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    Carlsen: Champion's Edition

    Every self respecting chess player in the world knows something about the new World Champion Magnus Carlsen. He seems to have broken every record possible as of the year 2014: He is the holder of the highest ever FIDE rating of 2882, the World Champion in “Normal” chess, after beating Viswanathan Anand in 2013, as well as in Quick and Blitz 2014 World Championships. But how does he do it? It is more of a rhetorical question, since if it was that easy to dissect his style, everyone would be playing like Carlsen. However, here are some logical points and observations that every player can benefit from knowing about Carlsen. First of all he has a great memory and tremendous calculative abilities. That got him out of many bad positions. He also has an incredible ability to sit down and work at the board for hours. According to a recent interview with his parents, Magnus could sit for hours in a corner and patiently play with building blocks without being tired and until his goal is accomplished. That ability to wait and “squeeze” opponents in seemingly simple endgames is what won him many games and was responsible for winning the match against Anand so convincingly. He also loves the game, probably more than many of his current opponents, always being interested in new ideas, trying out new concepts and openings. That “freshness” also helped him not be afraid of failure and to venture into the game each time with a newly found energy and a desire at the times when his opponents might be out of steam or have desire to play long games.

    So let's take a look at some of his games, starting from the year 2006, which is when we consider him entering a new and more “mature” phase of his world domination. For the earlier years of Magnus Carlsen, please see the other course from ChessU named “Early Carlsen”.


    1. Carlsen-Onischuk

    We start the lesson with this slow and positional grind that shows how good Magnus was becoming in squeezing out normal positions while combining them with small tactics to help the cause.

    The next game will deal with a material imbalance and the negative psychological aspect of the “winning the Queen” theme.

    2. Stefansson-Carlsen

    This game is a classic example of what happens to players who might think they can do a 2 move tactic against Carlsen and win easily. Or maybe it was an overconfidence in the power of a Queen vs minor pieces? Or maybe it was a simply tactical blunder or a mixture of all 3.Either way a fun game.

    The next game deals with a structural game arising from a complex middlegame.

    3. Van Wely-Carlsen

    This was a very interesting positional struggle that was somewhat marred by a gross blunder by White. The position collapsed very quickly for White after Magnus seized the center.

    The next game deals with a badly placed king issues.

    4. Carlsen-Sosa

    White sacrifices 2 pawns right out of the opening just to keep the Black King in the center. It succeeds beautifully, though against a stronger player it could have backfired.

    In the next game we see a slow grind..... against the former World Champion!

    5. Kramnik-Carlsen

    Once Black solves the opening problems, he starts expanding on the King side. In the complications Kramnik wrongly decides to go to a worse endgame.... just to be in an endgame and pays the price. It was very impressive watching it live and trying to guess the moves.

    6. Carlsen-Aronian

    Here White introduces a wonderful pawn advance right into Black's territory and gets a wonderful compensation. With yet another exchange sac, White seals the point. The next game is even a more impressive attack, straight from 19th century miniatures.

    7. Carlsen-Groenn

    White sacrifices a pawn right out of the opening and wins with a perfectly timed knight sacrifice. The rest was beautiful.

    The next game was a complicated battle where eventually Carlsen succeeds.

    8. Carlsen-Van Wely

    In a complicated opening line the play on both sides succeeds for Magnus, though at some point it looks very hard to evaluate.In the next game Magnus gets a winning position in just 15 moves.

    9. Carlsen-Yue

    An isolated pawn structure quickly leads to a winning attack when GM Yue fails to blockade or capture the “d” pawn.

    10. Carlsen-Jakovenko

    After Black declines to open the center, Magnus gets dangerous pawns that decide the outcome of the game in a 4 Rook endgame.

    The next game follows the familiar plan of opening the game and creating chaos before the opponent castles.

    11. Carlsen-Radjabov

    In a sideline of the popular Sicilian Black pushes a bit too aggressively and when the smog clears, it appears that White is up a whole piece. The next game deals with sharp tactics around White's king.

    12. Svidler-Carlsen

    Just when it looked like all was normal and simple, Black unleashes a cool sacrifice on g2, which immediately changes the dynamics of the game. After both sides miss a correct continuation, Svidler resigns and perhaps very prematurely.

    13. Hammer-Carlsen.

    Magnus chooses a hybrid line in a quiet line of a Bogo-Indian that allows him to keep as many pieces on the board as possible. He then slowly proceeds to outplay his teammate and his only helper in his 2013 match vs Anand that he so convincingly won.

    The next game deals with a small endgame advantage of “queen side majority” and its correct implementation in a practical game.

    14. Carlsen-Gelfand

    This is a deceptively simple game where if you scroll down quickly over the moves, it leaves an impression of White “winning pawns and pushing pawns to queening spots”. But things were not as simple against a 2750 player and Magnus needed to use all the resources to accomplish the goal.The next game shows the power of 2 Bishops in an endgame.

    15. Carlsen-Van Wely

    Carlsen employs an old but still dangerous line against a King's Indian Defense. For a while the game looks unclear until they reach an endgame where White is down a pawn but has great perspectives. From that point on no trade can stop White from slowly surrounding Black's weaknesses and winning them.

    Next we see a battle of centralized pieces vs side moves. It is not hard to guess how it ends though it is very impressive that it was done against one of the sharpest tacticians in the world.

    16. Carlsen-Nakamura

    In a sharp Sicilian, Black tried to confuse the matter by an early “h” pawn advance. Undeterred, Magnus simply developed and broke through the king side via domination in the center. The end was not pretty. It was especially impressive, considering how many times Nakamura himself dispatched of his opponents in the same style.

    The next game is a straightforward attack on Black's king using any means to open up the king.

    17. Carlsen-Potkin

    Magnus avoids the long lines of the Taimanov Sicilian and even though trades take place, whatever pieces are left, go and attack Black's King. At the end White is up 2 pawns and still wants to checkmate Black!

    The next game looks easy to understand but then it is hard to pinpoint where White went wrong as it was over very quickly.

    18. Yudin-Carlsen

    In a quiet line of the Italian opening players trade pieces off and somehow the doubled pawns that White had fall to Black's Queen aggressions. This game shows the huge difference between Magnus and the “normal” Grandmasters in understanding of the game.

    Next we see how Carlsen attacks with black in supersharp openings, not being afarid to sacrifice even a queen if needed.

    19. Gelfand-Carlsen

    The offbeat line of the super sharp Benko Gambit leads to a complex position that is hard to understand or evaluate without a computer help. The speed of how quickly Carlsen beats the former World Championship contender shows his strength compared to the “guardians” of the previous generation.

    We conclude the lesson with the win over Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand: the world champion who he beat very convincingly in 2013. Anand will be Carlsen's opponent in the 2014 match for the World Championship in November.

    20. In this final game of our selection we observe how Carlsen wins seemingly without much trouble and without much use of tactics against Anand. That game crowns his incredible accomplishments as a chess player and cements his spot as the strongest representative of the new generation of chess players in the world.

    • 1Van Wely-Carlsen...
    • 11Carlsen-Groenn...
    • 2Carlsen-Sosa...
    • 12Carlsen-Onischuk...
    • 3Carlsen-Van Wely...
    • 13Stefansson-Carlsen...
    • 4Kramnik-Carlsen...
    • 14Carlsen-Aronian...
    • 5Carlsen-Radjabov...
    • 15Carlsen-Wang Yue...
    • 6Svidler-Carlsen...
    • 16Carlsen-Jakovenko...
    • 7Hammer-Carlsen...
    • 17Carlsen-Gelfand...
    • 8Carlsen-Van Wely...
    • 18Gelfand-Carlsen...
    • 9Carlsen-Anand...
    • 19Carlsen-Nakamura...
    • 10Carlsen-Potkin...
    • 20Yudin-Carlsen...
  • Author
    Levon Altounian

    IM Levon Altounian is on the list of the most prominent chess players, coaches and organizers in the USA. He was a participant of three of the most prestigious US Championships, winner of the 2000 National Open and 2011 G10 National Open, many Arizona and California State Championships, including the 2010 “Champion of the State Champions” title. He also holds numerous records on ICC ( where he recently played a match with GM Hikaru Nakamura. Under his leadership, his students from all over the US won more than 100 Individual and Team State and National titles, including the K-5 Nationals in 2004 (Tucson, AZ team) and Denker competitions. His organization, called Arizona Chess For Schools, works tirelessly to promote chess on every level and also specializes in organizing chess events, camps and providing private and group lessons. To find out more please visit or contact Levon directly at