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World chess champion Magnus Carlsen has recently said in an interview that he could be staying at the top of the chess rankings for another 20 odd years!

This does not come as a surprise from the undisputed chess champion. He has dominated the elite level of chess for more than a decade and shows no signs of stopping his streak.

The enormous confidence Carlsen has shown while predicting the longevity of his grip over the number one ranking speaks volumes of the young man’s dedication to his craft. In Carlsen’s words, he feels that a lack of consistency on his rivals’ part could make it easier for him to stay at the top for a long time.

Magnus Carlsen belongs to that selected breed of professional chess prodigies who come along once in a while. Carlsen’s name stands beside other giants of the game, such as Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov. These men have defined an entire generation with their gameplay.

A young Bobby Fischer was destined to become one of the greatest of all time when he arrived on the world stage. This was the same for Garry Kasparov. Carlsen happens to be the third person on the list who generates the same amount of awe and splendour when it comes to chess brilliance.

How many years has Magnus Carlsen been world champion?

Fischer and Kasparov outclassed all other players at the height of their powers. From the late 2000s, global chess has witnessed something similar in the case of Carlsen.

Magnus Carlsen was always destined for great things. Carlsen first burst into the scene when he grabbed the top position in group ‘C’ of the Corus Chess Tournament at 13. Since then, he has steadily climbed up the charts.

The monumental occasion of his career came in January 2010. This was when for the first time, he was ranked the number one men’s chess player in the world by the international chess governing body – Internationale Federation des Echecs (FIDE).

At that time, he was the youngest to achieve that milestone. However, he was intermittently brought down to the second position by world champion Vishwanathan Anand. It was July 2011 when Carlsen cemented his spot in the top place once and for all. Carlsen has held on to that position ever since.

Will Magnus Carlsen remain no. 1 for the foreseeable future?

A time comes when every chess player gives way to the next champion. It seems unlikely that Carlsen would leave his number one spot anytime soon. However, it would not be wrong to say that another emerging player would someday fill his boots.

Let us look at the possible challengers who have a chance to topple Carlsen for the top ranking in men’s chess. This batch of current chess grandmasters has been battling the wits of Magnus Carlsen for the past few seasons.

Alireza Firouzja

Suppose there is one chess master who can seriously challenge Carlsen for the number one rank. In that case, it is the French-Iranian Grandmaster Alireza Firouzja. The nineteen-year-old chess prodigy is being touted as the ‘next big thing’ of professional chess. Already showing great maturity and composure, Firouzja relishes his rivalry with Carlsen.

His contests with Carlsen in the game’s bullet format always entertain chess fans immensely. Firouzja is the current junior world number one and is steadily making his way toward the senior title. The last time he met Carlsen in a prestigious tournament, the latter won under controversial circumstances. This was at the 2019 edition of the World Blitz Championships.

Alireza Firouzja has shown a lot of courage by opting to leave his native Iran and taking refuge in France as the Iranian Chess Federation does not allow its players to compete against Israeli chess professionals. In a recent interview, Carlsen stated that he would like to face Firouzja in the next world championship title clash. This shows his respect and admiration for the teenage Iranian chess grandmaster.

Ian Nepomniachtchi

The Russian number one ranked player is another likely contender to snatch the global top rank away from Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen has already defeated Nepomniachtchi in the 2021 world championship contest quite comfortably. But it is predicted that the Russian will come back stronger for another challenge on the title.

Nepomniachtchi has been a consistent force in men’s chess over the last few years. After winning the Candidates’ Tournament in 2021, he was rewarded with a go at Carlsen’s world title. The clash between Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi, which took place in Dubai in 2021, was one-sided. However, drawing conclusions in chess has never been a wise step. There is always a chance that Nepomnichtchi can return with an eye on Carlsen’s title in the near future.

Fabiano Caruana

One of the most promising chess players of the current generation happens to be American-Italian grandmaster Fabiano Caruana. He headlined the chess world when he attempted to beat Carlsen for the world title in 2018.

Even though he did not buckle under the pressure of such a massive contest, he could not outwit Carlsen in the tiebreaks that followed a drawn series. Caruana was on the verge of becoming Cralsen’s challenger again in 2021 but lost to eventual contender Ian Nepomniachtchi.

He has remained a constant threat to Carlsen’s hegemony at the top by holding on to the world number two position for quite some time now. Already a winner of the US and the Italian chess championships, Caruana is a genuine aspirant to take over Carlsen’s number one spot.

Anish Giri

Born in Russia, the multiple Dutch chess champion Anish Giri is the best player from the Netherlands. Giri has made his mark in chess’s highest echelons by winning the 2021 Magnus Carlsen Invitational chess tournament.

With an Elo chess rating of almost 2800, Anish Giri can seriously threaten Carlsen’s supremacy over the men’s division in the near future. Having an attacking bent of mind, Giri can become a force to reckon with on his day.

Liren Ding

To keep out China from any sports discussion has become kind of a fallacy these days. As is common knowledge, China is the dominant force in many of today’s modern games. Chinese athletes have been topping the Olympics for the past few editions and making inroads into other sports such as football.

Under these circumstances, it does not come as a surprise when their number one ranked player is setting sights on Magnus Carlsen’s world title. Liren Ding is gradually gaining strength to become the next significant challenger to Carlsen.

Ding was one of the favourites to win going into the 2021 Candidates’ Tournament. A loss of form, however, made sure he could not earn the right to compete against Carlsen in the championship bout. Having already tasted victory against Carlsen in the 2019 Sinquefield Cup, Ding is aware of Carlsen’s relative weaknesses. Still, in his twenties, Liren Ding has the energy and expertise to make another title run.

Wesley So

There is one player on the current roster who Magnus Carlsen does not enjoy playing against. It is the Filipino-American grandmaster Wesley So. Their rivalry in the chess circuit is quite well known. 

Carlsen was beaten outright by So in the Fischer Random chess championships held in 2019 with a score of 13.5 to 2.5. So also got the better of Carlsen in the final match of the FTX Crypto Cup in 2021. In another instance, Carlsen tasted a hard-fought victory against So in the Meltwater Chess Tour in 2021.

These results show that Wesley So has the arsenal of tricks to slay Carlsen on his day. This makes him our last pick on the list of potential candidates who can pull down Carlsen from the apex.

The Future Looks Bright For Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen has been able to maintain his lead on every chess rating list since he officially became number one for the first time in July 2011. Given his current form, Carlsen could overtake Garry Kasparov’s all-time record of holding on to the top rank from 1986 to 1996 and again from 1996 until his retirement in 2005.

Kasparov was the world number for 255 months, which translates to 21 years and 3 months. Carlsen recently completed his 11the year at the men’s professional chess summit. By his own admission, he has no intention to lay down his crown any time soon.

If Carlsen keeps this incredible streak going for a few more years, he will not leave any doubt in the minds of his critics as to who is the greatest player ever to grace the game of chess.
If you want to read about Magnus Carlsen’s rating and Magnus Carlsen’s age, check out ‘The Complete Impact Magnus Carlsen Has Had on Chess’. It contains all these facts about the chess champion.