Kasparov vs Carlsen – Who Is The Best Chess Player Ever?

Garry Kasparov vs Magnus Carlsen – Who Is The Best?

image of Garry Kasparov vs Magnus Carlsen in a chess gameWho is the best chess player ever? Could it be Bobby Fischer? Or is it a Kasparov vs Carlsen fight?

This is always a controversial topic. Some chess fans consider the Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov to be the greatest chess player of all times, others speak of the Norwegian giant and current World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen as the world’s best chess player ever.

Today, Garry Kasparov is 54 years old  which means he is old enough to be the father of Magnus Carlsen with his 26 years. Due to that Garry Kasparov retired from professional chess in 2005, little can be concluded from a comparison of their current performances.

Surely, if both players played a match these days, Magnus Carlsen would be the undisputed favorite as he’s regularly playing at the world’s highest level, while Kasparov mainly commentates elite chess tournaments and plays blitz and rapid games every now and then.

To compare these two outstanding chess giants, one needs to take a closer look at their individual careers necessarily . For that reason, the following article is devoted to the clash of two chess players – Kasparov vs Carlsen.

History of the players

Garry Kasparov became a grandmaster at the age of 17 in 1980. After that, he performed very well in series of strong international tournaments and in 1984, he became the No. 1 ranked player in the world. Later that year, he won the Candidates Tournament and qualified for a World Championship Match against the reigning World Champion Anatoly Karpov.

By defeating Anatoly Karpov at the age of 22, Garry Kasparov became World Chess Champion in 1985 and held his title until his match against Vladimir Kramnik in 2000, where he could not break down Kramnik’s opening – the “Berlin Wall” – in his games with White. So, he lost two games with the black pieces. Although Kasparov was the huge favourite, Kramnik won the match with two wins, 13 draws and no losses.

After his loss of the title as the World Chess Champion, Kasparov was still considered to be the best chess player around until he retired from professional chess in 2005. Back in the year 1999, Kasparov achieved his peak rating of 2851 which was the best ELO for a long time until Magnus Carlsen surpassed this benchmark in 2013. Till now, no other player than Magnus crossed the barrier of 2851 ELO points.

Magnus Carlsen, in contrast, was four years younger than Garry Kasparov when he earned his grandmaster title with 13 years in 2004. In 2009, Magnus Carlsen reached an impressive ELO rating of over 2800 and just one year later, he became the world’s No. 1 in the FIDE rankings.

Three years later, Carlsen defeated the reigning World Chess Champion Vishy Anand in a match of twelve games (Carlsen even ended the match after 10 games) and became the new World Chess Champion. In the following year, Magnus Carlsen was able to defend his title in another match against Vishy Anand. In 2016, he defended his title a second time against Sergey Karjakin.

Another fact worth mentioning is that he holds the current record in ELO rating. In May 2014, he reached a peak rating of 2882 –only 18 points away from the magic 2900 barrier which no human chess player in history has ever crossed.

Head-to-head duels

Sadly, there have only been two games between Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov so far. Back in 2004, both players joined in a rapid chess tournament in Reykiavik in Island. In this event, the 13 year old chess prodigy Carlsen and Kasparov, the top-rated player in the world by then, played two knockout games against each other

It came as a great surprise to the whole chess world that Magnus Carlsen was able to draw the first game with the white pieces. Not only that, Kasparov was actually lucky to escape with a draw as he ended up in an inferior position which Magnus, low on time, could not convert into a full point. In the second game, Kasparov had the white pieces and outplayed Magnus who seemed to be without any chance.

Playing style

Garry Kasparov has always been described as a very dynamic player. His key strengths were his exceptional intuition and ability to calculate in complex positions. On top of that, Kasparov was well known for his deep opening preparation and aggressive play right from the start.

Magnus Carlsen’s playing style, however, changed significantly throughout his career. When he was young, he played aggressively and was always ready to give material for activity.

However, when he started to play against the best chess players in the world, he was struggling with his playing style and often got into trouble. Hence, his style became more universal, he improved a lot on his positional skills and started to systematically extend and optimize his opening repertoire.

Nowadays, his playing style can be described as more positional than tactical. He’s flexible, comes up with plenty of structural knowledge and can play nearly any type of position. Magnus uses a variety of different openings with black and white in order to make it far more difficult for his opponents to prepare special theoretical lines against him.

One of his particular strengths is his excellent physical condition which enables him to perform well even after four hours of play in long, power draining games. Moreover, Magnus Carlsen’s endgame skills are exceptionally strong. Starting from balanced or equal positions, he played many games where he grinded down his opponents step by step in long, enduring battles.

Who is the best Chess player ever?

In essence, Kasparov and Carlsen are and were both undisputed world champions for a long period of time. They not only dominated various top tournament but also the rating lists.

Although it’s very difficult to compare the play of two completely different players from two different periods, there is no doubt that Kasparov and Carlsen are two of the best players in the history of chess. But his recent participation in tournaments in Saint Louis let us hope that he will return to the chess game.

Even if it’s unlikely, maybe we’ll see a match between these two chess giants in the future. With respect to the article’s initial question, it becomes obvious that only time can settle the “Kasparov vs Carlsen-controversy”.

Whilst Kasparov has been World Chess Champion for 15 years and defended it against later champions like Vishy Anand, Carlsen owns this titles for only 4 years and it’s interesting to see if his career has only just begun or if his era will end over the next few years.

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19 comments on “Kasparov vs Carlsen – Who Is The Best Chess Player Ever?

  1. John Paul Wareing says:

    Although an indicator Chess ratings get higher due to inflation and therefore a comparison of modern players ratings with historical is unwise.

    It’s true that modern players would probably have an advantage because of available knowledge and technology.

    However, it is unlikely that this means they are more talented.

    On different days Morphy, Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Nimzowitch, Alekhine, Euwe, Smyslov, Rubinstein, Keres, Tal, Botvinnik, Petronas, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Gazza (sorry I mean Kasparov), Anand, Kramnik and Carlson could probably beat any of the rest with enough preparation as they are all brimming with talent.

  2. Johnnie says:

    I think they are about equal. But if I had to choose one or the other, I dunno? Kasparov?

  3. Andreas says:

    I believe Magnus is the strongest player of all time… but not the greatest Magnus has many more resources available than Kasparov or Fisher which is why he is a stronger player than the but in order to be the true G.O.A.T. He would have to dominate for a bit longer. Kasparov did a lot for the game of chess and is part of the reason Magnus is so good

  4. aaron kristien says:

    every great chess champions has left a great mark on the game the rhetoric who the greatest of all time of years past or present time but important value of the legacy of all these great chess champions indomitable spirit that lay corner stone for history for future chess players and to unlock the many secrets as a collective as human being to further the knowledge and to test the limits of the human spirit and the great beauty of the game

  5. Len Helfgott says:

    In each era the greatest players learn and grow from prior history.
    What about Philidor, Deschappelles, Labourdonnais before Morphy, Steinitz, Lasker and of course Perhaps the most talented Capablanca. Who can compare. Look at the Worlds Strongest Man Competitions with current knowledge and steroids. Then read about Canadian Louis Cyr (1863-1912). Its all in the era of experience.

  6. Harikrishnan says:

    Kasparov is the only best of all time.

    Carlsen end game specialist but Kasparov will destroy in middle game itself with his complex killer moves. Definitely Carlsen wouldn’t defend the attack by God of chess.

  7. Iztok says:

    Every period has its own hero. Fischer, Kasparov, Rubinstein,… and don’t forget the best player Alexander Alekhin.

  8. Tafsheer says:

    MAGNUS is unbeatable in present time.

  9. GM Bouallegui Moudhaffer says:

    I’d say Magnus would probably win a match because he is much more knowledgable, I mean Kasparov was playing the Evans gambit against his field and won.. seriously the evans gambit is crazy talk nowadays

  10. Geoffrey Perks says:

    It’s now 2019. The last comment on this from my calculations were in 2015. I really don’t know who’s the strongest of all time. I also think it’s really unfair to compare like for like all the world champions that have existed just by stats alone. Style is everything! Carlsen has so much resource at his disposal that he can stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before him. Granted Carlsen has a prodigious talent for memory and creativity. Can we really discount Morphy, Steinitz and Nimzovitch? In truth, what has Magnus really offered? Yes he can draw people out of opening preparation and can lead games into territories which are favourable to him. However, ask yourself one question – How does he know the positions which will be favourable to him? The answer is simple and one which would not have been available to his chess master ancestors. He has computers. As I said earlier, I don’t think I can call it. Let’s see if someone else can

  11. DUTCH says:

    Fischer – Kasparov on their prime would be a more interesting match Lets wait a few more years to see the full potential of carlsen then we will know if he could be considered the greatest of all time.

    1. Dr. Lawrence Sosna says:

      Agree more time is needed right now I see it as Fisher and Kasparov.

  12. Neville Campos says:

    Kasparov doesnt need to play alot of moves in a single game ,He is a killer and needs at least 50 moves to mate his opponent.

  13. risal says:

    I’m afraid the Magnus vs Kasparov’ greatest reviews both of them ‘ve weakness each other. I tell u magnus had played 222 moving if i didn’t mistake, a long period of a match deveat Anand. Kasparov didn’ make happen it on his decade.

    1. Harsha Vardhan A says:

      As far as the stats and the rating says that magnus carlsen is the best player of all time in chess.

  14. Azamor says:

    Carlson is the best in the world these days. But if you compare the career of both, you can not say that Carlson did what Casparov did. The Russian is along with Bob Fisher the best of all time, while we still do not know how far Carlson can go.

    1. Charles Rissew says:

      I think there is a pretty good argument for Paul Morphy being the GOAT as well.

      1. Vincenzo Beretta says:

        Or Alexander Alekhine.

    2. choong sin yew says:

      you spelled Casparov wrongly.

      It’s Kasparov

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19 comments on “Kasparov vs Carlsen – Who Is The Best Chess Player Ever?

  1. John Paul Wareing says:

    Although an indicator Chess ratings get higher due to inflation and therefore a comparison of modern players ratings with historical is unwise.

    It’s true that modern players would probably have an advantage because of available knowledge and technology.

    However, it is unlikely that this means they are more talented.

    On different days Morphy, Steinitz, Lasker, Capablanca, Nimzowitch, Alekhine, Euwe, Smyslov, Rubinstein, Keres, Tal, Botvinnik, Petronas, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Gazza (sorry I mean Kasparov), Anand, Kramnik and Carlson could probably beat any of the rest with enough preparation as they are all brimming with talent.

  2. Johnnie says:

    I think they are about equal. But if I had to choose one or the other, I dunno? Kasparov?

  3. Andreas says:

    I believe Magnus is the strongest player of all time… but not the greatest Magnus has many more resources available than Kasparov or Fisher which is why he is a stronger player than the but in order to be the true G.O.A.T. He would have to dominate for a bit longer. Kasparov did a lot for the game of chess and is part of the reason Magnus is so good

  4. aaron kristien says:

    every great chess champions has left a great mark on the game the rhetoric who the greatest of all time of years past or present time but important value of the legacy of all these great chess champions indomitable spirit that lay corner stone for history for future chess players and to unlock the many secrets as a collective as human being to further the knowledge and to test the limits of the human spirit and the great beauty of the game

  5. Len Helfgott says:

    In each era the greatest players learn and grow from prior history.
    What about Philidor, Deschappelles, Labourdonnais before Morphy, Steinitz, Lasker and of course Perhaps the most talented Capablanca. Who can compare. Look at the Worlds Strongest Man Competitions with current knowledge and steroids. Then read about Canadian Louis Cyr (1863-1912). Its all in the era of experience.

  6. Harikrishnan says:

    Kasparov is the only best of all time.

    Carlsen end game specialist but Kasparov will destroy in middle game itself with his complex killer moves. Definitely Carlsen wouldn’t defend the attack by God of chess.

  7. Iztok says:

    Every period has its own hero. Fischer, Kasparov, Rubinstein,… and don’t forget the best player Alexander Alekhin.

  8. Tafsheer says:

    MAGNUS is unbeatable in present time.

  9. GM Bouallegui Moudhaffer says:

    I’d say Magnus would probably win a match because he is much more knowledgable, I mean Kasparov was playing the Evans gambit against his field and won.. seriously the evans gambit is crazy talk nowadays

  10. Geoffrey Perks says:

    It’s now 2019. The last comment on this from my calculations were in 2015. I really don’t know who’s the strongest of all time. I also think it’s really unfair to compare like for like all the world champions that have existed just by stats alone. Style is everything! Carlsen has so much resource at his disposal that he can stand on the shoulders of the giants that came before him. Granted Carlsen has a prodigious talent for memory and creativity. Can we really discount Morphy, Steinitz and Nimzovitch? In truth, what has Magnus really offered? Yes he can draw people out of opening preparation and can lead games into territories which are favourable to him. However, ask yourself one question – How does he know the positions which will be favourable to him? The answer is simple and one which would not have been available to his chess master ancestors. He has computers. As I said earlier, I don’t think I can call it. Let’s see if someone else can

  11. DUTCH says:

    Fischer – Kasparov on their prime would be a more interesting match Lets wait a few more years to see the full potential of carlsen then we will know if he could be considered the greatest of all time.

    1. Dr. Lawrence Sosna says:

      Agree more time is needed right now I see it as Fisher and Kasparov.

  12. Neville Campos says:

    Kasparov doesnt need to play alot of moves in a single game ,He is a killer and needs at least 50 moves to mate his opponent.

  13. risal says:

    I’m afraid the Magnus vs Kasparov’ greatest reviews both of them ‘ve weakness each other. I tell u magnus had played 222 moving if i didn’t mistake, a long period of a match deveat Anand. Kasparov didn’ make happen it on his decade.

    1. Harsha Vardhan A says:

      As far as the stats and the rating says that magnus carlsen is the best player of all time in chess.

  14. Azamor says:

    Carlson is the best in the world these days. But if you compare the career of both, you can not say that Carlson did what Casparov did. The Russian is along with Bob Fisher the best of all time, while we still do not know how far Carlson can go.

    1. Charles Rissew says:

      I think there is a pretty good argument for Paul Morphy being the GOAT as well.

      1. Vincenzo Beretta says:

        Or Alexander Alekhine.

    2. choong sin yew says:

      you spelled Casparov wrongly.

      It’s Kasparov

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