ChessBase Logo Shop Link
Language :
Search :
OK

Facts and figures: Magnus Carlsen's performance in Nanjing

10/12/2009 – With his 8.0/10 score at the recent Pearl Spring tournament 18-year-old Magnus Carlsen will certainly go into the record books. But how does his result fit among the all-time great performances? Using a new formula that takes the length of a tournament or match into consideration, chess statistician Jeff Sonas evaluates Magnus' Nanjing performance and puts it into historical perspective.
 

 

Magnus Carlsen's Performance in Nanjing

By Jeff Sonas

Many people have already sent me email, asking where I think Magnus Carlsen's recent performance at Nanjing fits, among the all-time great performances. My calculations indicate that it is the best tournament performance since Garry Kasparov at Linares 1999, and is one of the 20 best tournament performances in chess history. It is certainly the best performance of any kind by a teenager.

My Chessmetrics website includes historical ratings for players from 1843 through January 2005, and this allows us to look at tournament performances across history in an attempt to measure the "greatest" performances ever. There are a couple of significant challenges with this. One is that the raw performance rating, typically used to measure performance, does not reward players who achieve strong results over a longer event, vs. someone achieving the same percentage score across a short event. Thus I have developed a formula that is "more convinced" by more games.  It indicates my best estimate of a player's strength, if we had no evidence other than that one event to guide us.


Magnus Carlsen in his record-breaking performance in Nanjing

Another challenge is how to compare ratings across time, a very complicated and controversial topic that includes the inflation debate. I don't want to get into all that right now; hopefully it is sufficient to say that all Chessmetrics ratings and performance ratings are expressed in 2005 terms, and so if you want to compare performances from 2009 against what are currently shown on my website, and you want to use 2009 FIDE ratings, then you need to first subtract 29 points from everyone's FIDE ratings. So instead of Carlsen having scored 80% against 2762-rated opposition, he is treated as having faced 2733-rated opposition, due to FIDE rating inflation since 2005.

Anyway, there are lots of little details to talk about, but probably you just want to see the lists!  I have decided to exclude matches from the first two lists below, and to only consider tournaments. Here is a list of the best tournament performances of the past five years; you can see that Carlsen's performance tops the charts ["opp." is the average rating of the opponents in the event]:

Best Tournament Performances since January 2005

#
Player Score/% opp. Perf. Event

1

Magnus Carlsen

 8/10 (80%)

2733 2850

Nanjing, 2009

2

Vassily Ivanchuk

 8/10 (80%)

2715 2835

Mtel Masters, Sofia, 2008

3

Veselin Topalov

10/14 (71%)

2726 2830

San Luis (World Championship), 2005

4

Veselin Topalov

 8/12 (67%)

2741 2804

Linares, 2005

5

Garry Kasparov

 8/12 (67%)

2733 2797

Linares, 2005

6

Viswanathan Anand

 9/13 (69%)

2706 2794

Corus A, 2006

 

Veselin Topalov

 9/13 (69%)

2705 2794

Corus A, 2006

8

Viswanathan Anand

 9/14 (64%)

2728 2791

Mexico (World Championship), 2007

9

Vladimir Kramnik

6.5/9 (72%)

2717 2788

Tal Memorial, Moscow, 2007

10

Veselin Topalov

 7/10 (70%)

2717 2786

Nanjing, 2008

In fact it certainly appears to be one of the 20 best tournament performances of all time, and probably the greatest performance since Garry Kasparov at Linares 1999.  Here is my list, updated to the present, of the 25 best tournament performances of all time:

Best Tournament Performances of All Time

#
Player Score/% opp. Perf. Event

1

Anatoly Karpov

11/13 (85%)

2729 2899

Linares, 1994

2

Garry Kasparov

12/14 (86%)

2692 2881

Tilburg, 1989

3

Emanuel Lasker

18/22 (82%)

2667 2878

London, 1899

4

Garry Kasparov

10.5/14 (75%)

2758 2877

Linares, 1999

5

Mikhail Tal

20/28 (71%)

2716 2869

Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade (Cand.), 1959

6

Alexander Alekhine

13/14 (93%)

2626 2865

San Remo, 1930

7

Garry Kasparov

10/13 (77%)

2737 2863

Linares, 1993

8

Alexander Alekhine

19.5/24 (81%)

2644 2859

Bled, 1931

9

Garry Kasparov

11.5/15 (77%)

2715 2856

Belfort (World Cup), 1988

10

Garry Kasparov

10/13 (77%)

2728 2855

Linares, 1992

11

Emanuel Lasker

11.5/16 (72%)

2738 2853

St. Petersburg, 1914

12

Garry Kasparov

 9/12 (75%)

2744 2851

Amsterdam (Optiebeurs), 1988

13

Garry Kasparov

9.5/11 (86%)

2682 2850

Belgrade (Investbank), 1989

Bobby Fischer

18.5/23 (80%)

2643 2850

Palma de Mallorca (Interzonal), 1970

Mikhail Botvinnik

14/20 (70%)

2729 2850

The Hague/Moscow (WCh), 1948

Magnus Carlsen

 8/10 (80%)

2733 2850

Nanjing, 2009

17

Siegbert Tarrasch

29/39 (74%)

2650 2846

Vienna, 1898

18

Garry Kasparov

8.5/11 (77%)

2733 2845

Linares, 1997

19

Johannes Zukertort

22.5/29 (78%)

2641 2844

London, 1883

20

Garry Kasparov

11/14 (79%)

2691 2840

Niksic, 1983

21

Vassily Ivanchuk

 9.5/13 (73%)

2732 2837

Linares, 1991

Géza Maróczy

16.5/22 (75%)

2671 2837

Ostend, 1905

Paul Keres

18.5/28 (66%)

2719 2836

Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade (Cand.), 1959

Garry Kasparov

10/13 (77%)

2705 2836

Wijk aan Zee (Hoogovens), 1999

25

Vassily Ivanchuk

 8/10 (80%)

2715 2835

Mtel Masters, Sofia, 2008

By the way, people often ask about Bobby Fischer's 100% score at the U.S. Championships in 1963.  His performance is penalized due to the strength of his opponents; my formula would put him in a tie for 32nd all-time along with Veselin Topalov at San Luis 2005.

Finally, it is notable that Magnus Carlsen is still only eighteen years old.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is the greatest performance ever by a teenager.  Here is a list of the 20 best performances of all time by teenagers (including all kinds of events):

Best Performances by Teenagers

#
Player
age
Score/% opp. Perf. Event

1

Magnus Carlsen

18

 8/10 (80%)

2733. 2850

Nanjing, 2009

2

Vassily Ivanchuk

19

 7.5/10 (75%)

2728 2820

Linares, 1989

3

Alexei Shirov

18

9.5/10 (95%)

2596 2812

Bundesliga 1991

4

Bobby Fischer

18

15.5/20 (78%)

2615 2796

Stockholm (Interzonal), 1962

5

Garry Kasparov

19

9.5/13 (73%)

2680 2793

Bugojno, 1982

6

Bobby Fischer

18

13/18 (72%)

2657 2793

Bled, 1961

7

Garry Kasparov

19

10/13 (77%)

2652 2791

Moscow (Interzonal), 1982

8

Garry Kasparov

19

 6/9 (67%)

2752 2790

Beliavsky Match (Cand.), 1983

9

Ruslan Ponomariov

19

 6/8 (75%)

2707 2782

Leon, 2003

10

Magnus Carlsen

17

 8/11 (73%)

2685 2782

Aerosvit, 2008

11

Garry Kasparov

19

7.5/10 (75%)

2680 2781

Luzern ol (Men), 1982

12

Garry Kasparov

18

11.5/16 (72%)

2653 2779

Frunze (URS Championship), 1981

13

Peter Leko

19

 5/7 (71%)

2739 2779

Dortmunder Schachtage, 1999

14

Ruslan Ponomariov

18

13.5/21 (64%)

2686 2779

Moscow (FIDE WCh), 2001

15

Judit Polgar

17

 7/9 (78%)

2672 2778

Madrid, 1994

16

Alexander Grischuk

18

8.5/13 (65%)

2707 2774

Wijk aan Zee (Corus), 2002

17

Vladimir Kramnik

17

7.5/8 (94%)

2589 2773

Manila ol (Men), 1992

18

Veselin Topalov

19

8.5/12 (71%)

2676 2772

Moscow ol (Men), 1994

19

Teimour Radjabov

19

8.5/13 (65%)

2705 2772

Corus A, 2007

20

Gata Kamsky

16

8.5/14 (61%)

2729 2771

Tilburg, 1990


Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

Feedback and mail to our news service Please use this account if you want to contribute to or comment on our news page service

See also

Discuss

Rules for reader comments
    Not registered yet? Register
© 2013 ChessBase GmbH | Osterbekstraße 90a | 22083 Hamburg | Germany |  Imprint  | Contact  | Home