In November 2013 Carlsen became World Champion by defeating Viswanathan Anand in the World Chess Championship 2013. On the May 2014 FIDE rating list, Carlsen reached his peak rating of 2882, which is the highest in history. He successfully defended his title in November 2014, once again defeating Anand. The same year, he also won the World Rapid Championship and the World Blitz Championship, thus holding all three world championship titles. In 2015 Carlsen won the inaugural Grand Chess Tour, a series of three supertournaments featuring the 10 best chess grandmasters in the world.
Carlsen was known for his attacking style as a teenager, but he has since developed into a more universal player. He does not rely on opening preparation as much as other top players, and plays a variety of openings in order to make it more difficult for opponents to prepare against him. Carlsen's positional mastery and endgame prowess have drawn comparisons to those of former world champions Bobby Fischer, José Raúl Capablanca, Vasily Smyslov, and Anatoly Karpov.
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, and in 1998 returned to Norway and settled 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.
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 at a time—moving the pieces around the chessboard, searching for combinations, and replaying games and positions shown to him by his father. Simen Agdestein emphasises Carlsen's extreme memory, claiming 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, scoring 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 Carlsen studied about three to four hours a day, his favourite pastimes included football, skiing, and reading Donald Duck comics. Carlsen also practiced ski jumping until the age of ten. His personal best is 21 metres.
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 finished in a tie for third in the European Under-14 Championship and placed ninth in the World Under-14 Championship. Both events were won by Sergei Zhigalko.
Carlsen made headlines after his victory in the C group at the 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, which 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 and lost the second one, 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 caused him to become the world's youngest GM at the time, as well as the third-youngest GM in history (after Sergey Karjakin, who earned the title at the age of 12 years and 7 months and Parimarjan Negi). 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 traditional international 'Bosna' tournament in Sarajevo 2006, 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 prestigious Linares chess tournament, Carlsen played against the following 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 in the overall tournament.
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 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 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."
In early 2009 Carlsen engaged former World Champion Garry Kasparov as a personal trainer. In September their partnership was revealed to the public by Norwegian newspapers.
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 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 Tata Steel Chess Tournament (formerly called 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 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 Champion title.
In May, Carlsen played in the first edition of Norway Chess tournament. He finished second, scoring 5½/9 (+3−1=5), half a point behind Sergey Karjakin.
Carlsen played in the Tal Memorial from June 12 to June 23. 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.
In the Sinquefield Cup, held in September, Carlsen finished first, scoring +3−0=3, a point ahead of Nakamura.
World Chess Championship 2013
Carlsen faced Anand in the World Chess Championship 2013 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.
From 29 January to 4 February, Carlsen played in the Zurich Chess Challenge, winning the preliminary blitz event (+2−1=2) and the classical event (+3−0=2). He performed less well 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.
Carlsen played a game for his club Stavanger in the final team match for promotion to the Norwegian Premier League on 22 March. 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 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, Leif Erlend Johannessen, and Jon Ludvig Hammer. 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.
Carlsen placed second (to Sergey Karjakin) in the second edition of Norway Chess, a ten-player round robin, from 2 June to 13 June. Other players in the event were Aronian, Caruana, Topalov, Svidler, Kramnik, Grischuk, Giri and Agdestein.
Carlsen won FIDE World Rapid Championships held in Dubai from 16 June to 19 June. He went on to claim the World Blitz Championships 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 in Saint Louis, Missouri 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. He lost to Fabiano Caruana in Round 3 and defeated Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura in Rounds 5 and 7, respectively. He finished the tournament in second place, with 5.5/10 (+2-1=7), behind Caruana.
World Chess Championship 2014
Carlsen faced Anand in a match for the title of World Chess Champion in November 2014, as Anand qualified by winning the 2014 Candidates Tournament. The rematch was held from November 7 to 23 in Sochi, Russia. After 11 of 12 games, Carlsen led 6.5–4.5, thereby defending his World Champion title.
In January, Carlsen won the 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 in Baden-Baden after a five-game tiebreak with Arkadij Naiditsch. Carlsen finished equal first with Naiditsch on 4.5/7, 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, beating Mamedyarov, Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave, Kramnik, and Rauf Mamedov, going +5-0=4. With a performance rating of 2981, this was Carlsen's third best tournament result ever. His performance was only bested in Nanjing 2009 (3002 TPR) and London 2012 (2993 TPR). Carlsen had a poor result in the Norway Chess event of 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 tied for seventh and eighth place. Carlsen finished 2nd place at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup with 5 points, one point below tournament winner Levon Aronian. He defeated the 2014 Sinquefield Cup's winner Fabiano Caruana, French #1 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 #1 in all three disciplines simultaneously. However, Carlsen quickly lost his #1 blitz spot after he had a weak second day in the World Blitz Championship, causing him to lose his title to Alexander Grischuk. In November 2015, Carlsen participated in the European Team Chess Championship, playing for the Norwegian team. He started off poorly, scoring 0.5 points out of 3 games - losing to Levon Aronian, drawing against Sune Berg Hansen, and losing again to Yannick Pelletier due to a blunder. 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. However, his performance was not enough to earn his team a medal, and he lost 16 rating points during the event. In December 2015, Carlsen participated in the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour, the London Chess Classic. He scored +2-0=7 in the event, defeating Hikaru Nakamura (and inflicting Nakamura's 12th classical loss to Carlsen) and Alexander Grischuk. In the 3-way tiebreak between Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, he was the top seed, meaning he faced the winner of the two-game match between Giri and Vachier-Lagrave. He eventually won against the match, the Classic, and the overall inaugural Grand Chess Tour, earning him $75,000 for the London Chess Classic and the Grand Chess Tour bonus prizes. In late-December 2015, Carlsen won first place at the 2nd edition of the Qatar Masters Open, defeating Grandmaster Yu Yangyi in a tie-break after both players had finished on a +5 score. This concluded his final tournament for the 2015 year.
From January 15 to 31, 2016, Carlsen participated in the 78th Tata Steel Chess Tournament, held in Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands. Carlsen won the tournament by scoring 9 points out of 13 (+5-0=8), earning him his 5th Wijk Aan Zee title.
On April 29th, 2016, Magnus Carlsen won the 4th edition of the Norway Chess Tournament, after scoring a final round victory against Pavel Eljanov.
In July 2016, Carlsen won the 9th edition of the Bilbao Masters Final, scoring 17 points out of 10 games (+4-1=5). Wins were awarded with 3 points, a draw with 1 point and losses with 0 points. His only loss was against rival Hikaru Nakamura, Hikaru never beating Carlsen until now in classical time control chess.
Carlsen played ten games for Norway in the 42nd Chess Olympiad, scoring five wins and five draws, as the Norwegian team placed 5th among the 180 teams in the open event.
Carlsen won the Chess Oscars for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Chess Oscar, conducted by the Russian chess magazine 64, is awarded to the year's best player according to a worldwide poll of leading chess critics, writers, and journalists. The Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang (VG) has awarded him "Name of the Year" (Årets navn) twice, in 2009 and 2013. VG also named him "Sportsman of the year" in 2009 and in the same year he won the Folkets Idrettspris, a people's choice award from the newspaper Dagbladet. In 2011, he was given the Peer Gynt Prize, a Norwegian honour prize awarded annually to "a person or institution that has achieved distinction in society"; the following year, he repeated as winner of Folkets Idrettspris. In 2013, Time magazine named Carlsen one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
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 also mentions Reuben Fine as a player who "was doing in chess similar to what I am doing." Anand has said of Carlsen: "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. ... 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 attributed much of Carlsen's success against other top players to his "excellent physical shape" and his ability to avoid "psychological lapses", which enables him 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.
In the January 2006 FIDE list, at the age of 15 years, 32 days, he attained a 2625 Elo rating, which made Carlsen 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, 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 at the age of 15 years, 9 months). On 5 September 2008, after winning round 4 in the Bilbao Grand Slam chess championship, Carlsen, just 17 years, 280 days old, briefly became No. 1 on the unofficial live ratings list. Carlsen's September–October 2009 victory in the Nanjing Pearl tournament raised his FIDE rating to 2801, making him at age 18 years, 336 days, the youngest player ever to break 2800. The youngest before him was Vladimir Kramnik at age 25. Before Carlsen, only Kasparov, Topalov, Kramnik, and Anand had achieved a 2800+ rating. After the Tal Memorial (November 2009) he became No. 1 on the unofficial live chess rating list with his new peak rating of 2805.7, 0.6 point over the No. 2 ranked player, Veselin Topalov.
The FIDE rankings from January 2010, which took into account the 16 games played at the Tal Memorial and the London Chess Classic, were enough to raise Carlsen's rating to 2810. This meant that Carlsen started 2010 by being, at the age of 19 years, 32 days, the youngest ever world No. 1, and also 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. On list from May 2014, Carlsen achieved an all-time high record of 2882.
Head-to-head record versus selected grandmasters
(Rapid, blitz and blindfold games not included; listed as +wins −losses =draws as of 23 Jul 2016.)
Players who have been undisputed World Champion in boldface
- Michael Adams +9−1=6
- Viswanathan Anand +10−8=38
- Levon Aronian +12−6=31
- Étienne Bacrot +3−0=8
- Fabiano Caruana +8−5=10
- Li Chao +1−0=1
- Leinier Domínguez +5−0=5
- Pavel Eljanov +4-0=0
- Boris Gelfand +5−1=9
- Anish Giri +1−1=14
- Alexander Grischuk +4−1=8
- Wang Hao +3−2=1
- Pentala Harikrishna +2−1=2
- Jon Ludvig Hammer +4-1=0
- Hou Yifan +3-0=0
- Vassily Ivanchuk +8−3=15
- Dmitry Jakovenko +4−0=2
- Baadur Jobava +2−2=2
- Gata Kamsky +3−2=6
- Sergey Karjakin +4−1=16
- Vladimir Kramnik +6−4=14
- Peter Leko +3−3=10
- Ding Liren +0-0=2
- Shakhriyar Mamedyarov +5−1=7
- Alexander Morozevich +3−0=8
- Arkadij Naiditsch +3−2=7
- Hikaru Nakamura +12−1=19
- David Navara +1−1=4
- Ian Nepomniachtchi +0−3=1
- Judit Polgár +2−0=1
- Ruslan Ponomariov +2−1=3
- Teimour Radjabov +9−2=18
- Alexei Shirov +6−2=8
- Nigel Short +2−0=3
- Wesley So +2−0=5
- Peter Svidler +1−2=10
- Evgeny Tomashevsky +1−0=1
- Veselin Topalov +8−5=10
- Maxime Vachier-Lagrave +5−1=9
- Loek van Wely +7−2=5
- Wei Yi +1−0=2
- Radosław Wojtaszek +2-1=0
|Sortable record list|
All links in this section lead to an external site.
- At the age of just 13 years, Carlsen had serious winning chances in a rapid game against Garry Kasparov, ranked No. 1 in the world at that time, and considered by many to be the greatest chess player of all time.
- This was Carlsen's first win against a 2800+ player.
- The No. 1 Israeli player and future World Championship challenger creates a seemingly decisive rook invasion into White's back rank, but Carlsen vanquishes his threats. Carlsen called it "one of the most interesting games I have played in recent times".
- Facing the No. 1 American player, Carlsen demolishes Black's pawn structure.
- Playing against the then World Champion in a game he considers one of the best in his career, Carlsen sacrifices a pawn to leave Black with a cramped position, leading to his resignation at move 30.
Carlsen's complete PGN chess game collection can be downloaded from
Carlsen modelled for G-Star Raw's Autumn/Winter 2010 advertising campaign with 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 he had to decline, unable to get a US 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. Carlsen was selected as one of the "sexiest men of 2013" by Cosmopolitan. In August 2013, Carlsen became an ambassador for Nordic Semiconductor.
As of 2012, Carlsen is the only active chess professional with a full-time manager. Espen Agdestein, brother of Carlsen's former trainer Simen, and a FIDE Master and twice member of the Norwegian team at the Chess Olympiads, began working as an agent for Carlsen in late 2008. His 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. Carlsen reportedly earned roughly 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 is an iOS app that allows a user to play a Magnus Carlsen-tuned chess engine at 21 different ages (from ages 5 to 25). The chess engine was created using a database of thousands of Carlsen's recorded games from the age of 10. Carlsen's goal is to use Play Magnus as a platform to encourage more people to play chess.
In 2008 during a Q&A session with Nettavisen, when Carlsen was asked whether he had a form of autism spectrum disorder, he replied "well, isn't that obvious?" In December 2013, in an interview with Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang, he clarified that he had meant "obviously not", and said that he considers himself to have "normal social skills and to be functioning normally."
In February 2014, Carlsen appeared in G-Star Raw's Spring/Summer 2014 campaign along with actress and model Lily Cole.
Books and films
- Valaker, O; Carlsen, M. (2004). Lær sjakk med Magnus [Learn Chess with Magnus]. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag. ISBN 978-82-05-33963-7.
- The Prince of Chess, a film about Magnus Carlsen (2005). Directed by Øyvind Asbjørnsen.
- Opedal, Hallgeir (2011). Smarte trekk. Magnus Carlsen: Verdens beste sjakkspiller [Smart Moves. Magnus Carlsen: The World's Best Chess Player]. Kagge. ISBN 978-82-489-1050-3
- Mikhalchishin, Adrian; Stetsko, Oleg. (2012). Fighting Chess with Magnus Carlsen (Progress in Chess). Edition Olms. ISBN 978-3-283-01020-1.
- Crouch, Colin (2013). Magnus Force: How Carlsen Beat Kasparov's Record. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-78194-133-1.
- Kotronias, Vassilios & Logothetis, Sotiris (2013). Carlsen's assault on the throne. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-1-906552-22-0.
- Magnus (2016). Directed by Benjamin Ree.