Magnus Carlsen has been the best player in the world for a decade. The other top players try, but they haven't been able to beat Carlsen, who's consistently 50+ elo above them.

Do the other top players find this discouraging in the same way most people find playing against computers (and getting consistently crushed) discouraging? One could argue that not being able to compete with Carlsen is not a problem for the vast majority of chess players, but that does not apply to elite GMs whose job is to compete with Carlsen. If they do find it discouraging, how do they stay motivated?

Nothing unique about Carlsen on this - it could also apply to Kasparov, Fischer, or any other era in the past when one player was so obviously better than everyone else that he's the favorite no matter what tournament he plays in.

I'm especially interested in quotes from GMs about this.

  • 3
    I am not sure that I understand this part: "The other top players try, but they haven't been able to beat Carlsen, who's consistently 50+ elo above them." are you referring to passing Carlsen on FIDE rating list or beating Carlsen in individual games? Other GMs have certainly beaten Carlsen in individual games even in classical, but even more so in rapid and blitz.
    – Akavall
    Oct 6, 2023 at 19:27
  • 1
    @Akavall I don't mean in individual games, I mean overall. Other GMs could win a single game against Carlsen, but over multiple games, in multiple tournaments, they lose.
    – Allure
    Oct 7, 2023 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


I'm sure Carlsen's colleagues are a little discouraged with his dominance, but they didn't get to their current level by giving up against a (seemingly) stronger opponent. All of them must have had setbacks and breakthroughs in their long journey through the master titles and 2700+ club. Giving up now is the worst thing a top tier player can do (and someone with that defeatist attitude would never reach their current level anyways).

Nearly all of them have defeated Carlsen at least once. All of them have played engine-level chess at some games in their careers. So they know 'better-than-Magnus' chess is within their potential. The rest is a matter of consistency.

Playing someone slightly better than oneself is also a huge learning experience. Karpov on becoming world champion without playing Fischer. Magnus' opponents have probably learned a great deal about their weaknesses and psychology.

And the future isn't certain. After years of dominance, Magnus performed uncharacteristically poorly in Norway Chess 2023. Carlsen is human, and he won't be the best chess player forever. So the others just have to keep working. The satisfaction of defeating Carlsen is already emotionally overwhelming. Just imagine the satisfaction of being the first to surpass him, after 10+ years at the top. It can only be earned by one.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.