Magnus Carlsen Best Games: Learn from Them 

magnus carlsen best game

Magnus Carlsen achieved the title of grandmaster at the mere age of 13, when his rating was 2484. He won the Chess “World Championship” crown at 22. In 2022, he is the chess player with the highest ELO rating of 2861.

The point is Carlsen’s achievement list goes on. The reigning king is definitely one of the best players in chess. So, no matter in which stage you’re at, there’s a lot to learn from studying his games.

Let’s take a look at Magnus Carlsen’s best games.

Best Magnus Carlsen Games to Study

Carlsen is an extraordinary player who often makes us wonder what makes him so different. I bet even his peers think the same. But, as a chess learner, the better question would be, “how does he make himself so different?”.

A few reasons behind his genius are:

  • Playability
  • Universality
  • Memory
  • Ability to play the perfect moves in less time
  • Tactics
  • Intuition

We will look at the best games of Magnus Carlsen and see which of the above points made them great.

1. Magnus Carlsen vs Levon Aronian | Tata Steel Masters, 2015

During this game, GM Carlsen was definitely at the peak of his abilities. He was crushing Super Grandmasters from all directions. His moves were so tactical & strong that, mostly, his opponents failed to enter his arena and make any valid threat.

The moves of this game are:

1.d4Nf62.c4e63.Nf3d54.Nc3Bb45.cxd5exd56.Bg5h67.Bxf6Qxf68.Qa4+Nc6 9.e3 O-O 10.Be2 Be6 11.O-O a6 12.Rfc1 Bd6 13.Qd1 Ne714.a3Rfd815.b4Nc816.Na4b617.Nb2Ne718.Nd3Ng619.a4a520.b5Re8 21.Rc3Bf522.Rac1 Rad8 23.Nd2Rd724.g3Nf825.Bg4Nh726.Bxf5Qxf527.Qf3Qg528.h4Qe729.Rc6Nf630.Nf4g631.h5Kg732.hxg6fxg633.Nxd5Nxd534.Qxd5Bxg335.Qg2Bd636.Nc4Rf837.Ne5Bxe538.Qxg6+Kh839.Qxh6+Kg840.dxe5Qxe541.Rg6+Kf742.Rc4Qa1+43.Kg2Rh844.Rf4+Ke845.Re6+Re746.Rxe7+Kxe747.Re4+1-0

Why is it the best?

  • Played 13.Qd1 to block Black’s queenside action
  • Went for 12.Rfc1 instead of Rac1 to have two rooks while developing the queenside
  • Didn’t let Black cross the halfway point toward White
  • Filled dark squares with pawns after sacrificing a dark-squared bishop

The World Champion blocked Black’s queenside movement with the 13th move to get enough time to develop his queenside. Also, if he had gone for Rac1 on the 12th move instead of Rfc1, the f-square rook would have remained stuck.

This shows how tactful the game was, making it one of the best performances by the king of the chess world.

There are 1756 chess grandmasters in the world

Read How many Grandmasters are there to find how many are active.

2. Magnus Carlsen vs Sipke Ernst | Wijk aan Zee (2004)

When Magnus Carlsen began his career, many chess players didn’t take him seriously, especially elderly chess players. They assumed he belonged to the “computer generation” and played chess by memorizing the chess database.

But that’s nothing like Carlsen. In an interview, he revealed he only used a computer for chess when he began playing online.

The moves of Carlsen vs Ernst (2004):


Why is it the best?

If you study the game, you will realize how unique is GM Carlsen’s memory pattern. Unlike other chess players, he doesn’t memorize inexplicable moves that a computer tells him to play. Instead, he has a photographic memory that remembers the moves from the games he has seen.

In this chess game, Spike Ernst played Caro-Kann Defense, Classical variation, and Magnus Carlsen managed a win without knowing the line. How?

In an interview after the game, Carlsen said that he remembered during the game that 17. Qe2 was a book move. It took him 25 minutes, but he eventually figured out 18. Ng6. He continued playing book moves till 24. Gxf7! instead of 24 ♕f6+ (which led to a draw in a previous game).

As you see, Magnus Carlsen doesn’t mug up the openings and their variations. His unique memory pattern picks up the middlegame themes as well. This is the reason why Carlsen vs. Ernst (2004) is one of the best games played by the World Champion.

Play an Aggressive Middlegame to Excel the Endgame

Read 8 Chess Middlegame Strategies to learn how to do that.

3. Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin | Tata Steel Group A (2013), Wijk aan Zee

The moves are:


Why is it the best?

This game speaks a lot about GM Carlsen’s intuitive playing style. Computers calculate 29. Qc2 is the best move for White, and Qh1 is a disaster.

But Carlsen went for 29. Qh1. Many think it was just a lapse of judgment but was that the case?

According to Magnus Carlsen 60 Memorable Games, the Champion played 29. Qh1 to maximize his strength on the light squares after 30. Kg1!.

In contrast to what computers calculated, Carlsen quickly improved White’s positions against Karjakin. After trading queens, Carlsen slowly ground down his opponent in 92 moves.

4. Magnus Carlsen vs. Michael Adams | World Cup (2007)

Magnus Carlsen’s intuitive choice of moves hardly matches the algorithm, and it was best noticed by GM Shankland. He said, “I saw some statistic that of the top 10 players in the world, he (Carlsen) matches the top choice of the computer the least of all of them…”

Let’s look at another example to understand how Carlsen goes with intuition than the algorithm.

The moves from Carlsen vs Adams (2007) are:


Why is it the best?

Talking about intuition, nobody could understand why Carlsen played 16. Na1. Later, in an interview, Carlsen said he just felt like playing his knight in that corner square–a1.

The point is he went on to win the game in 77 moves despite the fact that 16. Na1 wasn’t a good move, according to the algorithm.

Learn the Best Endgame Strategies to Beat your Enemy in no time

Checkout “11 Chess Endgame Strategies” to find out.

5. Magnus Carlsen vs Vasyl Ivanchuk | Grand Slam Chess Final, 2011

The World Champion played a total of 3198 games, but one thing still remains the same–playability. In simpler words, the ability to judge which positions are easier to play than others. This game is the perfect example of how Carlsen picks easier positions to play.

The moves are:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 b6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.Qxc3 Ne 48.Qc2 f5 9.g3 Nf6 10.Bh3 O-O 11.O-O a5 12.Rd1 Qe8 13.d5 Na6 14.Bf4 exd5 15.Bxf5 dxc4 16.Ng5 Qh5 17.Rxd7 Kh8 18.Re7 Nd5 19.Bg4 Qg6 20.Nf7+ Kg8 21.Bf5 Qxf5 22.Qxf5 Nxe7 23.Nh6+ gxh6 24.Qg4+ Ng6 25.Bxh6 Rf7 26.Rd1 Re8 27.h4 Nc5 28.h5 Bc8 29.Qxc4 Ne5 30.Qh4 Nc6 31.Rd5 Ne6 32.Qc4 Ncd8 33.Qg4+ Ng7 34.Qxc 81-0

Why is it the best?

As you can see in the moves, Carlsen gives up an opportunity at the 18th move. It could have been a little complicated, but a fruitful line, such as 18. Rad1! Nxd7 19. Rxd7…

Instead, he took a little “unexpected route” from where came out an easy game for White: 25…Rf7 26. Rd1 Re8 27. h4! Nc5 28. h5 Bc8 29. Qxc4 Ne5 30. Qh4 Nc6? (30…Ne6!) 31. Rd5! Ne6 32. Qc4 Ncd8? 33. Qg4+ Ng7 34. Qxc8

Carlsen has emphasized his preference for an “easier” position time and again in his career. If you study his games, you will realize that playability has always been a crucial factor.

Here’s a video with more easy positions from GM Carlsen’s games.

Wondering how to evaluate chess positions? Watch this video on how Carlsen picked positions.


What is the greatest chess game in history?

One of the most acclaimed games was the game between Garry Kasparov and Topalov in Wijk aan Zee in 1999. It’s considered the greatest game for several reasons. Some of them are:

  • A ferocious fight between the players
  • Tactical themes from the opening to the endgame
  • A famous king hunt

How many games has Magnus Carlsen lost?

Magnus hasn’t lost a lot of chess games, but lately, there have been many. He lost to GM Praggnanandhaa at the FTX Crypto Cup Miami 2022, followed by another controversial defeat against GM Niemann at the Sinquefield Cup.

What is Magnus Carlsen’s IQ?

Magnus Carlsen’s IQ is 190.

Do you Know How to Decline the Queen’s Gambit?

Learn 7 Queen’s Gambit Declined Strategies here.


Many chess fans say Carlsen is “Fischer on steroids,” but I don’t agree entirely. I think he’s more like Fischer and Kasparov had a baby.

Jokes apart, I learned a lot while writing this, and I hope you feel the same while reading it. Before I end this blog, here’s a fun analysis of a game from the Queen’s Gambit Tv series by none other than Magnus Carlsen himself.

With this, I bid you farewell! Until next time!

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