Carlsen at the 2016 Chess Olympiad
|Full name||Sven Magnus Øen Carlsen|
30 November 1990 |
Tønsberg, Vestfold, Norway
|FIDE rating||2822 (August 2017)|
|Peak rating||2882 (May 2014)|
|Ranking||No. 1 (August 2017)|
|Peak ranking||No. 1 (January 2010)|
Sven Magnus Øen Carlsen (Norwegian: [sven ˈmɑŋnʉs øːn ˈkɑːɭsn̩]; born 30 November 1990) is a Norwegian chess grandmaster and the current World Chess Champion. A chess prodigy, Carlsen earned his grandmaster title at the age of 13 years and 148 days.
Native to Tønsberg, Carlsen was introduced to chess at the age of 5 and played in his first tournament at the age of 8. He earned his grandmaster title in 2004 and was competing successfully against the world's strongest grandmasters by 2007. He surpassed an Elo rating of 2800 in 2009 and reached No. 1 in the FIDE rankings in 2010, becoming the youngest person ever to achieve those feats.
Carlsen became World Champion in 2013 by defeating Viswanathan Anand. In the subsequent year, he retained his title against Anand, won both the 2014 World Rapid Championship and World Blitz Championship, thus becoming the first player to simultaneously hold all three titles, and reached a peak rating of 2882, the highest in history. In 2016, he defended his title against Sergey Karjakin.
Known for his attacking style as a teenager, Carlsen has since developed into a more universal player. He uses a variety of openings in order to make it more difficult for opponents to prepare against him, and, according to Jan Timman, he "aims for middlegames that lend themselves to a strategic approach". His positional mastery and endgame prowess have drawn comparisons to those of former World Champions Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Vasily Smyslov, and José Raúl Capablanca.
Carlsen was born in Tønsberg, Norway, on 30 November 1990, to Sigrun Øen and Henrik Albert Carlsen, both engineers (sivilingeniør) by profession. The family spent one year in Espoo, Finland, and then in Brussels, Belgium, before returning to Norway in 1998, where they lived in Lommedalen, Bærum. They later moved to Haslum. Carlsen showed an aptitude for intellectual challenges at a young age: at two years, he could solve 50-piece jigsaw puzzles; at four, he enjoyed assembling Lego sets with instructions intended for children aged 10–14. His father taught him to play chess at the age of 5, although he initially showed little interest in the game. He has three sisters, and in 2010 he stated that one of the things that first motivated him to take up chess seriously was the desire to beat his elder sister at the game.
The first chess book Carlsen read was Find the Plan by Bent Larsen, and his first book on openings was Eduard Gufeld's The Complete Dragon. Carlsen developed his early chess skills by playing by himself for hours on end—moving the pieces around, searching for combinations, and replaying games and positions shown to him by his father. Simen Agdestein emphasises Carlsen's exceptional memory, stating that he was able to recall the areas, population numbers, flags and capitals of all the countries in the world by the age of five. Later, Carlsen had memorised the areas, population numbers, coat-of-arms and administrative centres of "virtually all" Norwegian municipalities. Carlsen participated in his first tournament—the youngest division of the 1999 Norwegian Chess Championship—at the age of 8 years and 7 months, and scored 6½/11.
Carlsen was later coached at the Norwegian College of Elite Sport by the country's top player, Grandmaster (GM) Simen Agdestein, who in turn cites Norwegian football manager Egil "Drillo" Olsen as a key inspiration for his coaching strategy. In 2000, Agdestein introduced Carlsen to Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen, a former Norwegian junior champion and later International Master (IM) and Grandmaster (GM), as Ringdal served a one-year siviltjeneste (an alternative civilian service programme) at the college. Over the course of this year, Carlsen's rating rose from 904 in June 2000, to 1907. Carlsen's breakthrough occurred in the Norwegian junior teams championship in September 2000, where Carlsen scored 3½/5 against the top junior players of the country, and a performance rating (PR) of about 2000. Apart from chess, which he studied about three to four hours a day, Carlsen's favourite pastimes included playing football and reading Donald Duck comics. Carlsen also practised skiing until the age of ten.
From autumn 2000 to the end of 2002, Carlsen played almost 300 rated tournament games, as well as several blitz tournaments, and participated in other minor events. In October 2002, he placed sixth in the European Under-12 Championship in Peñiscola. In the following month, he tied for first place in the World Under-12 Championship in Heraklio, placing second to Ian Nepomniachtchi on tiebreak. After this, he obtained three IM norms in relatively quick succession; his first was at the January 2003 Gausdal Troll Masters (score 7/10, 2345 PR), the second was at the June 2003 Salongernas IM-tournament in Stockholm (6/9, 2470 PR), and the third and final IM norm was obtained at the July 2003 Politiken Cup in Copenhagen (8/11, 2503 PR). He was officially awarded the IM title on 20 August 2003. After finishing primary school, Carlsen took a year off to participate in international chess tournaments held in Europe during the fall season of 2003, returning to complete secondary education at a sports school. During the year away from school, he placed joint-third in the European Under-14 Championship and ninth in the World Under-14 Championship.
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Carlsen made headlines after his victory in the C group at the 2004 Corus chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Carlsen obtained a score of 10½/13, losing just one game (against the highest-rated player of the C group, Duško Pavasovič). As a result of the victory, he earned his first GM norm, and achieved a PR of 2702. Particularly notable was his win over Sipke Ernst in the penultimate round, when Carlsen sacrificed material to give mate in just 29 moves. The first 23 moves in that game had already been played in another game—Almagro Llanas–Gustafsson, Madrid 2003 (which ended in a draw)—but Carlsen's over-the-board novelty immediately led to a winning position. Carlsen's victory in the C group qualified him to play in the B group in 2005, and it led Lubomir Kavalek, writing for the Washington Post, to give him the title "Mozart of chess". Agdestein said that Carlsen had an excellent memory and played an unusually wide range of openings. Carlsen's prowess caught the attention of Microsoft, who became his sponsor.
Carlsen obtained his second GM norm at the Moscow Aeroflot Open in February. On 17 March, in a blitz chess tournament in Reykjavík, Iceland, Carlsen defeated former World Champion Anatoly Karpov. The blitz tournament was a preliminary event leading up to a rapid knockout tournament beginning the next day. In that event, Carlsen was paired with Garry Kasparov, then the top-rated player in the world. Carlsen achieved a draw in their first game but lost the second, and was thus knocked out of the tournament.
In the sixth Dubai Open Chess Championship, held 18–28 April, Carlsen obtained his third and final GM norm. This achievement made him the world's youngest GM at the time, as well as the second-youngest GM in history at the time (after Sergey Karjakin, who earned the title at the age of 12 years and 7 months). Carlsen played in the FIDE World Chess Championship, thus becoming the youngest player ever to participate in one, but was knocked out in the first round by Levon Aronian.
In July, Carlsen and Berge Østenstad (then the reigning Norwegian champion) tied for first in the Norwegian Chess Championship, each scoring 7/9. A two-game match between them was arranged to decide the title. Both games were drawn, which left Østenstad the champion because he had superior tiebreaks in the tournament.
In the Smartfish Chess Masters event at the Drammen International Chess Festival 2004–05, Carlsen defeated Alexei Shirov, then ranked No. 10 in the world, as well as the co-winner of the tournament. In the semifinals of the Ciudad de León rapid chess tournament in June, Carlsen played a four-game match against Viswanathan Anand, who was ranked No. 2 in the world at the time and had won the 2003 World Rapid Chess Championship. Anand won 3–1.
In the Norwegian Chess Championship, Carlsen again finished in shared first place, this time with his mentor Simen Agdestein. A playoff between them was played between 7 and 10 November. This time, Carlsen had the better tiebreaks, but the rule giving the title to the player with better tiebreak scores in the event of a 1–1 draw had been revoked previously. The match was closely fought—Agdestein won the first game, Carlsen the second—so the match went into a series of two-game rapid matches until there was a winner. Carlsen won the first rapid game, Agdestein the second. Then followed three draws until Agdestein won the championship title with a victory in the sixth rapid game.
At the end of 2005, Carlsen participated at the Chess World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. In the knockout tournament, he upset the 44th-ranked Zurab Azmaiparashvili in round one, and proceeded to defeat Farrukh Amonatov and Ivan Cheparinov to reach the round of 16. There, Carlsen lost to Evgeny Bareev, but then won against Joël Lautier and Vladimir Malakhov before losing again to Gata Kamsky. Thus, Carlsen finished in tenth place and became the youngest player to be an official World Championship Candidate. In October, he took first place at the Arnold Eikrem Memorial in Gausdal with a score 8/9 and a PR of 2792.
Carlsen qualified for a place in the Corus B group due to his first-place finish in Corus group C in 2004. His shared first place with Alexander Motylev with 9/13 (+6−1=6) qualified him to play in the Corus group A in 2007.
At the 2006 international 'Bosna' tournament in Sarajevo, Carlsen shared first place with Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu (who won on tiebreak evaluation) and Vladimir Malakhov; this could be regarded as Carlsen's first "A" elite tournament win, although it was not a clear first.
Carlsen was close to winning the 2006 Norwegian Chess Championship outright, but a last-round loss to Berge Østenstad dropped him into another tie for first place with Agdestein. It also prevented Carlsen from beating Agdestein's record as the youngest Norwegian champion ever. Nonetheless, in the playoff held from 19–21 September, Carlsen won 3–1. After two draws at standard time controls, Carlsen won both rapid games in round two, securing his first Norwegian championship win.
Carlsen won the Glitnir Blitz Tournament in Iceland. He achieved a 2–0 win over Viswanathan Anand in the semifinals and achieved the same score in the finals. He scored 6/8 in the 37th Chess Olympiad and achieved a PR of 2820.
In the Midnight Sun Chess Tournament in Tromsø, Carlsen finished second behind Sergei Shipov. In the Biel Grandmaster Tournament, he placed second, beating the tournament winner Alexander Morozevich twice.
In the NH Chess Tournament held in Amsterdam in August, Carlsen participated in an "Experience" vs. "Rising Stars" Scheveningen team match. The "Rising Stars" won the match 28–22, with Carlsen achieving the best individual score for the Rising Stars team (6½/10) and a 2700 PR, thus winning the right to participate in the 2007 Melody Amber tournament.
With a score of 7½/15, Carlsen placed 8th out of 16 participants at the World Blitz Championship in Rishon LeZion, Israel. In the rapid chess tournament Rencontres nationales et internationales d'échecs in Cap d'Agde, France, he reached the semifinal, losing there to Sergey Karjakin. In November, Carlsen achieved a shared 8th place of 10 participants in the Mikhail Tal Memorial in Moscow with two losses and seven draws. He finished ninth in a group of 18 participants in the associated blitz tournament, which was won by Anand.
Playing in the top group of the Corus chess tournament for the first time, Carlsen placed last with nine draws and four losses, scoring 4½/13. In the Linares chess tournament, Carlsen played against top-rated players Veselin Topalov, Viswanathan Anand, Peter Svidler, Alexander Morozevich, Levon Aronian, Peter Leko, and Vassily Ivanchuk. Despite being rated significantly lower than any of them, he finished in second place on tiebreaks with 7½/14, having scored four wins, seven draws and three losses, and achieving a PR of 2778.
Carlsen played for the first time in the Melody Amber blind and rapid chess tournament in Monte Carlo in March. In the 11 rounds, he achieved eight draws and three losses in the blindfold games, as well as three wins, seven draws and one loss in the rapid games. This resulted in a shared ninth place in the blindfold, shared second place in the rapid (behind Anand), and a shared eighth place overall.
In May and June, he participated in the Candidates Tournament for the FIDE World Chess Championship 2007, facing Levon Aronian in a six-game match at standard time controls, which Carlsen drew (+2−2=2) by coming from behind twice. The four-game rapid playoff was drawn as well (+1−1=2), with Carlsen winning the last game to stay in the match. Eventually, Aronian eliminated Carlsen from the tournament after winning both tiebreak blitz games.
In July and August, Carlsen won the Biel Grandmaster Tournament with a 6/10 record and a PR of 2753. His score was matched by Alexander Onischuk and they played a match to break the tie. After drawing two rapid and two blitz games, Carlsen won the armageddon game. Immediately after the Biel tournament, Carlsen entered the open Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromsø, but his fourth-place result with +5=4 was a slight underperformance in terms of rating. In the first round, Carlsen conceded a draw to his classmate Brede Hagen (rated 2034) after having a lost position at one point. A game which attracted some attention was his sixth-round win over his father, Henrik Carlsen.
Carlsen reached the semifinal round of the World Chess Cup in December, after defeating Michael Adams in the round of 16 and Ivan Cheparinov in the quarterfinals. In the semifinal, he was eliminated by the eventual winner, Gata Kamsky, scoring ½–1½.
In the top group A of the 69th Corus chess tournament, Carlsen scored 8/13, achieving a PR of 2830. Carlsen won five games, lost two and drew six, sharing first place with Levon Aronian. At the Linares chess tournament, Carlsen had another 2800+ PR, scoring 8/14. He finished in sole second place, ½ point behind the winner World Champion Viswanathan Anand.
In March, Carlsen played for the second time in the Melody Amber blind and rapid chess tournament, held in Nice for the first time. In the 11 rounds he achieved four wins, four draws and two losses in the blindfold, and three wins, two losses, and six draws in the rapid. This resulted in a shared fifth place in the blindfold, shared third place in the rapid and a shared second place in the overall tournament.
Carlsen was one of 21 players in the six-tournament FIDE Grand Prix 2008–2009, a qualifier for the World Chess Championship 2012. In the first tournament, in Baku, Azerbaijan, he finished in a three-way tie for first place, with another 2800 PR. Carlsen later withdrew from the Grand Prix cycle despite his initial success, criticizing how FIDE was "changing the rules dramatically in the middle of a [World Championship] cycle".
Carlsen won a rapid match against Peter Leko held in Miskolc, Hungary, scoring 5–3. In June, Carlsen won the annual Aerosvit chess tournament, finishing undefeated with 8/11 in a category 19 field and achieving a PR of 2877, his best PR at that point in his career. Playing in the category 18 Biel Grandmaster Tournament, Carlsen finished third with 6/10, with a PR of 2740.
In the Mainz World Rapid Chess Championship, Carlsen finished in second place after losing the final to defending champion Anand 3–1. In the qualification round Carlsen scoring 1½–½ against Judit Polgár, 1–1 against Anand and 1–1 against Alexander Morozevich. In the category 22 Bilbao Masters, Carlsen tied for second with a 2768 PR.
Playing in Group A of the 71st Corus chess tournament, Carlsen tied for fifth with a 2739 PR. In the Linares chess tournament, Carlsen finished third with a 2777 PR. Carlsen tied for second place with Veselin Topalov at the M-Tel Masters (category 21) tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria. He lost to eventual winner Alexei Shirov in their final game, dropping him from first.
Carlsen won the category 21 Nanjing Pearl Spring tournament, 2½ points ahead of second-place finisher Topalov, the world's highest-rated player at the time. He scored an undefeated 8/10, winning every game as white (against Topalov, Wang Yue, Leko, Teimour Radjabov, and Dmitry Jakovenko), and also winning as black against Jakovenko. By rating performance, this was one of the greatest results in history, with a PR of 3002. Chess statistician Jeff Sonas has declared it one of the 20 best tournament performances of all time, and the best chess performance of all time by a teenager.
In the Tal Memorial, played from 5 to 14 November, Carlsen started with seven straight draws, but finished with wins over former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov and Peter Leko. This result put Carlsen in shared second place behind former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik and equal with Ivanchuk. After the Tal Memorial, Carlsen won the World Blitz Championship, played from 16 to 18 November in Moscow, Russia. His score of 28 wins, 6 draws and 8 losses left him three points ahead of Anand, who finished in second place.
Carlsen entered the London Chess Classic as the top seed in a field including Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura, Michael Adams, Nigel Short, Ni Hua, Luke McShane and David Howell. He defeated Kramnik in round one and went on to win the tournament with 13/21 (three points were awarded for a win, and one for a draw; using classical scoring he finished with 5/7) and a PR of 2844, one point ahead of Kramnik. This victory propelled him to the top of the FIDE rating list, surpassing Veselin Topalov.
Based on his average ranking from the July 2009 and January 2010 FIDE lists, Carlsen qualified for the Candidates Tournament that would determine the challenger to World Champion Viswanathan Anand in the World Chess Championship 2012. In November 2010, however, Carlsen announced he was withdrawing from the Candidates Tournament. Carlsen described the 2008–12 cycle as "[not] sufficiently modern and fair", and wrote that "Reigning champion privileges, the long (five year) span of the cycle, changes made during the cycle resulting in a new format (Candidates) that no World Champion has had to go through since Kasparov, puzzling ranking criteria as well as the shallow ceaseless match-after-match concept are all less than satisfactory in my opinion."
Responding to a question in an interview with Time magazine in December 2009 as to whether he used computers when studying chess, Carlsen explained that he does not use a chess set when studying on his own.
Carlsen won the 72nd Corus chess tournament played 16–31 January with 8½ points. His ninth-round loss to Kramnik ended a streak of 36 rated games undefeated. Carlsen appeared to struggle in the last round against Fabiano Caruana, but saved a draw, leaving him half a point ahead of Kramnik and Shirov.
In March it was announced that Carlsen had split from Kasparov and would no longer use him as a trainer, although this was put into different context by Carlsen himself in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, in which he stated that they would remain in contact and he would continue to attend training sessions with Kasparov. In 2011, Carlsen said: "Thanks to [Kasparov] I began to understand a whole class of positions better. ... Kasparov gave me a great deal of practical help." In 2012, when asked what he learnt from working with Kasparov, Carlsen answered: "Complex positions. That was the most important thing."
Carlsen shared first place alongside Ivanchuk in the Amber blindfold and rapid tournament. Scoring 6½/11 in the blindfold and 8/11 in the rapid, Carlsen accumulated 14½ from a possible 22 points. In May it was revealed that Carlsen had helped Anand prepare for the World Chess Championship 2010 against challenger Veselin Topalov, which Anand won 6½–5½ to retain the title. Carlsen had also helped Anand prepare for the World Chess Championships in 2007 and 2008.
Carlsen played in the Bazna Kings Tournament in Romania on 14–25 June. The tournament was a double round robin involving Wang Yue, Boris Gelfand, Ruslan Ponomariov, Teimour Radjabov, and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu. He finished with 7½/10 and a 2918 PR, winning the tournament by two points ahead of Radjabov and Gelfand. Carlsen then played in a rapid tournament 28–30 August at the Arctic Securities Chess Stars tournament in Kristiansund, Norway. The field featured World Champion Viswanathan Anand, female world No. 1 Judit Polgár, and Jon Ludvig Hammer. In the preliminary round robin, Carlsen scored 3½/6 to qualify for the final, second behind Anand. In the final, Carlsen defeated Anand 1½–½ to win the championship. Following this event, Carlsen suffered setbacks in his next two tournaments. In the 39th Chess Olympiad from 19 September to 4 October, he scored 4½/8, losing three games, to Baadur Jobava, Michael Adams, and Sanan Sjugirov; these were his first losses with the black pieces in more than a year. His team, Norway, finished 51st out of 149 teams.
Carlsen's next tournament was the Grand Slam Masters Final on 9–15 October, which he had qualified for automatically by winning three of the previous year's four Grand Slam chess events (2009 Nanjing Pearl Spring, 2010 Corus, 2010 Bazna Kings). Along with Carlsen, the finals consisted of World Champion Anand and the highest two scorers from the preliminary stage held in Shanghai in September: Kramnik and Shirov. The average Elo of the participants at the time was 2789, making the Grand Slam Final the strongest chess tournament in history. In the first round, Carlsen lost with black to Kramnik; this was Carlsen's second consecutive loss to Kramnik, and placed his hold on the world No. 1 ranking in serious jeopardy. In his second round, Carlsen lost with the white pieces to Anand; this was his first loss as White since January 2010. Carlsen recovered somewhat in the latter part of the tournament, achieving a win over Shirov, and finishing with 2½/6. The tournament was won by Kramnik with 4/6. Carlsen finished this tournament with a rating of 2802, two points behind Anand at 2804 who temporarily ended Carlsen's reign at world No. 1. These setbacks called into question from some whether Carlsen's activities outside chess, such as modelling for G-Star Raw, were distracting him from performing well at the chessboard. Carlsen said he did not believe there was a direct connection.
Carlsen's next tournament was the Pearl Spring chess tournament on 19–30 October in Nanjing, China, against Anand, Topalov, Vugar Gashimov, Wang Yue, and Étienne Bacrot. This was the only tournament in 2010 to feature Anand, Carlsen and Topalov, at the time the top three players in the world, and was the first tournament in history to feature three players rated at least 2800. With early wins over Bacrot, Wang Yue, and Topalov with white, Carlsen took the early lead, extending his winning streak with white in Nanjing to eight. This streak was halted by a draw to Anand in round seven, but in the penultimate round Carlsen secured first place by defeating Topalov with black. This was his second victory in the tournament over the former world No. 1; his final score of 7/10 (with a PR of 2903) was a full point ahead of runner-up Anand.
In the World Blitz Championship, held in Moscow on 16–18 November, Carlsen attempted to defend his 2009 title. With a score of 23½/38, he finished in third place behind Radjabov and winner Levon Aronian. After the tournament, Carlsen played a private 40-game blitz match against Hikaru Nakamura, winning with a score of 23½–16½.
Carlsen won the London Chess Classic on 8–15 December in a field comprising World Champion Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Nakamura, and British players Adams, Nigel Short, David Howell, and Luke McShane. Carlsen had a rocky start, losing his games to McShane and Anand in rounds 1 and 3, but winning with white against Adams and Nakamura in rounds 2 and 4. He joined the lead with a win over Howell in round 5, and managed to stay in the lead following a harrowing draw against Kramnik in round 6, before defeating Short in the last round. Since the tournament was played with three points for a win, Carlsen's +4−2=1 score put him ahead of Anand and McShane who scored +2=5 (a more traditional two-points-for-a-win system would have yielded a three-way tie, with Carlsen still on top, having the better tiebreaker due to four games with black—Anand and McShane played only three times with black).
Carlsen competed in the GM-A group of the 73rd Tata Steel Chess Tournament (formerly called the Corus chess tournament) on 14–30 January in Wijk aan Zee in an attempt to defend his title; the field included World Champion Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian, former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Grischuk, Hikaru Nakamura, Ruslan Ponomariov, among others. Despite losing games with white against Anish Giri and reigning Russian champion Ian Nepomniachtchi, Carlsen finished with 8/13, including victories over Kramnik and tournament winner Nakamura. Although Carlsen's performance raised his rating from 2814 to 2815, Anand's 8½/13 score elevated his rating to 2817, making him the world No. 1 for the March 2011 FIDE rating list.
The first tournament victory of the year came in the Bazna Kings tournament, a double round robin played in Mediaș, Romania on 11–21 June. Carlsen finished with 6½/10, equal with Sergey Karjakin but with a better tiebreak score. Carlsen won his White games against Nakamura, Nisipeanu, and Ivanchuk and drew the rest of the games.
The Grand Slam Chess Final was held as a double round robin with six players, in São Paulo (25 September–1 October) and Bilbao (5–11 October). Although Carlsen had a slow start, including a loss against bottom-ranked Francisco Vallejo Pons, he finished +3−1=6, equal with Ivanchuk (whose +4−3=3 finish was equal due to three points for a win). Carlsen then won the blitz tiebreak against Ivanchuk. The other players were Anand, Aronian, Nakamura, and Vallejo Pons.
Another tournament victory was achieved in the Tal Memorial in Moscow 16–25 November as a round robin with ten players. Carlsen won two games, against Gelfand and Nakamura, and drew the rest. Although he finished equal on points with Aronian, he placed ahead since the tiebreak was determined by the number of black games; Carlsen had five black games, while Aronian only had four.
In the London Chess Classic, played 3–12 December, Carlsen's streak of tournament victories ended when he finished third, behind Kramnik and Nakamura. Carlsen won three games and drew five. Although he did not win the tournament, Carlsen gained rating points, rising to a new personal record of 2835.
At the 74th Tata Steel Chess Tournament held on 14–29 January in Wijk aan Zee, Carlsen finished in a shared second place with 8/13, behind Aronian, and equal with Radjabov and Caruana. Carlsen defeated Gashimov, Aronian, Gelfand, and Topalov, but lost against Karjakin. At the blitz chess tournament at Tal Memorial, held in Moscow on 7 June, Carlsen shared first place with Morozevich. In the main event (a category 22 ten-player round robin), he won two games and drew seven. He finished in first place, ahead of Radjabov and Caruana.
Carlsen then went on to finish second in the Biel Grandmaster Tournament, with 18 points, just one point behind Wang Hao using the 3–1–0 scoring system. As in the Tal Memorial earlier in 2012, Carlsen managed to finish the tournament without any losses (+4−0=6). He also defeated the winner Wang in both of their individual games. In the exhibition blitz tournament at Biel before the GM tournament, Carlsen was eliminated (+1−2=0) in the first round by Étienne Bacrot. Bacrot deprived Carlsen of a win in the classical tournament by holding him to a draw in the final round. Carlsen would have won the classical tournament on the traditional 1–½–0 scoring system, with 7/10.
The Grand Slam Chess Final was again held as a double round robin with six players, in São Paulo and Bilbao. Carlsen started with a loss against Caruana, but after three wins in the second (Bilbao) round, finished +4−1=5, equal first with Caruana, and ahead of Aronian, Karjakin and Anand. Carlsen won the tournament by winning both tiebreak games against Caruana.
From 24 to 25 November, Carlsen took part in the chess festival "Segunda Gran Fiesta Internacional de Ajedrez" in Mexico City. As part of it, Carlsen took on an online audience (dubbed as "The World") with the white pieces and won. He then took part in the knockout exhibition event "Cuadrangular UNAM". Carlsen first beat Lázaro Bruzón 1½–½, thus qualifying for a final against Judit Polgár (who had in turn beat Manuel León Hoyos 1½–½). Carlsen lost the first game, but won the second one, and in the tiebreak defeated Polgár 2–0.
Carlsen won the London Chess Classic in December with five wins (over McShane, Aronian, Gawain Jones, Adams and Judit Polgár) and three draws (against Kramnik, Nakamura and Anand). This win, the third time Carlsen had won the tournament in the past four years, increased his rating from 2848 to a new record of 2861, breaking Kasparov's 13-year record of 2851. By rating performance, this was one of the best results in history, with a PR of 2994.
Carlsen played in the 75th Tata Steel Chess Tournament from 11 to 27 January in Wijk aan Zee. In the 13-round tournament, he scored 10 points (+7−0=6), winning clear first 1½ points ahead of second-place finisher Aronian. On 1 February, Danish GM Peter Heine Nielsen joined the team of assistants who helped Carlsen prepare for the Candidates Tournament in March. Before this, Nielsen was on Viswanathan Anand's team.
Carlsen played in the 2013 Candidates Tournament, which took place in London, from 15 March to 1 April. He finished with +5−2=7, and won the tournament on tiebreak over Vladimir Kramnik. As a result, he earned the right to challenge Anand for the World Championship.
Carlsen played in the Tal Memorial from 12 to 23 June. He finished second, with 5½/9, half a point behind Boris Gelfand. Carlsen ended the tournament with +3−1=5, losing to Caruana but beating Anand, Kramnik and Nakamura. Later that month, Carlsen played a four-game friendly rapid match against Borki Predojević, which he won 2½–1½.
Carlsen faced Anand in the World Chess Championship 2013, at Hyatt Regency in Chennai, India, from 9 to 22 November. Carlsen won the match 6½–3½ by winning games five, six and nine and drawing the remainder. Thus, Carlsen became the new World Chess Champion. Though Carlsen was the challenger, and less experienced than Anand, he handled the pressure with ease. He drew first blood in game 5 by taking advantage of a small mistake made by Anand, and emerged victorious in games 6 and 9, making him the 16th undisputed World Chess Champion.
From 29 January to 4 February, Carlsen played in the Zurich Chess Challenge, winning the blitz event (+2−1=2) and the classical event (+3−0=2). He fared worse in the rapid event (+1−2=2), which counted towards the overall standings, but retained enough of a lead to win the tournament. The other players in the event were Aronian, Nakamura, Caruana, Gelfand and Anand. On 22 March, Carlsen played a game for his club Stavanger in the final team match for promotion to the Norwegian Premier League. His win over Vladimir Georgiev helped his team to a 3½–2½ win over Nordstrand.
Carlsen won the Vugar Gashimov Memorial in Şəmkir, Azerbaijan, played from 20–30 April. He played in the A group along with Caruana, Nakamura, Karjakin, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Radjabov. Carlsen started the tournament with 2/2, beating Mamedyarov and Nakamura. He then drew against Karjakin, only to lose two games in a row for the first time in four years, losing to Caruana with black and then with white to Radjabov. In the second half of the tournament, Carlsen scored 4/5, beating Mamedyarov and Nakamura again, and securing the tournament victory by beating Caruana in the final round, finishing with +5−2=3.
On 8 May, Carlsen played an exhibition game at Oslo City against the people of Norway, assisted by a grandmaster panel consisting of Simen Agdestein, Jon Ludvig Hammer, and Leif Erlend Johannessen. Each of the panel members proposed a move and the public could then vote over the proposed moves. Each panel member was allowed three chances to let chess engine Houdini propose a move during the game. Norway's moves were executed by Oddvar Brå who was disguised in a red spandex suit for the occasion. The game was drawn when Carlsen forced a perpetual check.
From 2–13 June, Carlsen played in the second edition of Norway Chess, a ten-man round robin. He placed second with 5½/9, ½ a point behind the winner Karjakin. Other players in the event were Aronian, Caruana, Topalov, Svidler, Kramnik, Grischuk, Giri and Agdestein.
Carlsen won the FIDE World Rapid Championship, which was held in Dubai from 16 to 19 June. He went on to claim the World Blitz Championship two days later, becoming the first player to simultaneously hold the title in all three FIDE rated time controls.
Carlsen placed second to Fabiano Caruana in the Sinquefield Cup, a six-player double round robin held from 27 August to 7 September. Billed as the strongest chess tournament ever held, the remaining 4 players in the event were Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura, Veselin Topalov, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Carlsen lost to Caruana in round 3 and defeated Aronian and Nakamura in rounds 5 and 7, respectively. He finished the tournament with 5½/10 (+2–1=7), three points behind Caruana.
Carlsen faced Anand in a match for the title of World Chess Champion in 2014. Anand qualified by winning the 2014 Candidates Tournament. The rematch was held from 7 to 23 November in Sochi, Russia. After 11 of 12 games, Carlsen led 6½–4½, thereby defending his World Champion title.
In January, Carlsen won the 77th Tata Steel Chess Tournament, which was played mainly in Wijk aan Zee on 9–25 January. Carlsen had a poor start to the tournament with two draws and a loss in the third round to Radosław Wojtaszek, which left him in tenth place among the fourteen players. However, a string of six wins in a row thrust Carlsen into clear first place. Drawing the final four games was sufficient to win the tournament with 9 points out of 13, half a point ahead of Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So and Ding Liren.
In February, Carlsen won the 3rd Grenke Chess Classic after a five-game tiebreak with Arkadij Naiditsch. Carlsen had finished joint first with Naiditsch on 4½/7, beating Michael Adams, Anand, and David Baramidze, and losing to Naiditsch in their classical encounter. This tournament victory meant that Carlsen began 2015 by winning two out of two tournaments. Carlsen continued his streak in April, winning Shamkir Chess with a score of 7/9 (+5–0=4), defeating Mamedyarov, Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave, Kramnik, and Rauf Mamedov. With a performance rating of 2983, this was Carlsen's third best tournament result ever, behind only Nanjing 2009 (3002 TPR) and London 2012 (2993 TPR).
Carlsen had a poor result in the third edition of Norway Chess, held 15–26 June. In the first round he obtained a winning position against Topalov after pressing in a long endgame, only to lose on time when he mistakenly thought that he would receive 15 minutes of extra time at move 60. He was then outplayed by Caruana in the second round, missed a win against Anish Giri in round 3, and lost to Anand in round 4. He won against Grischuk in round 5, drew against Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave in rounds 6 and 7, and defeated Aronian in round 8, but he lost the last round against Jon Ludvig Hammer, leaving him in seventh place and with a performance rating of 2693. Carlsen said of this result: "It's just extremely frustrating not to be able to show anything close to what I am capable of in my home country."
From 22 August to 3 September, Carlsen played in the 2015 Sinquefield Cup. He finished in second place with 5/9 (+3–2=4), one point behind winner Levon Aronian. He defeated the 2014 Sinquefield winner Fabiano Caruana, as well as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and wild-card Wesley So, but lost to Veselin Topalov and Alexander Grischuk.
In October, Carlsen successfully defended his title in the FIDE World Rapid Championships held in Berlin, as the first World Rapid Champion to do so in history, going +8–0=7. He reached the highest live rapid rating in history after the tournament, and was at that point ranked No. 1 in all three disciplines simultaneously. However, Carlsen lost his No. 1 blitz ranking after he had a weak second day in the World Blitz Championship, and was unable to retain his World Blitz Champion title, losing it to Alexander Grischuk.
In November, Carlsen participated in the European Team Chess Championship with the Norwegian team. He started off poorly, scoring ½ points out of 3 games, losing to Levon Aronian, drawing against Sune Berg Hansen, and losing again to Yannick Pelletier due to a blunder. However, he finished the tournament strongly, scoring victories against Peter Leko and Radoslaw Wojtaszek, the latter of whom he had lost to earlier in the year, but his performance was not enough to earn his team a medal, and he lost 16 rating points during the event.
From 4–13 December, Carlsen participated in the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour, the London Chess Classic. He scored 5½/9 (+2–0=7) in the event, defeating Nakamura (thus inflicting Nakamura's 12th classical loss to Carlsen) and Grischuk, and finished joint first with Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. In the 3-way tiebreak, Carlsen was the top seed, meaning he faced the winner of the first tie-break match between Giri and Vachier-Lagrave. Carlsen eventually won the tournament by defeating Vachier-Lagrave, which meant he also won the overall Grand Chess Tour. Carlsen then played in the second edition of the Qatar Masters Open, which was held from 20 to 29 December. He finished joint first with 7/9 (+5–0=4), and defeated Yu Yangyi in a tie-break match to win the tournament.
From 15 to 31 January, Carlsen participated in the 78th Tata Steel Chess Tournament, held in Wijk Aan Zee. Carlsen won the tournament by scoring 9 points out of 13 (+5–0=8), earning him his 5th Wijk Aan Zee title.
From 18 to 30 April, Carlsen played in the fourth edition of the Norway Chess Tournament. He finished in first place with 6/9 (+4–1=4), half a point ahead of Levon Aronian, and a full point in front of Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. This was Carlsen's first Norway Chess victory.
In July, Carlsen won the 9th edition of the Bilbao Masters Final, scoring 17 points out of 10 games (+4–1=5; a win was 3 points, a draw was 1 point). His only loss was to Hikaru Nakamura, who had never beaten Carlsen in classical chess before. Also during this tournament, Carlsen recorded his first victory over Anish Giri in a classical game.
Carlsen also featured in Chess.com's Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship. Magnus defeated Tigran L. Petrosian 21 to 4 in the first round, and beat Alexander Grischuk 16 to 8 in the semi final. On 27 October, he faced Nakamura in the final. Playing both blitz and bullet chess for a total of three hours, Carlsen defeated Nakamura 14½ to 10½ and became the first winner of the Chess.com Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship.
From 26 to 30 December, Carlsen played in the World Rapid and Blitz Championships held in Doha, Qatar. He scored 11/15 in the rapid tournament, finishing third on tiebreak behind Ivanchuk and Grischuk. In the blitz tournament, he scored 16½/21, finishing second on tiebreak behind Karjakin, and 2 points clear of the rest of the field.
Carlsen faced Sergey Karjakin in the 2016 World Chess Championship in New York City. The 12-game standard match, held between 11 November and 28 November, concluded with a 6–6 draw. The match began with seven consecutive draws. Karjakin won game 8 after Carlsen overpressed, but Carlsen equalised the match in game 10. Games 11 and 12 were both drawn. The tiebreaking games were held on 30 November, Carlsen's 26th birthday. After drawing games 1 and 2, Carlsen won games 3 and 4 to record a 3–1 victory and retain his World Champion title.
In January, Carlsen participated in the 79th Tata Steel Chess Tournament. He started well, scoring 2 wins and 4 draws in his first 6 games, but missed mate-in-3 versus Giri in round 7, which Giri described as "the most embarrassing moment" of Carlsen's career. Carlsen then lost in round 8 to Richárd Rapport, and ultimately placed second with 8/13 (+4–1=8), one point behind winner Wesley So.
From 13 to 22 April, Carlsen competed in the 4th GRENKE Chess Classic, finishing in joint second place, though third on tiebreaks, with Fabiano Caruana, with a score of 4/7 (+1–0=6). The clear winner with 5½ points (+4–0=3) was Levon Aronian. As a result, Carlsen's FIDE rating dropped to 2832, his lowest since November 2011 (2826).
Carlsen participated in the fifth edition of Norway Chess from 6–16 June. Carlsen performed poorly and had a performance rating of 2755, his lowest since 2015 (2693, also at Norway Chess). Ultimately, he placed ninth in the ten man round-robin tournament with 4/9 (+1–2=6), losing two games (to Aronian and Kramnik) and winning only against Karjakin. Aronian won the tournament with 6/9.
Carlsen played in the Paris leg of the 2017 Grand Chess Tour, which was held from 21–25 June. He finished first in the rapid portion of the tournament with 14/18 (+5–0=4; two points for a win) and fifth in the blitz portion with 10/18 (+8–6=4) to place joint first overall with Vachier-Lagrave. Carlsen then defeated Vachier-Lagrave in the playoff to win the tournament.
From 28 June to 2 July, he played in the Leuven leg of the Grand Chess Tour. He won this tournament convincingly, scoring 11/18 (+3–1=5; two points for a win) in the rapid portion and 14½/18 (+12–1=5) in the blitz portion for an overall score of 25½/36, three points ahead of the runner-up, Wesley So. Carlsen's performance rating in the blitz portion of the tournament was 3018, which Garry Kasparov described as "phenomenal". Additionally, Leonard Barden, writing for The Guardian, said the performance was only matched by Fischer's 19/22 score at the 1970 World Blitz Championship.
From 2 August to 11 August, Carlsen competed in the Sinquefield Cup, the first classical event of the Grand Chess Tour. He finished joint second with Anand, scoring 5½/9 (+3–1=5). He recorded three victories (against Karjakin, So and Aronian), and his one loss was to Vachier-Lagrave, who won the tournament with 6/9 (+3–0=6). This result left Carlsen in first place in the Grand Chess Tour standings with 34 points, three points ahead of second place Vachier-Lagrave.
Carlsen won the Chess Oscars for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Chess Oscar, organised by the Russian chess magazine 64, was awarded to the year's best player according to a worldwide poll of leading chess critics, writers, and journalists, but was no longer awarded after 2013 as 64 ceased publication.
The Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang (VG) has awarded Carlsen the "Name of the Year" (Årets navn) twice, in 2009 and 2013. VG also named him "Sportsman of the Year" in 2009. Carlsen has also won the Folkets Idrettspris, a people's choice award from the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, in 2009 and 2010.
Carlsen had an aggressive style of play as a youth, and, according to Agdestein, his play was characterised by "a fearless readiness to offer material for activity". Carlsen found as he matured that this risky playing style was not as well suited against the world elite. When he started playing in top tournaments he was struggling against top players, and had trouble getting much out of the opening. To progress, Carlsen's style became more universal, capable of handling all sorts of positions well. Carlsen opens with both 1.d4 and 1.e4, as well as 1.c4, and, on occasion, 1.Nf3, thus making it harder for opponents to prepare against him. Evgeny Sveshnikov has criticised Carlsen's opening play, claiming in a 2013 interview that without a more "scientific" approach to preparation, his "future doesn't look so promising".
Garry Kasparov, who coached Carlsen from 2009 to 2010, said that Carlsen has a positional style similar to that of past world champions such as Anatoly Karpov, José Raúl Capablanca, and Vasily Smyslov, rather than the tactical style of Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Tal, and Kasparov himself. According to Carlsen, however, he does not have any preferences in playing style. Kasparov said in 2013 that "Carlsen is a combination of Karpov [and] Fischer. He gets his positions [and] then never lets go of that bulldog bite. Exhausting for opponents." Carlsen has also stated that he follows in the traditions of Karpov and Fischer, but additionally mentions Reuben Fine as a player who "was doing in chess similar to what I am doing."
Anand said of Carlsen in 2012: "Magnus has an incredible innate sense. ... The majority of ideas occur to him absolutely naturally. He's also very flexible, he knows all the structures and he can play almost any position." He also compared Carlsen to Boris Spassky in his prime, and stated that "Magnus can literally do almost everything." Kasparov expressed similar sentiments: "[Carlsen] has the ability to correctly evaluate any position, which only Karpov could boast of before him."
In a 2012 interview, Vladimir Kramnik stated that Carlsen's "excellent physical shape" was a contributing factor to his success against other top players as it prevents "psychological lapses", which enables Carlsen to maintain a high standard of play over long games and at the end of tournaments, when the energy levels of others have dropped. Tyler Cowen gave a point of view on Carlsen's playing style: "Carlsen is demonstrating one of his most feared qualities, namely his 'nettlesomeness,' to use a term coined for this purpose by Ken Regan. Using computer analysis, you can measure which players do the most to cause their opponents to make mistakes. Carlsen has the highest nettlesomeness score by this metric, because his creative moves pressure the other player and open up a lot of room for mistakes. In contrast, a player such as Kramnik plays a high percentage of very accurate moves, and of course he is very strong, but those moves are in some way calmer and they are less likely to induce mistakes in response."
Carlsen's endgame prowess has been described as among the greatest in history. Jon Speelman, analysing several of Carlsen's endgames from the 2012 London Classic (in particular, his wins against McShane, Aronian, and Adams), described what he calls the "Carlsen effect":
... through the combined force of his skill and no less important his reputation, he drives his opponents into errors. ... He plays on for ever, calmly, methodically and, perhaps most importantly of all, without fear: calculating superbly, with very few outright mistakes and a good proportion of the "very best" moves. This makes him a monster and makes many opponents wilt.
An artificial intelligence approach, designed by Jean-Marc Alliot of the Institut de recherche en informatique de Toulouse ("Toulouse Computer Science Research Institute"), which compares chess grandmaster moves against that of Stockfish—a chess engine which outperforms all human opponents—rated Carlsen as the best player of all time as he had the highest probability of all World Chess Champions to play the moves which Stockfish suggested.
In the January 2006 FIDE list, at the age of 15 years and 32 days, Carlsen attained a 2625 Elo rating, which made him the youngest person to surpass 2600 Elo (the record has since been broken by Wesley So, Wei Yi and John M. Burke). In the July 2007 FIDE list, at the age of 16 years and 213 days, Carlsen attained a 2710 Elo rating, which made him the youngest person to surpass 2700 Elo (the record has since been broken by Wei Yi).
On 5 September 2008, after winning in round 4 of the Bilbao Masters, Carlsen, aged 17 years and 280 days old, briefly became No. 1 on the unofficial live ratings list. Carlsen's victory in the 2009 Nanjing Pearl tournament raised his FIDE rating to 2801, making him, aged 18 years and 336 days, the youngest player ever to surpass 2800 Elo. The youngest before Carlsen to achieve this feat was Vladimir Kramnik at the age of 25, and up until this point, only Kasparov, Topalov, Kramnik, and Anand had achieved a 2800+ rating.
The FIDE rankings in January 2010 recorded Carlsen's rating at 2810, which made him No. 1 rated player in the world. This meant that Carlsen became, at the age of 19 years and 32 days, the youngest ever world No. 1, as well as the first player from a Western nation to reach the top of the FIDE rating list since Bobby Fischer in 1971. The press coverage of this feat included an interview and article in Time magazine.
The March 2010 FIDE rating list showed Carlsen with a new peak rating of 2813, a figure that only Kasparov had bettered at that time. On the January 2013 FIDE rating list, Carlsen reached 2861, thus surpassing Garry Kasparov's 2851 record from July 1999. In the May 2014 rankings, Carlsen achieved an all-time high record of 2882.
|Sortable record list versus 2700+ grandmasters|
All links in this section lead to an external site.
Carlsen's complete PGN chess game collection can be downloaded from SmallChess.
Carlsen modelled for G-Star Raw's Autumn/Winter 2010 advertising campaign along with American actress Liv Tyler. The campaign was shot by Dutch film director and photographer Anton Corbijn. The campaign was coordinated with the RAW World Chess Challenge in New York, an event where Carlsen played an online team of global chess players who voted on moves suggested by three GMs: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, and Judit Polgár. Carlsen, playing white, won in 43 moves.
Film director J. J. Abrams offered Carlsen a role in the movie Star Trek Into Darkness as "a chess player from the future", but Carlsen was unable to get a work permit in time for shooting. In 2012, Carlsen was featured in a 60 Minutes segment and appeared as a guest on The Colbert Report. He was also interviewed by Rainn Wilson for SoulPancake in 2013.
As of 2012[update], Carlsen is the only active chess professional with a full-time manager; Espen Agdestein, a FIDE Master and brother of Carlsen's former trainer Simen Agdestein, began working as an agent for Carlsen in late 2008. Agdestein's work consisted initially of finding sponsors and negotiating media contacts but, since 2011, he has taken over management tasks formerly performed by Carlsen's father Henrik. According to The New York Times, Carlsen earned US$1.2 million in 2012, the bulk of which was from sponsorships.
In October 2013, Carlsen started his majority-owned company, Play Magnus AS. Based in Oslo, Norway, Play Magnus' first product was an iOS app, called Play Magnus, that allows the user to play a Magnus Carlsen-tuned chess engine created using a database of thousands of Carlsen's recorded games from the age of 5. Carlsen's goal is to use Play Magnus as a platform to encourage more people to play chess.
In a 2008 Q&A session with Nettavisen, Carlsen was asked whether he had a form of autism, and replied "Well, isn't that obvious?" In a December 2013 interview with Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, he clarified that the response was a joke and he had meant "obviously not". He also stated: "I feel I'm miles away from anyone with autism. I consider myself to have normal social skills and to be functioning normally."
Phenomenal performance by Magnus. As I said during the round, it looked like everyone else was playing blitz while he was playing chess!
|World Chess Champion
Lê Quang Liêm
|World Blitz Chess Champion
|World Rapid Chess Champion
|World No. 1
1 January 2010 – 31 October 2010
1 January 2011 – 28 February 2011
1 July 2011 – present
|Norwegian Sportsperson of the Year
Ole Einar Bjørndalen
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