Garry Kasparov vs Magnus Carlsen – Who Is The Best?
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.
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.
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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