Carlsen’s Legacy at 31
Magnus Carlsen is currently the defending World Champion against Ian Nepomniachtchi in Dubai, and today along with the fourth game of the World Championship, Magnus is turning 31.
If we could put Magnus’ legacy in a sentence, then we would use the words of the author Olimpiu G. Urcan: “Magnus is the world’s highest-rated chess player for 10 years and counting, highest rating in history, nearly 40 super-tournament wins, longest unbeaten streak in top-level standard play, four world championship titles and counting.”
In chess enthusiasts’, journalists’, and elite players’ conversations, Magnus is considered one of the best chess players of all time, with Kasparov and Fischer holding their spots at the top. The Norwegian GM transitioned from young world-class player to all-time great, and in Nepo’s words “He wasn’t one to pay attention because Norway didn’t have a chess tradition, like Russia”
A 13-year-old prodigy
Carlsen’s impressive memory and puzzle skills at a very young age, led his father to introduce him to chess when he was only five. After the tremendous talent recognized by his family, Carlsen was coached by Norway’s top player, the seven-time national champion GM Simen Agdestein, who with former Norwegian junior champion Torbjorn Ringdal Hansen helped Carlsen increase his rating by more than 1,000 points in the year 2000.
Two of Carlsen’s most memorable early successes were his draws against Garry Kasparov, then the number-one player in the world, and GM Anatoly Karpov, one month before he became the second-youngest GM in history.
The Youngest 2800 In History
At the age of 18, Carlsen won the Pearl Spring Chess Tournament, with 8/10 points, finishing 2.5 points ahead of the top-rated player in the world at the time, GM Veselin Topalov. This tournament was not only the herald of his win at the 2013 Candidates Tournament, but it also gave him 29 rating points and a new rating of 2801. At that moment, Magnus became the fifth player in history to break 2800 and (still) the youngest to do so.
The highest rating in FIDE’s history
In December 2012, Carlsen won the 2012 London Chess Classic, finishing ahead of legendary GMs, including Kramnik, Michael Adams, Nakamura, Anand, Aronian, and Polgar.
After his performance at the London Chess Classic, Carlsen broke Kasparov’s 13-year-old rating record (2851), and in January 2013, he reached the highest rating in FIDE’s history (2861).
Carlsen vs Anand (2013)
In April 2013, Carlsen won the 2013 Candidates Tournament on tiebreaks over the world’s number-two player at the time, Vladimir Kramnik, and was ready for the match of his life in Chennai, India, against the local legend Vishy Anand.
At that point, the two GMs had almost 100 rating points difference, but Anand was the undisputed Champion from 2007 to 2013. After 10 long games, Carlsen became the World Champion by a score of 6.5-3.5, celebrating his 23-birthday in the best way possible.
This Championship made Carlsen the second-youngest World Champion in chess history, only surpassed by Garry Kasparov, who stated at the Time Magazine: “The guard has been changed at the top of the chess world”.
Carlsen vs Karjakin (2016)
In 2016, it was Carlsen who defended his title against GM Sergey Karjakin, who had won the 2015 FIDE World Cup over GM Fabiano Caruana.
Draws ensued until the eighth game when the Russian player won the ninth game with Black and made Carlsen walk out of his press conference after that game. In the 10th game, Carlsen evened the score, and the match was led to rapid tiebreaks, after some long and shaky draws.
It turned out Carlsen had the mental toughness to bounce back and eventually become the World Champion for the second consecutive time.
Carlsen vs Caruana (2018)
In November 2018, Caruana made it to the Challenger’s chair and was more than determined to take the crown from Carlsen. After 12 frightful games, the two GMs ended in a tie and the Title was to be decided at the tiebreaks.
Even though many complained that Carlsen offered a draw in a better position, the World Champion later explained that he was confident in his ability to win the tiebreaks, which he did impressively. After taking all three rapid games, the Norwegian GM held the Cup one more time.
Carlsen vs Nepomniachtchi (2021)
The 2021 World Championship match between Carlsen and Russian’s No.1 and 2021 Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi is ongoing with the 3rd game leaving everyone with a slight disappointment.
Despite the three draws, it feels that the two GMs are playing what appears to be the most accurate (according to engines) FIDE World Championship game of chess ever.
Carlsen, in his last newspaper interview before the Championship, stated that he is less hungry: “I think you’re always going to be if you’re playing for the world title for the fifth time, rather than the first.”. On the other hand, the World Champion has played more than 3,000 games since January 2021, and has won four major tournaments over the year!
Today, on his fourth game defending the World Title, Magnus is likely to get a warm welcome at the playing hall, but will probably try to ignore the noise as he is famously focused on the games. His supporters hope he will have plenty to celebrate after the match finishes!