How can someone become the greatest chess player like Magnus Carlsen?

I have been playing chess since I was 12 years old, but still I am an average chess player.

Does it take genetics to become a Super GM like Magnus Carlsen, Garry Kasparov, or Vishy Anand? Or have they all followed some path towards their greatness?

What steps could I take or attributes should I possess in order to become the number 1 rated player in the world?

  • 3
    They're just smarter than you and me.
    – SmallChess
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 4:23
  • @StudentT , thats what i asked :) , Why are they smarter ? Is it in their genetics ? Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 5:13
  • Chess has been here for 1000's of years and there has been so many great great players come and gone. Some great chess masters are Alekhine (his brain is like supercomputer knows all moves by heart) , Capablanca (super positional play), Bobby Fisher, Kasparov (superb sacrifice champion), Lasker (he says when you say a good move, look for better one). Learn the moves from them to become champion of champions. There is no fun in playing chess to become a world champion. Just enjoy the game to its fullest. play a little everyday and time will come for you to be world champion one day
    – pbu
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 12:43

3 Answers 3

  • Talent: Generally the role of talent in chess is vastly overrated, but for those at the very top anecdotes of impressive memory feats are quite common. (Like Carlsen learning hundred of statistics about norwegian municipalities as a four year old, or Fischer repeating a phone call in islandic verbatim, although he didn't understand a word, etc.)

  • Early exposure: The vast majority of the top hundred GMs nowadays learned to play chess before they turned ten. Often even before they turned six. Early exposure is important for chess moves and concepts to become completely ingrained in your brain, just like the grammar and vocabulary of your mothertongue is.

  • Hard work: Even those players that are allegedly lazy spend an incredible amount of time on chess. Becoming a strong chess players requires a huge amount of knowledge and abilities. The earlier you start, the harder you work and the more directed this work is, the younger you will still be when you have acquired the knowledge necessary to be a Super-GM.

  • Drive: If you have the abilities and the knowledge to play on a 2800 Elo level, it still doesn't mean that you actually play on that level. Additionally you need the energy and will to win, that allows you to put every ounce of your ability into every game you play. Some people claim that motivation is the main reason the playing level generally drops after you hit 40.

So the steps to become a Super-GM are actually quite simple: Start at age 4, train chess every day for 6-8 hours under the direction of an experienced trainer, compete regularly against slightly stronger opposition and be born with an exceptional memory and a killer instinct.

  • I'd disagree about talent. Without the right mental gifts, there is no way a person can become a GM. I'd say it is the most important attribute because without it the rest does not matter.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 3:20
  • 2
    Imagine you lived in a world where people learn Chinese instead of how to play chess, but there aren't any Chinese native speakers. So the vast majority of Chinese enthusiasts would have a pretty low Chinese-Elo, because it's a really difficult language to acquire. Wouldn't you stand here and proclaim that without the right mental gifts, there is no way a person can become really proficient in Chinese? But in reality for somebody who grows up in a surrounding suffused with this language, no extraordinary gifts are required at all to surpass all the "enthusiasts" from another culture ... Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 13:07
  • @BlindKungFuMaster That's not really a valid comparison because we have dedicated areas in our brains for learning languages and they seem to work much better in young children. Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 15:45
  • And my point is that in chess you have to start equally young to go far. In fact I'm pretty sure that there is an age (around 12) after which becoming a grandmaster and learning a foreign language without an accent both becomes substantially harder. See, for example this paper: v-scheiner.brunel.ac.uk/bitstream/2438/611/1/… Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 15:58

Having great coaches. Peter Heine Neilsen and Kasparov.

He started young and studied a lot. I heard he used a standard Russian approach of learning two openings for Black and White which he would study for one hour a day He would spend two hours on endgames, two hours on tactics and one hour on middlegame strategy. If you take it that seriously for many years, you're bound to get pretty good.


It is not possible to become someone like Magnus/Garry/Fischer/Vishy etc . They are some one like Chess Genius. Now if you know there is a vast difference between the word Talented and to be Genius . All Chess Players whom I have named above and also World Champions like Alekhine/Capa/Botvinnik/Tal had some IQ level which normal Human brain does not have . An Average Human Being has 100-120 IQ which compared to Magnus/Garry have 180 + as their IQ Score . You see it brings a significant difference in learning Chess .

True you can do some hard work, & maintaining Chess Discipline you can steer to become a Player up to some 2400 level or even rise above. With the right Training which is the utmost importance you should be able to go ahead but it is not a guarantee that you would become someone like Magnus . As Garry Kasparov himself said that " Magnus is a Force of Nature " before he became World champion so it is important that you become realistic in this view.

Here is a bitter Truth :

The worst thing is all Chess players who are even 1400-1500 ELo can attain the rating of 2000 + but they could not do even in their lifetime . They fail to find the Errors in their games and they do not have the attitude to improve or they do not know how to improve .( It is said by a Famous GM )

Anyways the Best ways to improve your game .

  • 1) Make sure you hit the best Coach.
  • 2) Believe in yourself that you can do well .(Attitude Factor )
  • 3) Play with High rated Players .(Most important)
  • 4) You can choose your Openings and the first 15-20 moves you can by heart.
  • 5) Middle Game & End games is always a scope of improvement .You can practice Puzzles and analyse Games of GMs.

There can be some more ways but I believe the above can be a good lesson .

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