Openings in the Carlsen games

Feb 12, 2013, 7:11 PM |

I created a composite Carlsen game from 1508 of his games and found that although Carlsen has a repuation for playing unusual openings if you take a close look at all his games played so far you get a very different picture. 

The most popular first move in all of the Carlsen games up to 12/31/2012 is 1. e4. The mainline starts with 1. e4 c5 and is shown below.

The primary variation of this line is 1. e4 e5 and it goes like this:

The second most frequent first move in the Carlsen games is 1. d4 and the mainline starts with 1. d4 Nf6 and proceeds as follows:

And the primary variation starts with 1. d4 d5 and it goes like this:

Secondary lines start with 1. Nf3 and 1. c4 the common reply to both being 1... Nf6. The 1. Nf3 line goes like this:

And finally the 1. c4 mainline is

There are odd openings to be sure but they are odd and rare just as in any opening book.

I found these moves in the comprehensive pgn file of all Carlsen games updated through to the end of 2012 that I downloaded from This file contained 1508 games with the most recent games being the ones played at the 2012 London Classic.

I used these games to construct a move tree similar to ones you would find in opening books. The lines shown are derived from this tree. The idea was to get an overall picture of what the Carlsen games look like and I think the answer is "same same" as they say in Thailand. The only thing unusual about these openings is the usualness of them.

Cha-am Jamal