Christian Pulisic was involved in an awesome charity event from the USMNT's training base in Houston, Texas, before the team's crucial World Cup qualifier against Mexico on Thursday night. Partnering with PUMA and the Champions Chess Tour, Pulisic played against a 10-year-old version of reigning five-time World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen using the "Play Magnus" mobile app.
For every move that Pulisic made before his inevitable demise, PUMA donated $500 to UNICEF. Very few people reading this article will appreciate how difficult a task that truly is.
The "Play Magnus" app features 30 different skill levels based on Carlsen's ability at different ages, beginning with the first skill level at age five.
Carlsen is a chess prodigy who achieved the title of grandmaster a few months after turning 13. At 19, he became the youngest ever to reach No. 1 in the world rankings. At the highest level of chess play, he once defeated Dutch grandmaster Anish Giri in only 23 moves. He's also damn good at Fantasy Premier League. There's no shame in losing to Carlsen, even if he's just a baby boy.
But after Pulisic's performance in the charity event, it seems we're going to have to change his nickname from "The LeBron James of Soccer" to "The Magnus Carlsen of Soccer" — the 23-year-old American lasted 25 moves against a preadolescent Carlsen, raising $12,500 for a great cause.
"That was fun," Pulisic said after. "I was not really used to the interface, it was a bit different, but I thought I had a chance for a while. I wasn't completely losing, but I was very low on the time so I needed to play faster."
Pulisic revealed that his chess passion was rekindled during lockdown, and that he has an image of a chess bishop on the back of his PUMA cleats.
"Yeah, that's true, I do have a bishop on the back of boots," Pulisic said. "It's just something that I think is really cool, and I just like having it on my boot when I play. I don't think there's a specific reason it's a bishop, it's just my favorite chess piece. I don't know why, the look of it or the way it moves. I don't know why, I just like the bishop."
He brought out one bishop for a bit of early pressure on young Carlsen, but the other was biting the granite by middlegame.
There can be no doubting Pulisic's mental sharpness at the Azteca, and regardless of whether Tata Martino goes with Gerardo Arteaga or Jesús Gallardo at left back, they'll be an easier opponent than Magnus Carlsen.