It seems every where I read, Magnus Carlsen is involved in a discussion on if he is or will be the greatest chess player of all time. It also seems as if some are crowning him world champion even though he hasn't won one yet, so my questions are what makes Carlsen so good? Why are people so confident in Carlsen? Does he have something other players such as Aronian don't have? I also saw that 60 minutes did a special and called Carlsen the Mozart of Chess. Where is all this coming from?

  • 7.5 years later (to present): WESLEY SO!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WOOHOO!!!!!!!!! (I'm a hardcore 960 player and a filipino)
    – BCLC
    Jan 20, 2021 at 13:30

3 Answers 3


Carlsen is 21 years young and is currently the highest-rated player in the world. He scored a win against Karpov and a draw against Kasparov at the tender age of 13 (Reykjavik Rapid 2004), and was the second youngest player to become a grandmaster (at the time he did it). Things like that are enough to brew confidence, garner world championship expectations, and draw superficial comparisons to a similarly precocious talent like Mozart.

I imagine that his main advantage over his current closest rival Aronian in terms of grabbing attention is just the fact that he is 8 years younger. And whereas, say, Sergey Karjakin is only a year older than Carlsen, and is the one who still holds the record for becoming the youngest grandmaster ever, he simply doesn't have the sort of tournament record that Carlsen does, especially in the highest-class tournaments of the last few years. (Note that Karjakin does have impressive recent wins like Wijk aan Zee 2009, Tal Memorial 2010 and Bazna Kings 2011; but Carlsen's success of late has been such that that trophy shelf pales in comparison.)

Anyway, assuming the upcoming world championship cycle goes through as planned, then Carlsen will have his chance to justify all the chatter and expectations. But I'll be rooting for Kramnik or Aronian myself :-)

  • Nice answer, I will root for Carlsen :) Since so much is expected of Carlsen, would he be perceived as a failure (this might be too strong of a word) if he never wins a championship?
    – xaisoft
    Jun 20, 2012 at 18:10
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    World Champions are members of an elite club. You're in it, or you're not. We all rather expect Carlsen to be joining that club. If he doesn't, then yes, this aspect of his career will be a disappointment.
    – Tony Ennis
    Jun 21, 2012 at 12:02
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    @TonyEnnis - From the dozens of games I have watched Carlsen play, it does not seem highly likely to me that he will be in that club. There is a certain resolve which World Champions have with regards to risk aversion that Carlsen lacks when playing in high stakes games.
    – Travis J
    Jun 21, 2012 at 18:24
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    @TravisJ I, for one, am glad that your prediction turned out to be entirely wrong. :)
    – Will
    Feb 14, 2016 at 12:45
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    It's kind of funny to read Travis J comment, six years later. Nov 30, 2018 at 16:40

I just wanted to add a bit more to Ed Dean's Answer.

These are some fun facts:

In October 2005 he took first place at the Arnold Eikrem Memorial in Gausdal with eight out of nine points and a performance rating of 2792 at the age of 14.

When Carlsen was 18 years old, he became one of the few people in history to have an Elo rating over 2800.

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 8/10 (six wins, four draws, no losses), winning every game as White (against Topalov, Wang Yue, Leko, Radjabov, and Jakovenko), and also winning as Black against Jakovenko. By rating performance, this was one of the greatest results in history, with a performance rating of 3002

Source: Wikipedia


Carlsen is popular, young, and a semi public figure. He plays at the Internet Chess Club which generates a lot of fans. A turning point for my view towards Carlsen was his success in this tournament which had a lot of bragging rights to it. The World Blitz Championship from 2010 where Carlsen took out Hikaru Nakamura (who is by far my current favorite chess player)

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