Carlsen Vs Kasparov: The Ultimate Comparative Analysis

Magnus Carlsen is better than Garry Kasparov. He got his grandmaster title at the young age of 13 and tied Kasparov as world champion at age 22. Carlsen reached the 2800 mark at 18 and later achieved the highest rating ever 2882. Kasparov has better longevity, but Carlsen has too many accolades.

There has been a large debate between the two greatest chess players of all time, Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov.

That is which one is actually better? This question essentially asked who is the greatest player of all time.

I have seen a lot of people discuss this so I will lay out all the facts here and let you know the details. This after all is a very significant topic in the head of chess players so we want that side-by-side comparison.

In the end there have been fair arguments for both sides expressing how one has the edge over the other. My goal is to just lay out the facts (although I can’t deny I might be a little biased) but in the end you’re going to decide for yourself, let’s begin.

Would Carlsen beat Kasparov if he comes out of retirement?

Kasparov being out of form would stand no chance against Carlsen if he ever challenged him coming out of retirement.

The best Kasparov can achieve is around a top 10-20 player if he had continued playing.

If Kasparov played with Magnus right now, Magnus would easily win because of Kasparov’s old age.

Every player in every competition will have a so-called “prime” where they peak on their set of skills.

The so-called prime cannot be acquired by only practicing more, it is being in the right frame at the right time. And Kasparov no longer has that state since he has already passed that stage while Carlsen is still on the rise.

Retired Kasparov will never beat prime Carlsen

Kasparov retired when he was 41 which is already an old age and try to consider how it would be today.

There’s a reason why he retired, he could no longer keep up with the competition at the top and have to give way to new players.

Don’t get me wrong he would still wipe the floor with a lot of excellent players, but definitely not Carlsen and all the other rising competitors.

Kasparov would only rank between the top 10- 20 players (best case scenario) if he had continued playing. To prove this point, the top 100 players in the world are all younger than Garry Kasparov.

This is proof that one’s age is still a factor even in a mental competition such as chess. Otherwise, at least some of the slots (top 100 players) would have been occupied by someone older that is more experienced.

So no, Garry Kasparov would not beat Magnus Carlsen (most definitely) in a match that is played today. His age just doesn’t give that same caliber that allowed him to compete years ago.

This is a summary chart of what is to be discussed below. It is a comparison graphic between Magnus Carlsen and Garry kasparov (and who's better).
This is a summary chart of what is to be discussed below. It is a comparison graphic between Magnus Carlsen and Garry kasparov (and who’s better).

Is the difference in the era (Magnus vs. Kasparov) a factor when determining who’s better?

Carlsen plays in an era of incredibly precise engines as well as modern theoretical openings. Carlsen would naturally be better than Kasparov who does not have access to such things long ago.

Carlsen has played in the era of engines and modern theoretical knowledge, a more advanced approach than in the days of Kasparov. And frankly, this is not the fault of Kasparov since every competition from years ago has evolved to what it is now.

In current times, it is not hard to see a game that has already been played before since the database is so big. Carlsen has thrived in these conditions where most games have already been possibly analyzed.

Kasparov may just keep up with this amount of change though is doubtful if he could even beat Caruana (strong modern grandmaster) for example.

Is prime Carlsen better than prime Kasparov?

The game has just changed, if you put prime Kasparov and prime Carlsen head to head, Carlsen would probably win.

Magnus has just been through so much competition in games with precise engine moves and modern theoretical knowledge, far from Kasparov’s days. Carlsen would naturally be considered stronger, but does that make him necessarily better?

I mean if we put the standard of their time as a factor in deciding who is the better player, then the playing field would be more equal.

Like who has dominated their opponents more, who has better rating achievements, more tournament wins, and many more.

The point is there is no reason for making an argument that Magnus is better just because he could beat Kasparov even in his prime. If Kasparov lived in the modern era then he might have gathered the same if not more achievements than Carlsen.

Carlsen is undoubtedly the stronger player due to the increase in competition, though I think Kasparov may have an edge in a world championship format.

Can Kasparov beat Carlsen in a world chess championship series?

Kasparov has played in a very intense and very menacing environment against Karpov for example, where the difference is so little.

Magnus on the other hand, has breezed through his competition easily and convincingly which is impressive yes, but is dangerous long-term. Carlsen has never had a taste of his own medicine, he doesn’t know what it feels to meet his match.

Kasparov has been through a lot of critical situations where little margins count, this pressure might beat Carlsen. What some people don’t know is pressure and stress are factors for the outcome in itself not just the strength of the player.

Carlsen might be the stronger player but can still break down from clutch (choking) if he could not handle it.

This has been the same case with the Cuban genius of Capablanca who easily dominates in his career until he has made a competition in rising Alekhine.

Capablanca is a better player than Alekhine but still was beaten due to his leniency in extreme competitions. It is unsure if this state would allow Kasparov to beat Carlsen in the world championship (since he has proven himself time and time again).

But this weakness in mentality might just be the deciding factor that gives Kasparov an edge over Carlsen.

Some of Kasparov’s battles with Karpov are so legendary that both players are left temporarily incapacitated after their world championship matches, something Magnus might not be able to handle.

Who has better tournament accolades, Magnus or Kasparov? 

Kasparov achieved an amazing record of winning 15 tournaments in a row during 1981-1990 as well as winning the world championship six times. Carlsen has won 26 tournaments over 8 years but only has won four world championship matches.

Kasparov has an unbelievable record of winning 15 in tournaments in a row from 1981 to 1990. This achievement is extremely remarkable, something that Carlsen has yet to accomplish himself.

And this is during the time where his nemesis Karpov is catching up to his every turn in each of these tournaments. And winning 15 in a row is really dominating for the competition that he has at the time.

Kasparov of course won more than just the 15 in a row, it is just that such is the one highlighted the most during that time. Carlsen has won 26 super tournaments in the course of 8 years but never did so 15 in a row. 

Carlsen is not a slack either, he wins around 75% of tournaments he played (just not in a row) which is still impressive. He is way more active than Gary Kasparov and has accomplished around the same winning rate despite the loss in statistics.

And in terms of competition, Magnus plays around major super tournaments where every participant is a potential contender (2700 plus). And to be able to snatch the win, 75% of the time I think is better than Kasparov’s tournament accolades.

Don’t get me wrong Garry is still notable, but just faced fewer competitions where everybody could actually compete. Usually, there’s only one to two guys that could topple Kasparov, so Carlsen may actually have better tournament achievements.

Now let’s talk about the other tournament which is the most important, of course I’m talking about the world championship tournament.

Is Kasparov a better world chess champion than Magnus?

Kasparov has more world championship titles a total of six in his entire career (over 15 years of being world champion).

Carlsen is catching up with a total of 4 after becoming world champion for only seven years. It’s hard to put a metric who is better between these guys (World Championship wins) since Carlsen is so young. 

We are not sure if Magnus would still keep the title for years to come and overtake Garry, or the other way around. Because sure, I don’t see Carlsen losing any time soon but the world stage is unpredictable.

And Kasparov has maintained this status after battling a total of six world championship titles which is better than Magnus currently.

Personally on the way things are heading, I say Carlsen would be better if he even just tied with Kasparov due to his other achievements.

But again, we are not sure if Magnus could retain the title since after all, Kasparov himself loses his own title unexpectedly.

He was the reigning best player heading toward the 2000s only to suddenly lose against Vladimir Kramnik in their world championship match.

The same could happen to Carlsen’s own world chess championship which we don’t know, if not, I think he would be the better player.

Garry Kasparov’s six world championship titles are very outstanding after all, where he did it in a row which should give him an edge if Carlsen ever loses.

Who has better rating accolades, Carlsen or Kasparov?

Kasparov was more dominant than Carlsen to his competitors by being 2830+ rated while only a few passed 2700 in his time. Carlsen however is much faster to reach 2800 and has a higher peak rating of 2882 over Kasparov’s 2851.

Kasparov reached 2800 in over 10 years which is a superhuman achievement that none in his generation have reached during his time.

It is previously thought at the time that the 2800 mark is something that no one will ever break, making Kasparov’s burst iconic.

However, Magnus has risen much faster than that at the level that is more competitive than Kasparov’s era. Carlsen’s competitors all have access to computers and modern theoretical openings which makes the game likely to be a draw.

A draw wouldn’t land world-breaking records that Carlsen has set to achieve, so he has revolutionized the game to do that. Carlsen rises from top 100 to top 10 at such a meteoric rate that surpasses the speed of even Kasparov himself.

However, it can be argued that in terms of dominance, the competitor’s reach to the champion also matters in the discussion.

Is Kasparov way more dominant than Carlsen?

Around 2000, Kasparov was rated 2830+ while only a few grandmasters even reached beyond 2700, Carlsen has a higher rating and peak rating but other players reached 2800+ as well.

This means that there’s no single individual that is able to contest Kasparov at the peak of his strength. The gap demonstrates clearly the difference between Kasparov to the rest of his peers (rating-wise).

However, I do believe that this is even more of a reason why the Carlsen is so amazing because the competition is higher. Yes, Magnus never faced a situation where the difference in strength is so minimal, but that’s not his fault.

He is facing incredible opponents at the top of the world that are 2800 + themselves, he shouldn’t have been able to dominate. Including the fact that these people try to draw so much, I think this makes Carlsen’s rating more impressive.

It’s hard to draw a line in this since it also isn’t Garry’s fault that he is so strong and is at a level ahead of his time. Yes Magnus has more competition, but he also has more resources to properly deal with the opponents (computers, modern knowledge, etc.).

If Kasparov played in this modern era with the same amount of training he might come close/surpass Carlsen’s achievements. But at the same time what if Carlsen played against Kasparov’s opponent with limited knowledge? I think he would dominate all the same.

Does Carlsen’s higher peak rating over Kasparov matters?

Another thing here is the peak ratings since that indicates the performance level of a player’s career. Kasparov’s peak rating is 2851 which is phenomenal, but Carlsen’s peak rating is 2882.

Kasparov played against opponents who are barely 2700, so a loss would have landed him some blows. Magnus on the other hand wouldn’t lose all that much rating since his opponents are not that far from his own.

However, this just means that Carlsen is not fighting against weaker opponents who are not leagues below him. It means that more or less the results should be more equal, which is not since he dominates.

The game has just become more and more saturated at the top as time goes by, and for Carlsen to excel is incredible. However again, Kasparov’s rating should not be this close to Carlsen during his time of not so modern chess.

Although he reached his peak rating at around the year 2000, it is still a way different environment from computer-driven games now. I honestly don’t know who has won this category (ratings), so I leave it up to you.

Who has better achievements in their respective age, Magnus or Kasparov?

Magnus has better achievements than Kasparov in their respective age, being one of the youngest grandmasters at 13 years old, tying Kasparov at age 22 when they become world champion but reached his peak rating (2882) just one year after.

Magnus Carlsen was four years younger than Kasparov when he got his grandmaster title (13 years old). Kasparov is already around 17 when he completed his grandmaster norms and becomes fully-fledged, much later than Magnus.

This seeks to see how much improvement both players have made from the start of their career heading into professional games. This again is a score for Magnus becoming one of the world’s youngest chess grandmasters ever.

Kasparov and Carlsen are both young chess prodigies

I can’t say that Kasparov doesn’t have much backing to improve in chess as much as Carlsen being sponsored by his father. After researching though I’ve found that due to his Soviet Union affiliations (crazy in chess) he (Kasparov) is playing since age 6.

So we need to give this one to Carlsen since he just becomes better faster but there’s a catch, the world championship age. Both Carlsen and Kasparov became world champion at age 22, roughly at the same time.

This means that even when Carlsen reached the grandmaster title first he took a little longer to get the title compared to Kasparov.

However I will note that Carlsen has become at least top 10 for a very long time before even getting the title, he is fast, just not in getting the title.

In fact, he’s already above 2800 rating and is crushing opponents before even getting the title. So it’s really hard to give one an up over the other, but I think Carlsen bag this one.

There’s another thing that I didn’t mention, which is Carlsen had already reached his peak rating one year after becoming world champion.

Kasparov on the other hand didn’t reach his until after 10 plus years of becoming the world champion.

This proves that even when Carlsen hadn’t yet given the opportunity to fight for the title (only every 2-3 years) he’s already boasting through the ranks.

So much so that it didn’t take much time for him to almost reach 2900 in just a year, so I think Carlsen is better in ratings.

Who dominates their opponents more, Carlsen or Kasparov?

Kasparov outshined his competitors for over 15 years displaying unmatched longevity, something Carlsen has yet to show. Though Carlsen has become more dominant in his era where no one could even come close (Kasparov has Karpov as a rival).

Kasparov reigned for over 15 years far ahead of his competitors as a world champion, Carlsen currently has only 7. Despite all of Carlsen’s achievements, it’s hard to put him above the scale of Kasparov when he has yet to prove his longevity.

When I got into chess which is not that long ago I could still remember him being active in professional play. He even beat young players such as Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, something that should not be attainable at his age.

I think such a feature is really important for crowning the best player of all time whether it will be Magnus or Kasparov. After all, it’s not only how dominating you were, it’s also how long have you been dominating which Kasparov definitely expresses.

When it comes to their actual opponent on the other hand it can be said that Carlsen has been more dominating.

Is Carlsen more dominant than Kasparov after all this time?

Carlsen beats his rival (Vishwanathan Anand) very convincingly without even going to tie-breaks, something that will tell you the title is really his.

They also had a world championship rematch round (against Vishwanathan Anand again) where he defeated Anand for the second time with clarity.

Kasparov’s rival is more menacing for the throne during his time, the difference in strength is incredibly small.

In fact, the first match between Kasparov and Karpov reached as much as game 48 before it was stopped by the Fide commissioner. This extensive rivalry is a colorful part of history yes, but Carlsen never faced someone who you could say can be equal.

Whenever Magnus faces a strong adversary you could always feel that he will somehow win, with Kasparov it is kinda the case but not exactly.

Kasparov did defeat Karpov in all their world championship matches but you could always feel that there is a slim margin, not as dominating as Carlsen.

But we have to consider that some of Carlsen’s rivals (Kramnik, Anand, etc.) were also rivals of Kasparov but at their peaks, which prompts the idea that the competition back then was just as good as it is now.

I don’t think this is the case, but it validates the idea that perhaps Carlsen just hasn’t met his match.

This is a blurry line for me and I don’t think there’s a definitive answer since it will be just opinion at this point (who has been more dominating Kasparov/Carlsen).

Would Carlsen beat Kasparov if they both played at their peak?

Carlsen’s style involves outplaying an opponent in theoretically drawn positions which are proven to work better than Kasparov’s aggressive/attacking schemes. Stockfish says Magnus can win 54% of the time (not including draws) but not considering Kasparov’s tendency to acquire modern knowledge.

There aren’t any clue to point out that a metric that we could use to determine who would win at their peak, you only have their style.

Which playing style is better? Carlsen’s or Kasparov’s?

If we’re talking about who is better in terms of their playing style, Carlsen excels at grinding equal theoretical positions creating something from nothing Kasparov excels in masterful calculations and aggressive/attacking combinations.

It has been proven again and again that positional endgame mastery will have a higher win percentage than tactical/aggressive play.

However we need to take into consideration that this is Kasparov we’re talking about here, he has made aggressive style work before, so there might be something there.

He even played against renowned Anatoly Karpov (positional boa) and has performed well using his style. Due to this, I don’t think that their style alone would be a predictable source of information in determining which side will win. 

Is Carlsen more accurate than Kasparov?

Stockfish has actually evaluated the strength of Magnus and Kasparov based on their positions and published interesting findings.

Stockfish’s analysis state that Magnus can win 54% of the time (not including the draw) against prime Kasparov, but this bit considering that Kasparov would not improve on modern knowledge as well.

Even though Carlsen’s score in Stockfish’s analysis kinda seals the deal (Kasparov has a low winning score including the draw percentage) it really doesn’t.

Stats are good and all, but doesn’t take into consideration the preparation two players would have made if it were to happen.

Carlsen and Kasparov have actually met over the board . .

The only thing we get some information from was from their match played way back in 2004. The problem was that Carlsen is only 13 at that point (not a grandmaster yet) but Kasparov is still as strong as ever (arguably around his prime).

Carlsen actually lost their first match but only on a very slim margin, Garry Kasparov seals that match impressively. The game that caused an uproar in the media is the second one actually where the young Magnus was able to draw against Kasparov.

In fact, Carlsen should’ve won that match (being up a pawn) but is just not confident enough to push for the win being so young. But to give credit to Kasparov, he underestimated Magnus here so I don’t think that it is a reasonable test of strength.

But still, that is the closest we have come to an actual Magnus Carlsen vs. Garry Kasparov match which may not be conclusive but is still iconic.

Who do you think is the best, Magnus Carlsen or Garry Kasparov?

There really is no concrete evidence I can present to reasonably conclude one being better than the other. There are just too many factors adjusted to the context of the different time span, the argument gets confusing after there.

I personally think Magnus Carlsen is better, though I might be biased since he is the one I grew to admire during my time of learning. I think I would also like Kasparov if he was the one who is dominating during my early times all the same.

I really think Magnus Carlsen got this one but is just on a really close margin, it’s all up to you now. You’re the one who’s going to decide based on the facts, but I’m just happy that you’re interested in this, sleep well and play chess.