Reports | December 08, 2012 22:02

Carlsen beats Kasparov's rating record in London

Carlsen beats Kasparov's rating record in London

The London Chess Classic has become a historic tournament on Saturday as with his draw against Hikaru Nakamura, Magnus Carlsen has beaten Garry Kasparov's record rating of 2851. With his win yesterday against Polgar the Norwegian already secured a new rating of 2851, but now even if Carlsen loses his last game on Monday against Anand, he'll leave Londen with a rating gain of 8 points. This means he'll be topping the January FIDE rating list with an Elo of at least 2856.

All games in round 7 ended in draws, and so Carlsen also maintained his 4-point lead over Vladimir Kramnik. However, because the world's number one has his (well deserved!) rest day tomorrow, nothing has been decided yet.

Carlsen will be the highest rated player ever on January 1st, 2013 |  Photos © Ray Morris-Hill

Event London Chess Classic |  PGN via TWIC
Dates December 1st-10th, 2011
Location London, UK
System 9-player round robin
Players Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Nakamura, Adams, Polgar, McShane, Jones
Rate of play 2 hours for 40 moves followed by 1 hour for 20 moves followed by 15 minutes to finish the game, with 30 seconds increment from move 61
Prize fund € 160,000
Tiebreak 1. # games won. 2. # games won with Black. 3. Result of the game(s) between the tied players. Otherwise Armageddon.
Notes Draw offers only through the arbiter. 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw. The player who has a “bye” will assist the commentators during the round.

And so he did it. Two years after becoming the world's youngest number one ever, Magnus Carlsen is reaching international headlines once again by becoming the highest rated player ever.

It's pretty cool. It's probably the biggest achievement so far in my career,

he told us in an interview we had with him after the game. The video will be posted as soon as possible!

Before we move on to the game itself, we'll include a tweet from the man who reached 2851 in July 1999 but lost his record today, Garry Kasparov:

Congratulations to @MagnusCarlsen! Could my rating record last other than 13 yrs? It was always 'my' number. 22 was also a good age for me!

Top ratings over the years

Playing Black, Carlsen faced Hikaru Nakamura. The opening was a c3 Sicilian (Alapin), which you don't see too often at this level. Carlsen:

I think we were both pretty surprised by the position that came on the board.

Nakamura said that he had prepared this opening for his game against Topalov at the Grand Prix in September.

At move 16 Carlsen gave a knight for two pawns which seemed quite promising, but when he took on f3 to win a third pawn, it was White who got the upper hand. Still, with some accurate moves the world's number one saved the draw and secured the record.

PGN string

By then Jones and Aronian had finished their game already; a 3.f3 Grünfeld that started very promising but then suddenly petered out into a draw.

PGN string

Not much happened in Polgar-Anand. The Indian felt he might have been slighty better out of the opening, but a few moves later it was White who was pressing a bit. Black's tactic at the end was nice.

PGN string

Yet again Luke McShane was involved in the last game. He was basically defending throughout the game, and many people felt that Adams was going to win another game, but not this time.

PGN string

During Sunday's 8th round, Magnus Carlsen is the one who will be assisting the commentators. We'd say that more than ever, the Livestream page that provides streaming video of the commentary room is worth visiting!

Commentary videos (produced by Macauley Peterson)

Pairings & results

Round 1 01.12.12 15:00 CET   Round 2 0212.12 15:00 CET
McShane 0-3 Carlsen   Polgar 1-1 Jones
Aronian 0-3 Nakamura   Nakamura 0-3 Kramnik
Kramnik 3-0 Polgar   Carlsen 3-0 Aronian
Jones 0-3 Adams   Anand 1-1 McShane
Anand bye Assisting the commentary   Adams bye Assisting the commentary
Round 3 0312.12 15:00 CET   Round 4 04.12.12 17:00 CET
Aronian 1-1 Anand   Nakamura 1-1 Adams
Kramnik 1-1 Carlsen   Carlsen 3-0 Jones
Jones 1-1 Nakamura   Anand 1-1 Kramnik
Adams 3-0 Polgar   McShane 0-3 Aronian
McShane bye Assisting the commentary   Polgar bye Assisting the commentary
Round 5 06.12.12 15:00 CET   Round 6 07.12.12 15:00 CET
Kramnik 3-0 McShane   Carlsen 3-0 Polgar
Jones 0-3 Anand   Anand 0-3 Adams
Adams 0-3 Carlsen   McShane 3-0 Jones
Polgar 0-3 Nakamura   Aronian 1-1 Kramnik
Aronian bye Assisting the commentary   Nakamura bye Assisting the commentary
Round 7 08.12.12 15:00 CET   Round 8 09.12.12 15:00 CET
Jones 1-1 Aronian   Anand - Nakamura
Adams 1-1 McShane   McShane - Polgar
Polgar 1-1 Anand   Aronian - Adams
Nakamura 1-1 Carlsen   Kramnik - Jones
Kramnik bye Assisting the commentary   Carlsen bye Assisting the commentary
Round 9 10.12.12 13:00 CET        
Adams   Kramnik        
Polgar - Aronian        
Nakamura - McShane        
Carlsen - Anand        
Jones bye Assisting the commentary        

London Chess Classic 2012 | Round 7 standings (football)


London Chess Classic 2012 | Round 7 standings (classical)



Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Anonymous's picture

Habemus MAGNUM! :-)

calvin amari's picture

While it is reflective of a sustained run of dominance, this rating breakthrough is the single most notable acheivement in chess in many years. We as chess players are lucky to be witnessing this and Magnus does great things for the game itself, in chessic terms as well as in commercial and cultural terms. Warm congratulations to Magnus and his team of supporters.

Horscht's picture

Pontifex Magnus?!

BlunderSuck's picture

2851+ smile! Priceless!

redivivo's picture

So Carlsen will be 2866, 2861 or 2856 on the January list (and 2866.4, 2861.4 or 2856.4 on the live rating list) depending in the result in the last game, with white against Anand.

iLane's picture

One cannot compare numbers nominally as they do not represent the same performance because of rating inflation, but obviously Carlsen is way ahead of the field right now...

Carl Lumma's picture

Ratings inflation is a myth, disproved by Ken Regan. Ratings are going up over time, yes, but so is quality of play. Some or all of this is due to community progress in opening theory... better understanding of how to play certain positions, etc, rather than people getting smarter, but it remains the case that the #50 player in the world today could smash the #50 player from 1980, and his rating is higher as a result.

Now, you could argue that Kasparov dominated his peers to a greater degree than Carlsen. Carlsen currently has about 50 ELO on the #2, which is about what Kasparov enjoyed also. Actually, Jeff Sonas' rating system does not measure objective quality of play, but rather the relative dominance of players, so he could answer such a question. I believe Fischer achieved the all-time highest lead over his rivals, but held this lead for a short period of time, whereas Kasparov was nearly as dominant for many years. Unfortunately I don't think he's updated his data since 2005.

miguelanjelo's picture

+1 Finally a smart comment...

Bartleby's picture

> Actually, Jeff Sonas' rating system does not
> measure objective quality of play, but rather the
> relative dominance of players

So does Elo. If everyone plays double as good, ratings will just stay the same.

Carl Lumma's picture

But everyone doesn't double their strength at once. Younger players incorporate the latest understanding of the game into their learnings; older players do not. The result is that ELO ratings measure objective playing strength quite well over time.

Guillaume's picture

Ken Regan's claim are based on a methodology that can be questioned. For instance, he used Rybka 3 at depth 13 to assess the quality of moves played by human chess players. To his own admittance, that would put Rybka in the 2650-2700 range, if it was playing with an opening book. Instead, it was left on its own as early as move 9, regardless of the era (?!). Can this crippled Rybka really be considered a valid tool to assess and compare the strength of top grandmasters through history? I doubt it.

Carl Lumma's picture

Regan and Bratko address this criticism, which is the first thing chess players fire off without bothering to understand their research.

Guillaume's picture

Where? Do you mean ?

Sorry, but not convincing at all. They were only looking at evaluations obtained by crippling the engines even more (from depth 2 to 12). Good for blunder checking, but not to compare the strength of super-GMs (unless one is ready to assume that super-GMs are only characterized by their rate of blunders, which is quite absurd). The very fact that they reach the same conclusion with a depth as low as depth 2 shows that their study is irremediably shallow and flawed.

strana's picture

Yes, rating inflation is a myth, that is why a 65 year old Korchnoi was stronger than a 30 year old Korchnoi. And this is a single example, there are many others. 65 must be the ideal age for a chess player.

Anonymous's picture

+1, Just one of million similar examples, and quite funny one.
Additionally (just to add few more to the list of computer-measurement flaws), using machines (which traditionally excel @ calculation but not exactly in strategy/planning, not to mention psychological aspects and so on...) to measure strength will only tell us which player is the most similar to this software running on that hardware under such and such limitations (as mentioned above), which is also additionally biased towards computer generation kids.

Plus, in this specific case if you ´cut off´ theory that early, you are running into ridiculous comparisons of, say, Lasker or Steinitz with players which simply memorised first 20-25 moves of this or that opening line, again most likely generated by the very same machines used for ´objective measure of strength´.

Guillaume's picture

Well said. I should also point out that there's some quite questionable cut-off in the methodology used by Ken Regan towards the end of the games. The analysis of each game is simply stopped when the evaluation given by the crippled Rybka reaches +3 or -3, and what is worst, the result of the game (1-0, 0-1, 1/2-1/2) is entirely ignored in the study (?!). How many games would be incorrectly evaluated with such a method? For instance a game ending in a fortress would be likely evaluated as a failure for the defender, which is quite absurd.

bronkenstein's picture

PS the post above is mine, for some reason it ´forgot´ my name in the initial post.

redivivo's picture

"Yes, rating inflation is a myth, that is why a 65 year old Korchnoi was stronger than a 30 year old Korchnoi. And this is a single example, there are many others. 65 must be the ideal age for a chess player."

This is of course not true, there were no ratings when Korchnoi was 30, they were introduced first much later, but on the first unofficial rating list in 1969 he was 2680. When he was 65 he was 2635-45. Korchnoi is a special example, but comparing the World Champion challengers in 1972 and 2012 the one in 1972 had a much higher rating so the inflation can't have been that bad :-)

jussu's picture

Regarding the challenger in 1972: maybe the entire concept of inflation stems from the idea that nobody could possibly top Fischer, so any number that puts someone else higher must be subjected to some correction that would get rid of this flaw.

Carl Lumma's picture

Do clocks run slower at the Olympics every year? No, of course not. But why do runners, and swimmers, etc. perform better every decade? It's some sort of community knowledge-gathering process.

valg321's picture

no offence, but Levon Aronian, worlds no.2 (or no.3 when he's in bad form) says that there's a definite inflation of about 50-60 points every decade or so. He's a pro player and knows much better chess than most people on the planet. I'll take his word over any "scientint's" opinion anytime.

valg321's picture

i'm pretty sure Magnus himself has mentioned the rating inflation several times

brabo's picture

I want real proof instead of somebody who heard somebody else say something.

valg321's picture

you need mathematical proof, thats fair enough, i'm like that most of the times as well but calling worlds no.2 "somebody else" is hardly fair

brabo's picture

Do you have a link to an interview so we can check what exactly the world no.2 has said?

redivivo's picture

"Levon Aronian, worlds no.2 (or no.3 when he's in bad form) says that there's a definite inflation of about 50-60 points every decade or so. He's a pro player and knows much better chess than most people on the planet. I'll take his word over any "scientint's" opinion anytime."

OK, let's compare today with the first unofficial Elo list of 1969. 50-60 points every decade would mean that the current World Champion would have been somewhere between 2515 and 2555 back then. That's almost 100 points from being top ten. Believable? Not really.

Carlsen, who today has a bigger lead on the rating list than anyone else than Kasparov the last 30 years, would be far below top three in 1969. Not particularly believable either.

valg321's picture

yes, i see what you mean except that besides pure chess ability you forgot to factor in, opening theory of today compared with that almost half a century ago

valg321's picture

to reiterate more clearly, i believe that opening theory does affect the elo rating inflation. It seems to me that the development of advanced theory will always favor the ratings of the upper echelons of players. I can read all the books i can find on the Berlin defense, that doesn't mean i can emulate Kramnik. In the late 60's, early 70's you had a much better chance to advance in chess just by pure, brute force chess ability than today. Add to that the ever increasing numbers of players and thus newcomers, leading eventually to the ever increasing numbers of GM's (thus the appearance of the opinion that we need a super-GM category) and i've got all i need to believe in the existence of elo inflation. Can we at least all agree that ratings show more precisely than anything else, the relative strength?

brabo's picture

What exactly do you mean with rating inflation as there exist many different definitions?

Thomas's picture

Whether we call it rating inflation or not, ratings aren't comparable over many years. To me the best evidence is that Caruana, Radjabov and Karjakin already have comparable or higher peak ratings than Fischer and Karpov - with all due respect, they haven't (yet) achieved anything comparable in their short careers. Funny that the graph shows the top13 (top10 would be 'standard'), otherwise Fischer and Karpov wouldn't appear at all !

If "rating inflation" was due to community progress in opening theory etc., it wouldn't occur because all players benefit equally. Note that ratings reflect relative strength with respect to your peers, not absolute strength with respect to a gold engine standard. I suspect it's simply due to an ever-increasing number of rated chess players: if the base of the pyramid gets wider, the top can reach higher.

"Carlsen currently has about 50 ELO on the #2, which is about what Kasparov enjoyed also."
Not quite, Kasparov's lead was at times up to 70-80 points, sustained over several consecutive lists. Carlsen's current lead is a snapshot, the gap could again become narrower if Wijk aan Zee 2013 repeats Wijk aan Zee 2012 (Aronian ahead of Carlsen).
Maybe that's good news for the Carlsen PR campaign: another historic event to celebrate when (IF) his rating lead over #2 exceeds what Kasparov has achieved?

jussu's picture

Caruana and Karjakin couldn't possibly have many achievements comparable to Karpov or Fischer: their opponents are stronger, and their careers have only begun.

Sure, ratings reflect relative strength, and there is no mechanism that would absolutely prevent ratings from drifting somewhat as time passes. However, players of consecutive generations play against each other, and this keeps their ratings more or less valid. There certainly is no mechanism that would cause the ratings to increase in time.

Thomas's picture

"Caruana and Karjakin ... their careers have only begun."
Yep, that's my point - but the system or rather the way it's used to compare ratings from different periods suggests that they are _already_ as strong or stronger than Fischer and Karpov at their career peaks.

"There certainly is no mechanism that would cause the ratings to increase in time."
True (though see below), but - my other point - for this we have to look at the average rating of ALL players, not just at #1, top10 or top100.
There are two mechanisms, though, which might cause average ratings to increase in time (again considering the whole list):
- K-factors: You start with a high K-factor when your playing strength might (rapidly) improve, and get and keep a lower K-factor when you are eventually declining. For example, if a 'fresh' rising star beats a GM, he gains more points (K-factor 30 or 15) than the GM loses (K-factor 10).
- Players' habits: A young improving player might play a lot (and will be underrated while he keeps improving due to inertia of the system). But an old declining player, at least nowadays, plays less frequently, hence he might be overrated for many years (his Elo partly reflects his former but not his current strength).

And such effects indirectly penetrate through the entire system: I might play a 2200ish player who faced an IM who faced a weak GM who faced a strong GM who played against Carlsen.

jussu's picture

I got to admit that my "There certainly is no mechanism that would cause the ratings to increase in time." was a little hasty. Since my post, I have been thinking about the possible effect of youngsters being underrated and old men being overrated, and I am still unsure as to the effects. It is quite complicated; I'm not sure whether player habits have any influence (but they might). Old players actually retire when being overrated, and by doing this, leave the rest of the pool a little underrated.

jussu's picture

But my point about Caruana and Karjakin was that they may well be playing at least as good chess as Fischer did at his peak. It's not opening theory, it is much more about accumulated knowledge about middlegame play.

Ricitos's picture

I agree. Consider an average kid, completely new to chess, in 1982 and today, and assume that 'congenital' chess abilities are constant over time. One would expect that the 2012-kid has a longer climb to the top than that of the 1982-kid, because the 2012-kid has to be updated on everything that happened the last 30 years. Hence, No 1 today is expected to be better relative to a beginner than No 1 of 30 years ago. Since Elo measures relative strengths, it is natural that No 1 today is rated higher than No 1 of 1982.

As a comparison, basic high school knowledge of today would have completely revolutionized science a hundred years ago. This does not mean that every straight A student is smarter than Newton, Einstein and Bohr.

strana's picture

Are Caruana and Karjakin´s opponents really stronger?? Untill the 80s, chess was one of the most popular activities in former Soviet Union, its top players were celebrities.It was like it is today in Armenia, with the small diference that Soviet Union (if I am not wrong ) had 250-300 million people and Armenia 3million... . Imagine how many strong players a 250-300 million people Armenia could produce !!! Keres, Petrossian, Smyslov, Stein, Bronstein, Korchnoi, Tahl, Geller, Spassky etc, were not inferior. For me, only Kramnik, Anand ( the young Vishy, not this one), Ivanchuk, Aronian and Carsen could be elite players in Soviet Union. Imagine in the entire world....

Anonymous's picture

"I suspect it's simply due to an ever-increasing number of rated chess players: if the base of the pyramid gets wider, the top can reach higher."

+ a lot

brabo's picture

If "rating inflation" was due to community progress in opening theory etc., it wouldn't occur because all players benefit equally.

Thomas here i don't agree at all. Personally as an FM it is for me impossible to follow up the progress in opening theory. Topgrandmasters however are following up much better than myself. The gap between people benefiting and not or very little is becoming bigger every year. It is also the reason why my rating stays flat while some topgrandmasters still win a few extra points even on an advanced age.

Thomas's picture

If you still read this ... that part of my comment may have been misleading, here I had professional top players in mind. For them, the situation may have become more equal: all have the same (engine) resources, all can spend lots of time on chess including opening theory. In the days of Karpov and Kasparov, strong seconds mattered more than they do nowadays!?

I guess for you it's impossible to follow opening theory not because you are (just) a FM, but presumably because you also have a job, maybe a family, maybe other hobbies etc. . For young and ambitious FMs (say, 14 or even 22 years old), it may be possible to compete in that respect with most GMs?

Anyway, I think it won't affect _average_ ratings and doesn't cause rating inflation. A win against an equally strong player is worth 5 points (and a loss -5 points) no matter if you play a sharp Najdorf, a non-theoretical setup or something dodgy such as the Blackmar-Diemer gambit!
That's a common misperception: the Elo system doesn't measure 'absolute' quality of the game in any phase (opening, middle- or endgame); it does measure results i.e. relative quality compared to your opponents.

Anonymous's picture

Better opening theory has nothing to do with better play. Playing = the part where you have to think for yourself.

And of course there is rating inflation. Unless you think Anand plays better now than in 2000..

jussu's picture

I have no doubt at all that Anand played better chess in 2007-2010 than in 2000.

redivivo's picture

Also, Anand's current 2771 is after playing little and losing points every time lately. He has performed considerably below 2750 the last years, but it takes a while for the rating to drop if you are playing as little as he does.

Anand reached 2797 in 2001 (higher than when he won Linares and World Championship in 2007) but slightly lower the year before after a couple of bad events.

Anonymous's picture

So Anand is overrated ? Good stuff to build a rating record. Unfortunately only a few GM's get to play him on a regular basis.

Thomas's picture

It has to be repeated once in a while (maybe redivivo will eventually remember, he remembers many other things I wrote): "last years" refers to less than 1 1/2 years starting with Bilbao in October 2011. From May 2010 until March 2011, Anand's rating went from 2789 to 2817 - that's impossible "performing considerably below 2750" with just a series of draws.

redivivo's picture

He has performed below 2750 in the two-year-period 2011-12, and dropped rating points in his last seven events (if Bundesliga season is counted as one event).

My point was mainly that when people call Anand's current rating a result of inflation this is supposed to make people think "wow, Anand is 2771 in spite of scoring so bad results lately, it has to be a lot of inflation". It isn't that simple, ratings are just slow to drop or rise, and it isn't certain that Anand having the same rating today as a dozen years ago must mean that there has been a lot of inflation.

Thomas's picture

Anand played extremely well in January 2011 (being just a bit "unlucky" that Nakamura 'picked' the same event as best one of his career so far?) and then took a fatherhood break from chess. So "for the last several years" is just wrong or wrongly suggestive (2, 3 or 5 years?!), even if Short and Carlsen just said the same in the London live commentary.
Anand's match against Gelfand was still a success in the end, and as far as the Bundesliga is concerned: he supported his team despite preparing for a WCh match. (Carlsen is 'technically' on the same team but didn't play at all the last couple of seasons).

Now your other point that the rating system arguably isn't 'dynamic' enough. If it was (higher K-factors) more dynamic, Ivanchuk's rating would fluctuate between 2600 and 2900 - or even worse, rating-obsessed organizers wouldn't invite him any more if he falls well below 2700? Would that be better?

Morley's picture

Outstanding play by Nakamura today, to stop the Carlsen juggernaut. Very well done, he played perfectly to neutralize Carlsen's passed pawns.

Expected way more from Anand and Aronian against the tail enders, but Jones and Polgar both played well.

Congrats to Carlsen for breaking the record no matter what! Truly historic.

The tournament will come to an exciting finish ...

Thomas's picture

Interestingly, both Kramnik and Aronian suggested to refrain from 22.-Bxf3 but play on with the bishop pair and two passed pawns. Carlsen and Nakamura hadn't considered this but agreed in the press conference that this might have been more promising and risk-free for black. At least in certain positions, the chess understanding of the current #s 2 and 3 might be superior - even if they cannot convert it into results over the board?

Anonymous's picture

i think nakamura and carlsen just blitzed out the moves, mabybe they should've spent more time analysing?

redivivo's picture

"in certain positions, the chess understanding of the current #s 2 and 3 might be superior"

You just never give up :-)


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