What Is Magnus Carlsen’s IQ?

This article is about Magnus Carlsen's IQ.

Magnus Carlsen is an outstanding chess player with extraordinary achievements throughout his young career. Many chess enthusiasts call him the “Mozart of chess”.

Without any doubt, Magnus Carlsen’s chess career is impressive. He received his grandmaster title with 13 years in 2004.

A few years later, in 2009, Magnus Carlsen reached an impressive Elo rating of over 2800 and just a 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.

On top of 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.

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But what are the reasons behind his success? Some chess players claim that he is a complete chess player who can handle both, tactical and positional positions. Others, however, refer to his impressive psychological and physical form. Finally, many people wonder what Magnus Carlsen’s IQ (intelligence quotient) might be.

But what do we know about Magnus Carlsen’s intelligence? What do we know about intelligence in general? And is there a correlation between his intelligence and his chess skills?

The following article is devoted to Magnus Carlsen’s IQ and its significance for his results in the game of chess.

A quick introduction to the concept of intelligence In order to find out Magnus Carlsen's IQ, we need to define the concept of human intelligence.

„Intelligence is a bankrupt concept. Whatever it might mean – and nobody really knows even how to define it – intelligence is so ephemeral that no one can measure it accurately.” (Herrnstein and Murray 1994)

Research on the field of human intelligence started with the studies of the French scientist Alfred Binet in 1904.

Alfred Binet got the assignment to develop a test with which one can identify children who weren’t good enough to be sent to school. This objective tool should optimize and complement the advice of teachers.

The definition of intelligence is an issue with which science is concerned to the present day.

A variety of different assertions exist to this matter. However, most experts found common ground about three significant indicators for intelligence:
1. The ability to cope with abstractions, ideas, symbols, concepts, and principles.
2. The ability to solve problems and to manage new situations.
3. The ability to acquire and use verbal as well as symbolic abstractions.

However, there is still no precise definition of this concept. Intelligence also includes things such as logic, abstract thinking, understanding, learning, and a dozen more components.

The above-mentioned definition might cause considerable problems, due to those essential components which are not of intellectual manner are missing. These components are, for instance, emotional and social competencies, sensory competences, achievement motivation, the visual perceptivity and many more.

Measuring Intelligence – IQ Tests In order to find out more about Magnus Carlsen's IQ, we need to understand what IQ tests are and what they are measuring.

While the first procedure to identify the intelligence quotient was developed by Binet in 1904, William Stern coined the term “intelligence quotient” (IQ) 8 years later.

Intelligence is regarded as normally distributed and mostly indicated as the IQ (intelligence quotient).  The average IQ is 100.  So, if someone reaches an IQ of 100, the probability that a person is more or less intelligent than you is 50% in each case.

About 68% of the IQ scores are between a standard deviation of -1 and + 1 – so in the middle range. 68% of all IQ scores are between 85 and 115,15 points, within this standard deviation of -1 to +1. That’s the case if it is really true that 100 is the concrete mean value.

Thus, when you go one standard deviation up from the mean value (+1), the IQ score is 115. With an IQ of 115, the probability to meet one who is more intelligent than you is only 16%. In consequence, 84% of all people are equally or less intelligent than you.

95% of the population has IQ between 70 and 130.

If one has an intelligence quotient of 145, the probability to meet anyone ever who is even more intelligent is extremely small. Only 0,13% of the whole world population reaches an even higher IQ.

What Is Magnus Carlsen’s IQ? 

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Surely, it is extremely interesting to get to know how high the IQ of the “Mozart of chess”, of a unique chess player is. Unfortunately, he has never taken an IQ test yet. So, his intelligence hasn’t been measured until today.

However, an exact measurement of human intelligence cannot be provided by a test or by a mathematical formula. Hence, the result of such a test will depend on the design of it.

Another chess giant, Garry Kasparov, decided for a test and the results are highly controversial. Some sources give Garry Kasparov an IQ between 185 and 190 so that he was included in the list of ten smartest people in the world by the American organization Super Scholar.

The result over 140 points is considered a genius level. According to scientists, only 0,5% people on Earth have this high IQ. Kasparov, former World Champion, is 50 points above the genius level according to Super Scholar.

However, the German magazine “Der Spiegel“ attempted to find out Kasparov’s IQ in 1987-88. Kasparov was given numerous tests to measure his memory, spatial ability, and abstract reasoning under the supervision of international psychologists. The team measures his IQ “only” as 135.

Another strong chess player from Budapest, Judit Polgár, the undoubtedly best female chess player in history was reported an IQ of 170!

However, there are doubts about the connection between intelligence and chess strength. Surely, one has to be pretty intelligent to be successful in chess, but there are plenty of more factors which are important for success in chess. To have an outstanding memory, emotional stability or a long span of attention are important skills in chess as well!

Nonetheless, Magnus Carlsen who is number one in the FIDE list must be extraordinarily intelligent! No doubt, that if he made a test, Magnus Carlsen’s IQ would be really high! However, why put his undeniable intelligence in numbers? It is known that the IQs of the greatest chess players are the highest in the chart. You can read about the correlation of IQ and Elo rating here in more detail.

Conclusion – What can we say about Magnus Carlsen’s IQ?

No doubt, Magnus Carlsen’s IQ must be extremely high! The particular intelligence of the best chess player in the world is undeniable – without any tests and numbers!

If you like to remark something or add any important clue, feel free to leave a comment about the speculative topic of Magnus Carlsen’s IQ.

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5 comments on “What Is Magnus Carlsen’s IQ?

  1. It is known that chess is more game of memory then of inteligent. So its not that much important how high iq chess player have.

    1. That is incorrect. There haven’t been any chess grandmasters that we know of who didn’t have an IQ of the top 1%. There are memory championships now. People compete to memorize all kinds of things. None of these “champions” happen to play chess at a world class level. Memory is important to the opening and certain common endgame situations. It won’t help in a unique position. Having the world’s best memory would only keep you from blundering or falling for a trap in the beginning of a match. You could set up a board between any of these people with white having a pawn advantage and being say 12 moves into the game. Then let black be played by any international master. They would be crushed in short order.

  2. Chess depends heavily on rapid and complex spatial manipulation/visualization/structural pattern progression, memory and unbroken concentration. Success in such activities are strongly correlated with IQ, so Magnus Carlson is likely to be somewhere along 160 to 200, and so is Gary Kasparov. A person who is not exceptionally or profoundly gifted as well as extensively trained could not hope to compete with them.

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