate surprises. Apparently strong positions can suddenly collapse as an unexpected sequence of moves shows up a fundamental weakness.

Richard Öström, country manager for Unibet Norway commented:

“The odds in this highly competitive match will continue to fluctuate and this year’s World Championship showdown between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana in London will continue to establish chess as a permanent fixture in betting.”

There’s even a sexy logo

Chess is not noted for being a sexy sport, but this year FIDE has sexed up their logo. At least, FIDE has offered up two logos, one more traditional and one with a different image of the game.

  • Traditional

  • Or Sexy

Unibet is the main sports betting brand of the Kindred Group. Kindred has only just entered the US market after signing a partnership with the Hard Rock Atlantic City in New Jersey.

Sports bettors in New Jersey who want to support the US contender will probably be able to find a wager.

There are now more than enough online and live sports betting operations in New Jersey, and surely one of them will step up and offer the chance to place a chess bet.

The championship takes place at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from November 9 to November 28.