Sinquefield Cup Contenders: Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen has transcended chess superstardom to become a world icon. He will challenge Viswanathan Anand for the World Championship title in November.

By Brian Jerauld

Norwegian Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen is perhaps the most recognizable chess figure on the earth today.  With a FIDE rating of 2862, he is the current No. 1 in the world, a rank he has held for more than two years. Only 22 years old, Carlsen has experienced one of the fastest ascents to the elite stratosphere of chess, the pinnacle of which may be realized this November when he challenges World Champion Viswanathan Anand for the world title.

Carlsen obtained his first IM norm in January 2003 and officially earned the title in August, still 12 years old.  He earned his first GM norm by winning the Corus Chess Tournament in January 2004 and was eventually awarded the grandmaster title by that April, making him the second youngest in history at 13 years, 148 days.

In 2005, he became the youngest to appear in the Candidates Tournament, his first of three appearances in the event. In early 2008, Carlsen made his first move into the world’s top-5 – where he has remained since – and in November 2009, he broke the 2800 rating barrier, only the fifth ever and the youngest to do so. FIDE’s first rating list of 2010 named Carlsen the world’s No. 1, making him the youngest to ever hold the rank at 19 years and 32 days.

This year is shaping up to become one of Carlsen’s biggest – if only for the potential prize at the end. In January, FIDE showed Carlsen to have passed Garry Kasparov’s rating record of 2851, which had held for nearly 14 years. Carlsen set the new record with a peak of 2872 in February. He took first at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament for the third time, besting second-place Levon Aronian by 1.5 points, and took second in both the Norway Tournament and the Tal Memorial. Most importantly, Carlsen won the 2013 Candidate’s Tournament in March, earning the right to play for the World Champion title in Chennai, India, just over a month after his stay in Saint Louis.

Famous Washington Post columnist Lubomir Kavalek dubbed Carlsen the “Mozart of Chess” when he was just 14, a moniker that has since become entrenched by a recent CBS 60 Minutes interview. In 2012, Carlsen reportedly earned US $1.2 million, more than 60% of which came from sponsorship. This year, TIME Magazine named Carlsen one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

He is known for an endgame prowess amongst the greatest in history, as well as an unusually wide range of openings, which frustrates his opponents in their preparation against him. For his Sinquefield Cup matchups, the only player he does not have a career winning record against is Gata Kamsky, who has bested Carlsen 2-1 with six draws. Carlsen has never lost to Hikaru Nakamura, winning seven times and drawing 13. He holds the lengthy series between Aronian at 7-4 with 24 draws.