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Carlsen vs Fischer: Who is Better?

Chess has a long history. There have been, and there are now, many outstanding chess giants from whom we can learn plenty of key concepts today. Chess players often raise the question of who is the best chess player ever. This is always a controversial topic. In his latest video, GM Damian Lemos talks about two chess geniuses who definitely fall into this category. On the one hand, there is the current World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, and on the other hand there is Bobby Fischer, former World Chess Champion and one of the greatest legends in the history of chess. Carlsen vs Fischer – it is tough to compare these two players who never had a chance to play against each other. However, what we can do today is analyze their approaches to certain areas of the game. This time, GM Lemos takes a closer look at how both players have dealt with the Dragon Variation in the Sicilian Defense.

Firstly, GM Lemos analyzes a brilliant win by Magnus Carlsen against Timothy Taylor from 2003. Secondly, he turns back time a bit more and investigates an amazing game Bobby Fischer played against Helder Camara in 1970.Carlsen vs Fischer

Budapest 2003: Carlsen, Magnus (2450) – Taylor, Timothy (2385)

We jump into the game after Black’s 17th move (see the diagram on the right). We see a sharp position which resulted from the English Attack in the Sicilian Dragon. The players have castled to opposite sides of the board and are trying to launch an attack against the opponent’s king. At the moment, Black’s bishop on g7 and his knight on f6 are protecting the White king. However, it is Magnus to move and he finds a way to destroy Black’s defensive setup. He plays 18.e5! Black is forced to move his knight as 18…dxe5 would lose a piece after 19.g5 followed by Qxd7.

Carlsen vs FischerBlack plays 18…Nxg4 and sacrifices a piece for a few pawns. It’s important to mention that retreating the knight with a move like 18…Ne8 would have lost due to a well known mating pattern in the Sicilian Dragon. White could follow up with 19.Qh2 Bxe5 20.Qh7+ Kf8 21.Bh6!+ Bg7 22.Qh8# (see the diagram on the left).

In the game, White reaches a winning position after 19.fxg4 Bxg4 20.Qh2 Bxe5 21.Qh7+ Kf8 22.Bd4 Rxd4 23.Rxd4 (see the diagram on the right). Carlsen vs FischerThe game goes on a bit longer but Magnus manages to convert his material advantage into a full point without too much difficulty.

Let’s see if Bobby Fischer managed to crush his opponent as well:



Siegen 1970: Fischer, Bobby – Camara, Helder Carlsen vs Fischer

This time, we jump into the game after Black’s 15th move (see the diagram on the left). Fischer’s rival has tried to be clever in this game and has avoided castling early. The downside, however, is that the king is still in the middle. Fischer goes all out for the attack: 16.e5! dxe5 17.Bxe5 (Black can’t take the bishop with his queen due to Qd8#) Qc8 18.Qe2!

Fischer’s last move was calm, but very strong. He attacks Black’s rook on c4 which basically has no squares to go to (18…Rb4, for example, would lose to 19.Bd6+, threatening mate on e7 and capturing the rook on b4). Black plays 18…Bd7 (see the diagram on the right) and Carlsen vs Fischeris ready to castle now. White has to prevent this – 19.Rxd7! A brilliant move which forces Black to take back with the king as 19…Nxd7 would lose to 20.Bxg7 and 19…Qxd7 would allow White to take the rook on c4.

Do you want to see the end of Fischer’s combination? Then you definitely have to watch the video in which GM Damian Lemos shows both games right from the start and explains all the tactical ideas in detail.

In essence, this game is a brilliant example of what happens when one player breaks the basic opening prinicples. Black played the Dragon but did not put his king into safety by castling. Of course, Bobby Fischer was extremely strong in middlegame positions and accepted the invitation to start the fireworks. He played strongly and found a way to punish Black for leaving his king in the centre for too long.

Part 2 – Carlsen vs Fischer Against The Sicilian

In part 2, GM Lemos analyzes a fantastic win by Magnus Carlsen against Peter Svildler in a blindfold game from 2003. Secondly, he turns his attention to a nice win by Bobby Fischer against Robert Byrne from 1967.

Monte Carlo 2010: Svidler, Peter (2750) – Carlsen, Magnus (2813) Fischer vs Carlsen: Who is better

With this game, we explore the world of blindfold chess. As many articles on are devoted to effective chess training, we briefly have to mention blindfold training is an excellent chess training technique to become a better player. If you play a tournament game against somebody, you are not allowed to try out some variation which seem promising to you and take them back if they don’t work out. You really have to calculate all the lines in your head and only then make a move.

Hence, blindfold chess training helps you to improve on these skills. By doing a lot of blindfold training, you’ll gain confidence in your tactical ability to visualize.

That said, let’s take a look at the game after Black’s 21st move (see the diagram on the right):

In this game, Magnus Carlsen played the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defense. The position at hand confronts us with a complex middlegame position. Both players have most of their pieces in active positions which means that tactics can be in the air at any time. As we pointed out in one of our latest articles ‘Dominating Open Positions‘, especially in amateur chess open positions like this are the types of positions that occur most frequently. Hence, it is of paramount importance to understand how to handle them.

Fischer vs Carlsen: Who is better

Magnus usually performs extremely well in complicated positions. Apart from his superb calculation skills, he knows how to navigate through these types of positions. That said, however, we have to admit that complicated middlegames positions are a key strength of his opponent, Peter Svidler from Russia who just became 8th Russian Master, as well.

Peter Svidler simply brought his queen back to e1 which is already a mistake – 22.Qe1. Magnus, in reply, immediately went for a combination: 22…Bxg2 23.Kxg2 Nf3 24.Qh1 (see the diagram on the left).

Fischer vs Carlsen: Who is better

Magnus sacrificed a piece, but he got a strong attack in return. White had to play 24.Qh1 as the queen was hanging and Black threatened Qxh2 at the same time. Now, one winning variation for Black would be 24…Nh4+ 25.Kh3 Rf3+ 26.Kxh4 Bf6+ 27.Kg4 Dg3+! 28.hxg3 Rxg3 mate.

Sousse 1967: Byrne, Robert – Fischer, Bobby 

In Bobby Fischer’s game, we see a position like this after White’s 18th move (see the diagram on the right):

Do you want to see how Fischer deals with complex middlegame positions like this? Then you definitely have to watch the video in which GM Damian Lemos shows both games right from the start and explains all the tactical ideas in detail.

Part 3 – Carlsen vs Fischer: The Grünfeld Defense

In part 3, GM Lemos takes a closer look at how both players have dealt with playing the Grünfeld Defense with Black. Both players frequently played the King’s Indian Defense and the Grünfeld Defense against 1.d4. Both openings are dynamic answers to 1.d4. Let’s dive right in:

Firstly, GM Lemos analyzes a game from Magnus Carlsen, played when he was only thirteen years of age and near a 2400 Elo rating. It was a game played against Linus Olsson in Copenhagen, 2004. Let’s see some power chess from Magnus.

Who was better - Carlsen or Fischer?

The game started 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 – this is different than the King’s Indian Defense, where …Bg7 is usually played at this point. This will be more important in the Bobby Fischer game, as that starts with a King’s Indian and then transposes into a Grunfeld. You can see the position on the left.

4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. Rc1. Rc1 is something of a rare move – 10. 0-0 is the main line – this position has been debated thousands of times throughout the history of chess.

Is Magnus Carlsen or Bobby Fischer the best chess player of all time?The game continued 10…cxd4 11. cxd4 Qa5+ 12. Kf1 which you can see in the diagram on the right. The position at hand offers dynamic potential for both sides. Black has brought his king to safety and is ready to pressure White’s centre. The downside of his opening attempt is that he does not have a lot of pieces to defend his king. Hence, it seems to be promising for White to launch an attack on the h-file via h4 and h5. However, White’s king on f1 isn’t on a safe place either. He should probably spend a move to put it on g1 in order to avoid any checks on the f1-a6 diagonal.

The game continued 12…Rd8 13. h4 Bd7 Although not being familiar with all the theoretical lines here, Magnus finds a natural move he can go for – Bd7.

14. h5  Rac8 15. hxg6 hxg6 16. Nf4 Nxd4 17. Kg1 Bb5 18. Bxb5 Rxc1 19. Qxc1 Qxb5 20. Qa3 Ne2+ 21. Kh2 Nxf4 22. Bxf4 Rd3 0-1

We’ve only very briefly gone over the moves in this game just to give you a flavor of how things went – be sure to watch the full video where GM Lemos gives a much more detailed analysis, as well as looks at the second game with Bobby Fischer.

Part 4: Carlsen vs Fischer – Ruy Lopez

In his final video of his four-part series on “Fischer vs Carlsen: Who Is Better?” GM Damian Lemos talks about the two outstanding chess geniuses, specifically taking a close look at how both Fischer and Carlsen played games with the White pieces that opened with the Ruy Lopez.

The Ruy Lopez is one of the most popular openings at all levels, so not only is this interesting to examine from a player vs player perspective, the games also offer us the opportunity to learn from the best players who ever lived and improve our own game.

Who was better? Carlsen or Fischer?Let’s take a look at the opening from the Bobby Fischer game that GM Damian Lemos covers in the video. It begins with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7, which is the main line Ruy Lopez. You can see this common position in the diagram on the left. An alternative to …Be7 is …b5, followed by …Bc5.

6. Re1 was played next, protecting the e4 pawn. This means that White now threatens to play Bxc6 followed by Nxe5. Therefore, Black plays 6…b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 0-0 9. h3 and this is still the main line Ruy Lopez. Here, Black must decide which variation to enter. For example, 9…Na5 followed by …c5 is the Chigorin variation. 9…Nb8 is the Breyer variation, where the idea is to play …Nbd7 and …c5. There are other variations, but the Breyer variation is Damian Lemos’ preferred variation, based, in part, on the fact that it is also Magnus Carlsen’s choice of variation when Black against a Ruy Lopez.

Magnus Carlsen vs Bobby Fischer - who was best?The game continued 9…Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11.Nh4. This last move, shown in the diagram on the right, is something of a strange move from Bobby Fischer. By far, the most common response is 11. Nbd2 with the plan of bringing the knight to f1 and then onto g3. Well, Nh4 is certainly an option for White, pushing Black to play some accurate moves here. The idea is to exploit the fact that the f5 square is weak for Black. Placing a knight here would be good for White. But at the same time, when we look at the d8-h4 diagonal with the bishop and queen lined up, Nh4 looks suspicious.

For example, let’s say Black plays 11…Nxe4 now that the knight isn’t defending it. 12.Rxe4 is not possible as it simply loses a pawn. Black would simply capture the knight on h4 and has a pawn for nothing. In fact, Black could even play the inbetween move …Bb7 before capturing on h4, seizing control of the long diagonal as White can not defend both the knight and the rook at the same time. The better response would be 12. Nf5 but even here Black plays 12…Ndf6, and all the pieces are protected. So, what did Bobby Fischer have in mind? How did he handle this position?

You’ll have to watch the video to find out!

Who Was Best? Magnus Carlsen or Bobby Fischer?

Although it’s very difficult to compare the play of two completely different players from two different periods, there is no doubt that Carlsen and Fischer are two of the best players in the history of chess. However, we can see some similarities between these two geniuses. Both players are very strong attacking players in the middlegame. Who do you think is the greatest? Leave us a comment below and have your say!

Do you want to watch more masterpieces by some of the greatest chess giants in chess? Click here to get a special discount on “Legendary Chess Players – DVD Bundle” by GM Damian Lemos.


Rohit Sharma says:

Fischer was genius.

Om Pandya says:

Carlsen is best. He plays end game just like a chess engine and also his ability to create something out of nothing makes him really a hard one to beat even if fischer would have faced him.

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