Anand Vs. Carlsen: Who Is Really The Best Ever?

Every chess player has an opinion over the greatest player in history and one regular debate is whether Magnus Carlsen, the current world number one, is top of the tree or whether one of the players that came before him is. Viswanathan Anand is the player that Carlsen took the world number one crown from but over the course of their careers is Carlsen really the best chess player ever?

Who is the best chess player ever: Anand or Carlsen? Magnus Carlsen is the best player ever if we go by their record. Carlsen soundly beat Anand to take the world champion’s slot in 2013 and shows no signs of surrendering it anytime soon. His peak rating of 2882 is the highest there has ever been.

Let’s take a good look at both players to better understand this position.

Anand vs. Carlsen: Who's the best player ever? - ChessPulse.com
Anand vs. Carlsen: Who’s the best player ever? – ChessPulse.com

Who Is Viswanathan Anand?

Vishy Anand is an Indian chess grandmaster. He is the first Indian player to have been world champion and is one of a very small group of players that have broken the ELO rating of 2800 with a peak rating of 2817.

He was world champion twice, though he was won the title 5 times – once between 2000 and 2002 and then again in 2007-2012 before being dethroned by Magnus Carlsen. His first world championship, however, was held during the period when chess was sort of split into two different federations.

The second, was an undisputed title once chess had fully reunified under FIDE. Not only did Anand lose the title to Carlsen in 2013. He lost again in the final against Carlsen in 2014 after he won the Candidate’s and won the right to challenge for the title.

A Childhood Prodigy

Like most players, Anand was something of a childhood prodigy and began learning at the age of 6. It wasn’t until his parents moved to Manila though in 1978 that he started to study chess on a serious basis.

Five years later he won the Indian sub-junior championship with a perfect score of 9/9. Then he won the Asia Junior Championship in 1984. He then represented India in the Olympics.

Anand was the youngest Indian player ever to become an IM (at the age of 15) and at 16 he was the champion of India. Then he became the World Junior Chess Champion. He was India’s first full fledged grandmaster when he turned 18.

Karpov Becomes A Thorn In Anand’s Side

He qualified as a Candidate in 1993 but was forced out by Anatoly Karpov. He qualified again in 1996 but lost to Kamsky. Because of the split in chess at the time, this didn’t stop Anand from competing in the FIDE rival, the PCA’s tournament though and he met Kasparov in the final of that championship but lost 10 ½ to 7 ½.


In 1998, he made the FIDE championship final after beating Michael Adams to seal the Candidates tournament. He lost though many feel that this was because the rules unfairly favored Karpov, the defending champion.

In 2000, Anand won the title in the FIDE championship against Shirov. He would surrender the title in 2002 but in 2007 now that the championship had been fully reunited, Anand stormed to the top of the pile and finished unbeaten with the highest ELO rating that he had ever or would ever hold.

His next defense, against Kramnik, saw Anand win easily. In 2010, things were closer, but Anand held Topalov at bay and won 6 ½ to 5 ½.  Then in 2012, he beat Gelfland 8 ½ to 7 ½.

Anand’s Star Fades Away

But in 2013, it came to an end. He faced Carlsen and Carlsen won with Anand not wining a single game. In 2014, when they met again Carlsen won 6 ½ to 4 ½ with a game still to play.

Anand continues to play chess today and remains the only player in history to have won a world championship in tournament play, match play, knockout play and with rapid time controls. He is very highly regard by his peers too.


Who Is Magnus Carlsen?

Magnus Carlsen is, as of the time of press, the champion of the chess world. He holds the slow chess title, the rapid chess title and the blitz chess title. He has held a FIDE rating of 2882 which is the highest ever recorded.

He was 5 years younger than Anand when he became a grandmaster at 13. He won the Norway Championship at 15 and was 18 when he passed the 2800 mark.

Incredibly, he became the best player in the world at 19 and he took his first world championship against Anand in 2002.

Top Of The World For Seven Years

He has defended his main title twice and though the events of 2020 have delayed the next defense; he is expected to do so in 2021. He has been at the top of the game for around 7 years now and there’s no signs of him slowing down.

Carlsen is a major personality for chess too and is one of the most recognizable world champions of the last decades, perhaps, the most recognizable since Bobby Fischer.

He is also very complimentary about Anand who he regards as one of the greatest players in history and has urged his fellow grandmasters not to write off Anand, just yet. He notes that Anand is still comparatively young and there’s plenty of opportunity for him to return to his full powers and dominate the game once more.


Anand Vs Carlsen: Who Is The Best Ever?

Anand says it’s Carlsen and the statistics agree with him. Anand is a superb all round chess player and early in his career Carlsen seemed to be too focused on attacking but this is behind him now and not only is Carlsen balanced and calm now, he’s also the most versatile positional player the game has ever seen.

Many “who is the best?” discussions are endless because the players in question never met on the board. However, Anand and Carlsen have met on the board several times and the results speak for themselves.

Scroll to Top