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Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen is a Norwegian chess grandmaster who is the current World Chess Champion, World Rapid Chess Champion and World Blitz Chess Champion.

Carlsen first reached the top of the FIDE world rankings in 2010, and trails only Garry Kasparov in time spent as the highest rated player in the world.

His peak classical rating of 2882 is the highest in history.

A chess prodigy, Carlsen tied for first place in the World U12 Chess Championship in 2002. Shortly after turning 13, he finished first in the C group of the Corus chess tournament, and earned the grandmaster title a few months later.

At age 15, he won the Norwegian Chess Championship, and at 17, he finished joint first in the top group of Corus.

He surpassed a rating of 2800 at age 18 and reached number one in the FIDE world rankings aged 19, becoming the youngest person ever to achieve those feats.

Carlsen became World Chess Champion in 2013 by defeating Viswanathan Anand. In the following year, he retained his title against Anand, and won both the 2014 World Rapid Championship and World Blitz Championship, thus becoming the first player to hold all three titles simultaneously; a feat he repeated in 2019.

He defended his classical world title against Sergey Karjakin in 2016, and against Fabiano Caruana in 2018.

Known for his attacking style as a teenager, Carlsen has since developed into a universal player. He uses a variety of openings to make it more difficult for opponents to prepare against him and reduce the effect of computer analysis.

He has stated the middlegame is his favourite part of the game as it “comes down to pure chess”. His positional mastery and endgame prowess have drawn comparisons to those of former World Champions Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Vasily Smyslov, and José Raúl Capablanca.

  • Full name: Sven Magnus Øen Carlsen
  • Profession: Norwegian chess Grandmaster
  • Born: 30 November 1990 (age 29 years), Tønsberg Municipality, Norway
  • Height: 1.78 m
  • Nationality: Norwegian
  • FIDE rating: 2863 (April 2020)
  • Ranking: No. 1 (January 2020)
  • World Champion: 2013–present
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About Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen was born on 30 November 1990 in Tønsberg Municipality, Norway. To Sigrun Øen, a chemical engineer, and Henrik Albert Carlsen, an IT consultant.

The family spent one year in Espoo, Finland, and then in Brussels, Belgium, before returning to Norway in 1998, where they lived in Lommedalen, Bærum.

They later moved to Haslum. Carlsen showed an aptitude for intellectual challenges at a young age: at two years, he could solve 50-piece jigsaw puzzles; at four, he enjoyed assembling Lego sets with instructions intended for children aged 10–14.

His father, a keen amateur chess player, taught him to play chess at the age of 5, although he initially showed little interest in the game.

He has three sisters, and in 2010 he stated that one of the things that first motivated him to take up chess seriously was the desire to beat his elder sister at the game.

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The first chess book Carlsen read was a booklet named Find the Plan by Bent Larsen, and his first book on openings was Eduard Gufeld’s The Complete Dragon.

Carlsen developed his early chess skills by playing by himself for hours on end—moving the pieces around, searching for combinations, and replaying games and positions shown to him by his father.

Simen Agdestein emphasises Carlsen’s exceptional memory, stating that he was able to recall the areas, population numbers, flags and capitals of all the countries in the world by the age of five. Later, Carlsen had memorised the areas, population numbers, coat-of-arms and administrative centres of “virtually all” Norwegian municipalities.

Carlsen participated in his first tournament—the youngest division of the 1999 Norwegian Chess Championship—at the age of 8 years and 7 months, and scored 6½/11.

Carlsen was coached at the Norwegian College of Elite Sport by the country’s top player, Grandmaster (GM) Simen Agdestein, who in turn cites Norwegian football manager Egil “Drillo” Olsen as a key inspiration for his coaching strategy.

In 2000, Agdestein introduced Carlsen to Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen, a former Norwegian junior champion and later International Master (IM) and Grandmaster (GM), as Ringdal served a one-year siviltjeneste (an alternative civilian service programme) at the college.

Over the course of this year, Carlsen’s rating rose from 904 in June 2000, to 1907. Carlsen’s breakthrough occurred in the Norwegian junior teams championship in September 2000, where Carlsen scored 3½/5 against the top junior players of the country, and a performance rating (PR) of about 2000.

Apart from chess, which he studied about three to four hours a day, Carlsen’s favourite pastimes included playing football and reading Donald Duck comics. Carlsen also practised skiing until the age of ten.

From autumn 2000 to the end of 2002, Carlsen played almost 300 rated tournament games, as well as several blitz tournaments, and participated in other minor events.

In October 2002, he placed sixth in the European Under-12 Championship in Peñiscola. In the following month, he tied for first place in the World Under-12 Championship in Heraklio, placing second to Ian Nepomniachtchi on tiebreak.

After this, he obtained three IM norms in relatively quick succession; his first was at the January 2003 Gausdal Troll Masters (score 7/10, 2453 PR), the second was at the June 2003 Salongernas IM-tournament in Stockholm (6/9, 2470 PR), and the third and final IM norm was obtained at the July 2003 Politiken Cup in Copenhagen (8/11, 2503 PR).

He was officially awarded the IM title on 20 August 2003. After finishing primary school, Carlsen took a year off to participate in international chess tournaments held in Europe during the autumn of 2003, returning to complete secondary education at a sports school.

During the year away from school, he placed joint-third in the European Under-14 Championship and ninth in the World Under-14 Championship.