Magnus Carlsen Vs Bobby Fischer: Who is the goat of chess?

Chess has been considered one of the most strategic games in history. A match between 2 of the greatest minds chess has ever produced would be very intriguing. In a hypothetical match, Bobby Fischer vs Magnus Carlsen, who would win?

Magnus Carlsen is the clear winner if we base it on their achievements. If we consider their playing styles, chess genetics, childhood exposure to chess, and chess technology and training methods available in their respective eras, Carlsen would probably emerge as the stronger player.

In this article, we’ll explore the strengths and styles of Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen and look at their accomplishments and their most famous games. We’ll dissect the answer to the intriguing question of who would win in a match between 2 of the best chess players of all time.

Who are Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen?

Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer was an American chess Grandmaster and the 11th World Chess Champion. He’s the first and only American world chess champion in history. He reportedly had an IQ of 181.

He was born on March 9, 1943, in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He first learned chess when he was 6. The world of chess started to notice him when he won the United States Championship when he was 14, becoming the youngest player ever to win the tournament. He died on January 17, 2008, at age 64.

One of his most famous games is “The Game of Century” in Marshall Chess Club on October 17, 1956. He was a relatively unknown 13-year-old player when he won the game against an experienced Donald Byrne.

It was named “The Game of the Century” because it was one of the most brilliant and innovative chess games then. Fischer sacrificed his queen on move 17 and a bishop on move 21 to set up a successful attack against Byrne’s King.

See also  How To Castle In Chess App? Lichess, etc

In chess, Fischer was known for being aggressive and innovative. Outside of chess, he carried the same characteristics but was outspoken and controversial.

For example, Fischer often clashed with chess officials and tournament organizations. In 1992, Fischer violated US sanctions against Yugoslavia when he played a chess match there against Boris Spassky. As a result, a warrant of arrest was issued against him, and he became a fugitive for many years.

Fischer popularized chess in the United States and Iceland despite his controversial legacy. And he’s still one of the greatest chess players in history.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen is a Norwegian chess grandmaster who is the current five-time World Chess Champion. He is also a four-time World Rapid Chess Champion and a six-time World Blitz Champion. He owns the title of having the highest Elo rating ever.

He was born on November 30, 1990, in Tonsberg, Norway. He learned to play chess at age 5 and quickly showed a natural talent for the game. His parents supported his chess development by providing him with a personal coach and making him attend chess camps and join chess tournaments.

He became a grandmaster when he was only 13 in 2004, making him the youngest in history. At 15, he won the Norwegian Chess Championship. And when he was 22, he became the World Chess Champion when he defeated Anand in November 2013.

Carlsen’s undeniable tactical skills and psychological toughness separate him from the rest. For example, when he faced Aronian during the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2013, Carlsen sacrificed his queen for a rook and a knight to successfully capture Aronian’s king. The move caught Aronian off-guard, resulting in a quick victory for Carlsen.

Carlsen is still a young player. He’s likely to continue dominating the chess world, competing in major tournaments and defending his World Championship title.

He has expressed interest in introducing chess to new audiences. We’ll probably see him becoming more involved in promoting the game via various projects.

Table of Comparison

World Ranking Number 1 (1972) Number 1 (since Jul 2011) *youngest ever
Became a Grandmaster Age 15 (1958) Age 13 (2004) *youngest ever
World Championships Won 1972 *first American to do so 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2021
Highest Elo Rating 2785 (estimate) 2882 (May 2014) *highest ever
Chess Olympiad 2 Gold medals (1960 and 1970) *played for the USA Silver medal (2010), Gold medal (2014) *played for Norway
Tournaments Won United States Championship (1957 – 1965), Interzonal Tournament (1970), Candidates Tournament (1971) Norwegian Championship (2006), Tata Steel Chess Tournament (2008, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019), Grenke Chess Classic (2015, 2019), World Blitz Championship (2009, 2014), World Rapid Championship (2014, 2015, 2019), Candidates Tournament (2013)
See also  When Was En Passant Introduced? Full History

Styles of Play and Strengths

Bobby Fischer’s

  • Positional Understanding: This strength enabled Fischer to outmaneuver his opponents and gain small advantages on the board.
  • Calculation Ability: He had an exceptional ability to calculate complex variations quickly, allowing him to execute tactical combinations and exploit weaknesses in his opponents’ positions.
  • Focus: He demonstrated intense focus in many of his games. He would sustain this focus from start to finish, maintaining composure under pressure and enabling him to make winning decisions.
  • Aggressiveness and Opening Strategy: Fischer studied openings and prepared for his opponents. He was known for creating strategic openings and unorthodox moves that surprised his opponents.

Fischer’s Strengths in Action

In Fischer vs Taimanov, Candidates 1971, Fischer demonstrated his solid opening and positional skills. He used a Ruy Lopez opening to slowly outmaneuver Taimanov, which gave Fischer a positional advantage in the endgame. It resulted in a win for Fischer.

In Fischer vs Benko, US Championship 1963, Fischer demonstrated his calculation ability and aggressiveness. He sacrificed a pawn in the opening to gain a positional advantage. He then offered his bishop and knight to deliver a checkmate known as “Fischer’s Immortal.”

In Fischer vs Larsen, Candidates 1971, Fischer showed intense focus and composure. The grueling battle lasted over 7 hours and featured difficult moments for both players. Fischer stayed focused, maintaining his composure until the end, which resulted in a victory.

Magnus Carlsen’s

  • Positional Understanding: Carlsen has an exceptional understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of his own and his opponent’s positions. This allows him to gradually gain a positional advantage over his opponent.
  • Solid Endgame: Carlsen is regarded as one of the best endgame players in history. His endgame capability often enabled him to outmaneuver his opponents and win seemingly drawn positions.
  • Tactical Vision: Carlsen is a very tactical player. He often finds ways to catch his opponents off guard by making sacrifices and launching surprising attack combinations.
  • Mental Toughness: Carlsen is known for staying calm and composed under pressure. During long, challenging games, he rarely makes mistakes and usually ends up victorious.
See also  Is Chess More Tactics Or Strategy?

Carlsen’s Strengths in Action

In Carlsen vs Aronian, Sinquefield Cup 2014, Carlsen demonstrated his positional superiority over Aronian. Carlsen improved his position in the middlegame by making a series of subtle moves. He eventually won a pawn which led to a win.

In Carlsen vs Caruana, Altibox Norway Chess 2018, Carlsen’s tactical vision was evident. In a complex middlegame position, Carlsen saw hidden opportunities. He sacrificed his bishop to open up Caurana’s king and launched a winning attack.

In Carlsen vs Karjakin, World Chess Championship 2016, Carlsen displayed his mental toughness and strong endgame. After a long grueling battle, Carlsen was able to outlast Karjakin in the rapid tiebreaks and win the championship.

So, Who Would Win?

If we look at their achievements objectively, Carlsen is the clear winner. If we consider their playing styles and strengths, we muddy the water.

Fischer’s calculation superiority and aggressiveness would pressure Carlsen, who may struggle to find solid defenses. On the other hand, Carlsen’s positional awareness and strategic moves in the endgame could pose a significant threat to Fischer.

If we look at it holistically, we can sensibly derive an answer. Both players are genetically gifted and have immersed themselves in chess since childhood. The difference is that Carlsen has access to advanced chess technology and training methods that did not exist in Fischer’s time. So, Carlsen has an advantage over Fischer.


Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen are 2 of the best chess players of all time, but they are from different eras. Fischer dominated chess during his time and then retired almost two decades before Carlsen was born. So, predicting a winner in this hypothetical match is very tricky.

On paper, Magnus Carlsen is the clear winner. Bobby Fischer is the winner regarding playing styles, strengths, and generating interest and entertainment. Holistically, Magnus Carlsen would probably emerge victorious.

But regardless of who would actually win, both players have made a lasting impact on the game of chess that will not be easily forgotten.