Jun 16, 2021

Carlsen rating World Chess Champions

How does Magnus Carlsen rate his great predecessors as World Chess Champions on genius, entertainment, influence and sanity? We got to find out in a series of videos made for the New in Chess Classic, in which he assessed the 11th to the 16th World Champions, i.e. Bobby Fischer, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Vishy Anand and himself! He also looked at arguably the two greatest female players of all time, Judit Polgar and Hou Yifan, and rated the top player in each category going back to the likes of Jose Capablanca and Mikhail Tal.

In case you missed them during the New in Chess Classic, we’ve gathered together all of Magnus Carlsen’s videos talking about the World Chess Champions. It began with one general video where Magnus picked the top champion of all time in each category.

Genius: A lot of people would say Fischer, I guess. Not so sure about that. I think I will go with Capablanca, though. He’s somebody who came out of nowhere and just played very clear, simple and yet brilliant chess, and that is something that I would characterize as genius-like.

Entertainment: When it comes to entertaining it starts and ends with Tal, and I don’t really see any great competition there, both really on and off the board.

Influence: As a modern player I will say that probably I will have to say Garry Kasparov, because he really has influenced all the best players today.

Sanity: I think somebody who definitely stands out as extremely sane and level-headed and just a wonderful person to be around in every way is Anand, so that’s the one I will go with.

Magnus then filmed six videos looking at the last six World Champions, himself included!

Bobby Fischer (World Champion from 1972-1975)


Genius: I don’t consider him to be that big a genius, but still there was some Capablanca-like quality in the way that he made chess look very simple, so I’m going to give him a 7 out of 10.

Entertainment: Fischer was certainly… everything about him was entertaining, all that was around. His games in themselves were entertaining because he always played for a win, even though they weren’t always most exciting in terms of new ideas and everything, but considering the whole package, I think he gets an 8 here.

Influence: I would say he scores very highly both in terms of opening ideas, general ideas about the game, and obviously everything that’s around Fischer, he’s influenced chess greatly, so I think he’s going to get a 9 here.

Sanity: In terms of sanity, I think we are judging Fischer as a World Champion, and while he was World Champion I think he was still reasonably well-rounded, so he gets a 4 here, which is not a great score, but certainly later it could have potentially been even worse.

Garry Kasparov (1985-2000)


Garry Kasparov – in my opinion the greatest player there’s ever been.

Genius: Garry was certainly a hard worker, but he had this very, very special kind of talent for the game as well, that you could see already at a very early age, and he could find ideas that nobody else could, so I think Garry gets a perfect 10.

Entertainment: In terms of entertaining there were quite a lot of short draws in the World Championship matches. Generally everything about Garry was entertaining, but he would have gotten a 10 except for his tendencies to offer a bit too many draws for my liking, so that’s going to be a 9.

Influence: In terms of influence I would say on the modern generation that’s a pretty good 10 as well.

Sanity: In terms of sanity he gets the same mark as Karpov, which is a 7. There certainly have been episodes with Garry as well, but personally at the very least I’ve found him very interesting to be around and not a problem at all.

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