Magnus Carlsen out to stamp greatest ever standing in Chess World Championship

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen. Picture: Shutterstock
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen. Picture: Shutterstock

Comparing former sporting champions with modern-day greats usually proves an exercise in futility.

When it comes to chess, though, few manage to argue that world champion Magnus Carlsen is anything but the greatest player to ever sit over the board.

His World Championship match against Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi begins in Dubai this week, offering Carlsen another chance to stamp his standing as the strongest chess exponent of all time.

The clash with Nepomniachtchi comes three years after Carlsen defended his title against Fabiano Caruana. Normally a biennial event, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the latest World Championship edition while significantly knocking the chess calendar off kilter for more than 18 months.

Despite the turmoil, and the lack of over-the-board tournaments, Carlsen has maintained his standing a level above his contemporaries as the highest rated player of all time.

For Canberra-based, Armenian Grandmaster Hrant Melkumyan, there is no question where Carlsen sits alongside the all-time greats.

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"To me he's been the greatest player of all time, even back five years ago, I respect what former world champions have achieved, but sports nowadays are way more competitive," Melkumyan said.

"Back in the 80s, 90s, there were very few professionals and there were some top 10 players who if they played now, they would struggle to make top 100.

"I really respect that the game is changing, computers are getting strong, people are very professional now, they have three coaches working all day. It's really hard to beat these guys regularly, and he just does it."

Melkumyan, the world's 99th ranked player, has known Carlsen since they were teenagers playing on the European circuit. He said underlying the Norwegian's chess ability was a fierce determination to always be the best.

"He's insanely competitive and it's not just chess, anything he does he wants to win desperately," Melkumyan said.

"If I see Carlsen lose a classical game in a tourney, I'll see him jump back online and play 100 games of bullet, he just wants to crush somebody.

"He's very versatile. His technique is just unreal. But his calculation skills are also amazing.

"The one thing I would pinpoint is just put him in any position he's never seen before, he'll just figure out how to orientate, where to put his pieces, how to gain harmony in the position.

"He has this unreal talent, he was just born to play chess, that never happened before."

This story Greatest chess player ever? There's no doubt it's Carlsen first appeared on The Canberra Times.