Magnus Carlsen: A Young Chess Wrecking Ball

Magnus Carlsen is a chess grandmaster from Norway who has been world chess champion since 2013. Also he:

  • Was the youngest player to break 2800 FIDE rating.
  • Has remained the world number one since 2011.
  • Once gained 1,000 rating points… in a single year!
  • Became a grandmaster (GM) at age 13!
  • Was the youngest player ever to qualify for a Candidates Tournament.
  • Became World Chess Champion at 22 years old.
magnus carlsen a young chess wrecking ball blog image

Magnus Carlsen.

There. We said it. We probably don’t need to say much more, but we will.

A lot more.

We don’t mean to sound brash, but… if you are on the internet and have navigated to and you do not know who Magnus Carlsen is, there’s something terribly wrong and you have found a useful post to read.

File:Magnus Carlsen(33).JPG - Wikimedia Commons
A young Magnus Carlsen

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

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Magnus Carlsen: The Early Years

Remember when you were 5 years old and learned chess? Well, we don’t.

But Magnus Carlsen does! That is when his father, a strong amateur chess player, taught him the rules to our favorite game.

We bet he didn’t realize what he was creating at the time. How could he?

And here’s a bit of trivia: What was Magnus Carlsen’s very first chess book?

It was called Find the Plan, and it was written by none other than uber-famous Danish GM Bent Larsen.

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As a child, Magnus Carlsen had an exceptional memory.

Remind you of someone else? Bobby Fischer, maybe?

It is said he was solving jigsaw puzzles and memorizing flags, capitals, and populations for fun before he was even in school. Wow!

Magnus eventually became interested in the game of chess—if for no other reason than to play and defeat his older sister!

He began working on the game alone, going through puzzles and positions his father shared with him.

The first opening he learned was the Sicilian Dragon.

Magnus participated in his very first tournament at 9 years old, scoring 6.5/11!

His father recognized that young Magnus Carlsen showed promise and enrolled him into a specialty school, where he was coached by strong GM Simen Agdestein.

Because of this, Magnus Carlsen’s rating jumped a thousand points, from 904 to 1907, in a single year!

And he continued to improve.

He played close to 300 tournament games over the next couple of years, and his rating soared.

He officially became an International Master (IM) in 2003.

In the following video, GM Ron W. Henley presents some of the chess miniatures from Magnus in 2003:

Magnus Carlsen in 2004: A Great Year!

This was the year that Magnus Carlsen really made his mark in the chess world as a serious contender.

He won his section, Group C, at the very strong Corus chess tournament (later becoming known as Tata Steel), scoring 10.5/13, earning Magnus his very first GM norm!

His performance rating that tournament was an unreal 2702.

One victory in particular, a Caro-Kann against Dutch grandmaster Sipke Ernst, stands out. The 29-move game showed the chess world that Magnus Carlsen was here to play ball.

You can find all the games showcased in the article in this study on Lichess:

What a game! The sacrificing starts on move 18 and doesn’t really stop until Magnus Carlsen’s opponent is checkmated.

2004 also marked the year he defeated ex-world champion Anatoly Karpov in a blitz tournament—no small feat for anyone, forget about a 13-year-old kid!

In fact, Karpov himself said that 13 is a very young age to produce such chess ideas in an interview after the game!

At a rapid tourney in Reykjavik, Iceland, Magnus Carlsen famously drew Garry Kasparov in a Queen’s Gambit Declined Cambridge Springs Variation that went down in chess history.

As you can see, it was anything but an easy game. Top level stuff here from Magnus Carlsen!

He was awarded the grandmaster (GM) title in 2004, as well.

Magnus Carlsen Defeats World No. 10 Alexei Shirov in 2005

Alexei Shirov, a strong Latvian/Spanish GM who was ranked number two in the world in 1994, was beaten by Carlsen in a Ruy Lopez that is sure to dazzle.

Another Good Year in 2006

2006 marked more success for Magnus Carlsen on his way to the top.

  • Tied for first place at Corus, Group B
  • Shared first place in the Norwegian Chess Championship
  • Won Glitnir Blitz Tournament outright, beating Viswanathan Anand – twice!
  • Finished second in the Midnight Sun Chess Tournament
  • Beat tough GM Alexander Morozevich twice, as well!
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Below is a Benko Gambit game Magnus Carlsen played against a very tough opponent, Leif Erlend Johannessen, who is also a Norwegian GM.

36…Qd2! What a move.

2007-2012: The Pre-World Champion Years

The wins kept coming and the rating kept climbing over the next few years.

Magnus Carlsen was a household name—well, those households that were into the game of chess, of course.

By 2007 Magnus had qualified to compete in the top tier at Corus and was playing against all the big names…

…and keeping up with them!

He finished in second place at Corus 2007 and was becoming a serious problem for the FIDE top-ten players.

He took on the massively powerful GM Levon Aronian for a shot at the biggest prize of all, a world championship match against then-reigning king Viswanathan Anand and…

…only narrowly missed winning!

Sjakk i vandrehallen | 23. mars 2015 spilte verdensmester Ma… | Flickr

Magnus Carlsen won the very strong Biel Grandmaster Tournament, also in 2007, famously battling strong GM Alexander Onischuk and eking out the win during the armageddon game.

In 2008 he played to an out-of-this-world 2830 performance rating at Corus, tying for first place with Aronian.

Later that year he achieved a performance rating of 2877 at another tournament—wow!

The very next year he won the elite 2009 Nanjing Pearl Spring chess tournament, besting then-world-number-one Veselin Topalov to take first place.

During that tournament he clipped GM Teimour Radjabov with the white pieces in a spectacular 25-move Rossolimo Sicilian.

Magnus Carlsen won the prestigious London Chess Classic tournament in 2009, a feat which sent him straight to the top of the FIDE rating list!

He also qualified to play in the candidates tournament, used to determine who plays the world champion for the crown.

But, he decided to skip the competition because he believed the system in place to secure the title was muddied and unfairly biased toward the sitting champion.

In 2010 Magnus Carlsen won the Corus tournament again, scoring 8.5 points.

In January of that year, FIDE reported that Magnus had reached the top spot on its list at 2810 Elo!

It also became publicly known that Magnus Carlsen had helped Viswanathan Anand prepare for not one, but two world championship matches!

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June of 2010 saw Magnus sweep the Kings Tournament in Romania with an impressive 7.5 of 10 score and a blistering 2918 performance rating. Sheesh!

Player #100 on this list was ranked 2643 Elo; the FIDE top 100 is not an easy list to break into!

In October 2010 more history was made at the Nanjing Pearl Spring Tournament, as it was the first-ever chess competition to feature three players rated higher than 2800.

November saw more success, as Magnus Carlsen completely obliterates powerful GM Sergey Karjakin at the World Blitz Championship!

As you can see from the final position, Magnus is simply destroying. None of White’s pieces are past the second rank!

2011 saw more obliterating of competition by Magnus Carlsen, as he won the Biel Chess Festival outright, tied for first with GM Vassily Ivanchuk at the Grand Slam Chess Festival, and crushed the Tal Memorial on a tiebreak.

Magnus Carlsen could not be stopped!

2012 was no different!

Magnus Carlsen won the Tal Memorial that year with a performance rating of 2849!

He also won the Grand Slam Chess Festival again, this time in a tiebreak against young talent GM Fabiano Caruana.

Magnus came in first at the 2012 London Chess Classic, as well, with a performance rating of 2994; that is insane!

Winning that tournament caused Carlsen’s rating to slingshot to 2861—a new record!

But there was more to come.

Caruana Fabiano vs Carlsen Magnus-2 | ANDREAS KONTOKANIS | Andreas Kontokanis | Flickr

2013: Magnus Carlsen Takes the Crown!

After winning that year’s Tata Steel chess tournament outright and then placing first in the 2013 Candidates tournament in England, Magnus achieved exceptional results in a few other competitions before playing then-world champion Viswanathan Anand for the title.

And he won.

By 2013, chess enthusiasts all over the world were connected to their favorite game via the internet and this match-up set records across the board as far as interest and viewership.

The slugfest occurred in India, Viswanathan Anand’s stomping grounds, from November 9 to November 22.

The final score was 6.5 – 3.5 and Magnus Carlsen was the new world champion. Below are a couple key games from that amazing match.

Magnus Draws First Blood

The challenger plays the notoriously uncomfy English Opening (1.c4) as white and Anand decides not to castle. Bad decision!

Magnus wins the next game, too!

A long and nasty Berlin Defense that did not end well for then-world champion Viswanathan Anand.

Magnus Carlsen crushes with the Nimzo-Indian!

That passed b-pawn was a doozie, don’t you think?

At the end of the game, Magnus covers the h4 square, fully prepared to take the rook should it move there; after all, he would be using his extra queen, anyway!

…and this performance turned Magnus Carlsen into the 16th undisputed world chess champion!

At only 22 years old, he must have had some very, very proud parents.

A week later, for his birthday and to celebrate his world championship win, Magnus Carlsen famously jumped fully clothed… into a swimming pool!

Magnus Carlsen: After the World Chess Championship

In 2014, Magnus beat out GM Levon Aronian for clear first in the Zurich Chess Challenge. The average rating in this tournament was…

2801! Holy cow!

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in April of 2014 he won the Gashimov Memorial Tournament outright with a score of 6.5/10, besting second-place Fabiano Caruana by a full point.

During this epic clash of titans, Magnus Carlsen defeated well-known GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov with the black pieces utilizing a nasty tactical shot!

The very next year, in 2015, Magnus Carlsen won the powerful Tata Steel Masters event with a score of 9/13, although France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave came in a very close second with 8.5/13.

Magnus also won the Gashimov Memorial for the second year in a row with a staggering score of 7/9 against stiff competition.

During this tournament, Magnus Carlsen defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with the Reti Opening, named after famous hypermodern player Richard Reti.

Black’s pawns became a mess and Carlsen had no trouble converting the win.

After a couple not-so-good tourney results, Magnus Carlsen rounded out 2015 with a bang in December.

He went 7/9, completely undefeated, in the Qatar Masters event!

This tournament featured an astounding 589 total games!

Magnus tied with Yu Yangyi but then crushed him 2-0 in tiebreak games—way to go!

2016 was no different for the champ, and the Tata Steel Masters event was, once again, devoured by Magnus Carlsen.

He also won Norway Chess that year with a score of 6/9, ahead of Levon Aronian.

Although he took first in the tournament, he did lose his scuffle with Aronian, who had a couple of really menacing knights staring at Carlsen in the middlegame.

If you like what you saw there and wish to explore the English Opening further, click the image below!

Magnus Carlsen also shattered the 2016 Bilbao Masters an astonishing five points ahead of American GM Hikaru Nakamura.

It is worth noting that Hikaru clipped Carlsen during their battle in the chess tournament, as Carlsen’s 1.e4 went sideways in a hurry.

During the 2017 Tata Steel Masters, up-and-coming GM Wesley So bested Magnus Carlsen, who ultimately came in second, by a full point.

Magnus Carlsen at Tata Steel Chess 2019 | photo id: df030735… | Flickr

Magnus Carlsen went on to win the 2018 Tata Steel Masters after a tiebreak battle with Anish Giri sent him to the winner’s circle.

It marked the sixth year in a row that Magnus Carlsen had won the Tata Steel Masters!

He finished second to Caruana in the 2018 Norway Chess competition.

Aforementioned powerhouse Fabio Caruana won the right to challenge Carlsen to the throne and they played that match in 2018.

Magnus Carlsen won, successfully defending his title against one of the world’s best players!

He sewed up the year nicely, winning the 2018 World Blitz Championship in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a score of 17/21.

The event was huge! Over 2,000 games were played in total, at a time control of 3+2.

As for Tata Steel Masters 2019, we bet you can guess who won…

that’s right! Magnus Carlsen!

Check out how he dismantled GM Jorden van Foreest on the black side of a Sicilian Defense in just 33 moves.

It’s like he’s a magician!

Magnus Carlsen won the 2019 Gashimov Memorial, as well, with 7/9 ahead of strong grandmaster Ding Liren.

He dominated the 2019 Norway Chess tournament, as well, scoring 10.5/16.

Magnus had sub-par results in a few tournaments and then took the World Rapid Championship down outright with a massive score of 11.5/15!

He defeated GM Mamedyarov once more, this time with a Queen’s Gambit Declined.

That d-pawn gonna be wicked! Black was correct to resign and accept the loss.

Magnus Carlsen Post-COVID-19

Since the widespread outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 virus, tournaments have mostly moved to online venues.

Magnus has done well in these, winning the Magnus Carlsen Invitational ahead of Nakamura, the FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial Tournament, and took home the $50,000 prize in the Clutch International tournament in June of 2020.

He also won the Chessable Masters event of that same year.

The Legends of Chess tournament garnered quite a bit of buzz online, as the field of players was ridiculously strong.

Magnus Carlsen, in fine form, won the tournament.

After that, he came in first place at the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz Tournament, which was also played online, in September of that year.

In October of 2020, Norway Chess was played over the board at a hotel.

All players and officials were tested for COVID-19 and medical officials were present at the event to ensure regulations were followed.

Magnus Carlsen won the tournament outright! What a beast!

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The Skilling Open was played online at Chess24.

Although Magnus Carlsen won the tournament, Hikaru Nakamura also did very well!

During the event, energetic GM Ian Nepomniachtchi got his knight trapped on the black side of a Queen’s Gambit Declined and Carlsen won in just 26 moves!

What a deal!

And, most recently, in February of 2021, Magnus Carlsen won the Opera Euro Rapid, also played online, among a slew of terribly strong grandmasters.

Anish Giri finished second, narrowly missing the top spot!

Magnus Carlsen: What is to Come?

So, by now we understand that Magnus Carlsen is the best player in the world…

but what comes next?

He doesn’t seem to be slowing his roll any time soon.

Here’s hoping that 2021 and the years to follow bring Magnus Carlsen success and more earth-shattering wins.

Will he survive the next world championship contender?

We will just have to wait and see…

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