Magnus Carlsen

  • Born:
    30 Nov 1990 Tønsberg, Norway
  • FIDE Title:
  • FIDE ID:
  • Federation:
  • Peak Rating:
    2872 (February 2013)

“The Chess Olympiad in Tromsø, Norway, 2014 will be a unique experience for the participants, combining chess at the highest level with visiting such an exciting destination north of the Arctic Circle. The stunning environment surrounding a compact city centre will contribute to a great atmosphere and successful event.”

Carlsen is the reigning World Champion and the new face of chess. In 2013, at the age of 22, he defeated Viswanathan Anand to become the second youngest undisputed World Champion in history (Garry Kasparov beat him by a few months), though he’d already been the man to beat for the previous three years.

Child’s play

A child prodigy who memorised the names and populations of Norway’s 430 municipalities as a five-year-old, he claimed the grandmaster title at 13 and was christened “the Mozart of Chess” by the Washington Post. His progress never stopped, and on the 1st January 2010, aged 19, he became the youngest player in history to rank as world no. 1. Although he disappointed many chess fans later that year by announcing his withdrawal from the World Championship series he went to open up a huge ratings gap over his rivals and eventually surpassed Garry Kasparov’s record 2851 rating.

Coaching from a legend

Kasparov presents the London Chess Classic 2011 trophy to Carlsen | photo: Ray Morris-Hill

Kasparov actually coached Carlsen for a year in 2009/10, but stylistically they could hardly be more different. Claiming to work little outside of tournaments, Carlsen often chooses what seem to be harmless opening moves, but then time and again outplays his opponents from equal or worse positions. Many already consider him the greatest endgame player of all time, and his technical skill and Nordic cool conceal a ferocious will to win.

TV appearances

Away from the board Carlsen could easily be mistaken for an absolutely average guy, but despite a slightly withdrawn character he’s perhaps the one chess player since Kasparov to achieve global recognition – tournament winnings and a modelling contract for the fashion label G-Star have made him a multi-millionaire, while he’s also made American TV appearances on 60 Minutes and The Colbert Report.

First among equals 

Carlsen’s tournament successes in the years running up to his World Championship match cemented his position as the de facto leader. After winning the Biel Tournament in 2007 he consistently came out on top in the very best events, including Wijk aan Zee (2008, 2010 and 2013), Nanjing (2009, 2010), the Bilbao Masters (2011, 2012), the London Chess Classic (2009, 2010 and 2012) and the Tal Memorial (2011, 2012). He also won the World Blitz Championship in 2009 and each chess Oscar from that year onwards. The World Championship was all that remained. 

Ascent to the throne

Despite showing more vulnerability than we’ve grown accustomed to Carlsen squeezed to victory in the London Candidates to qualify for a showdown in Chennai, India against Viswanathan Anand. His start was hesitant, but after wins in Games 5 and 6 he eased to a 6.5:3.5 victory

Many predict a very long stay at the top for the Norwegian star, though it won’t be easy – he already has to defend his title in a new match in late 2014.

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