Bobby Fischer vs. Magnus Carlsen


Two incredible players from two completely different eras. How would they stack up against each other? I think that if you could send Carlsen back in time to play Fischer, Carlsen would come out on top. It would be close, but I think Carlsen would win. For the sake of argument, assume both players are in their prime.

It's not a fair comparison though. In the same way that elite athletes of today have an advantage over athletes from other eras due to advances in technology and training methods, Carlsen has used computers to prepare for games that Fischer never could have.

So, to truly determine who the better player is, you'd have figure out the answer to two questions:

  1. How much better (if any) would Fischer be if he came up in the same era with the same computer prep tools?
  2. How much worse (if any) would Carlsen be if he came up in the era before computers were advanced enough to be of any help?

I think the top players of past eras had a mental toughness today that is somewhat lacking in today's top players. However, that doesn't mean today's top players wouldn't obtain that toughness if they trained back then.

So who wins? It's really two different questions.

Does pre-computer Carlsen beat Fischer? Y/N
Does computer prepped Fischer beat Carlsen? Y/N

Ready? Fight!

Hard to compare eras and what ifs but I bet a 960 battle between them might be pretty even taking away the prep and whatnot. Both talented guys that’s for sure

So if Fischer and Carlsen are roughly the same age, had the same access to all the equipment and technology, and Fischer loved modern chess as much as he loved chess back then, then I would think Fischer has an advantage.

His mindset is that he will work as hard as he possibly can until he is better. He was working harder than Carlsen is today, which is what counts, especially since the kind of work he does is valuable.

Fischer knew more games and obscure tournaments than anybody, from reading game collections...If Fischer were a modern player today, then the Fischer games that we know today, wouldn't exist, disallowing Carlsen from studying them, which is certainly important for any professional player.

Also, Carlsen is an amazing endgame player who can play hard endgames without adjournments, but I do not think Fischer would fall behind because he was also an amazing endgame player who would work extremely hard to understand them. Meanwhile, Carlsen is pretty lazy in the openings, and Fischer is extremely devoted to playing the openings precisely.

Finally, Fischer highhandedly defeated the Soviet Union chess scene...When he beat Spassky he had absolutely no help or coaches. In contrast, Carlsen has people who act as his supervisor, both for chess and for life. He has like some sort of life manager/organizer as well as a team of chess analysts and supercomputers to prepare for upcoming games. If Fischer had such assistance then I think that he would be better off than he was when fighting the Soviet Union.

Edit: I know Fischer got a lot of hate for rejecting Karpov's offer for a Fischer vs Karpov match, but actually I think if Fischer agreed, then he would have beat Karpov good enough that we may have not even known who Karpov was. He would've just be some random guy on the side like Portisch. Why? Well, Fischer had an advantage against Botvinnik for 80% of the position in the game that they played against each other, and Fischer also had a winning endgame that he screwed up to a draw. Also, Karpov had some struggles beating Kortschnoj although he managed to succeed.

Edit 2: I think if we imagine Carlsen was during Fischer's time in like the 1960s, then Fischer would have an even bigger advantage over Carlsen than if we compare Fischer and Carlsen at a modern age with modern technology. Carlsen does read a lot of material too though. Still, he is much lazier and strikes me as somebody who is very dependent. Fischer was extremely independent and extraordinarily hard working.

The only person that I think would rival Fischer would be...maybe Paul Morphy? Maybe too hard to tell at that point, but Morphy was an absolute genius and probably had a better memory than Fischer. Funny how the two greatest players in history are both American.


I think Fischer has to be the gold standard at this point. Is it fair to say Carlsen is consistently beating a higher standard of opponent than Fischer did? An endgame between these two would never end. 

Kind of linked to this - what's the best Fischer biography? Thanks.



I agree.


Moose the "best" fischer biography I'm aware of is A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer by Ponterotto


I think the CAPS score and opponent strenght is the only real way to messure it . In that regard Carlsen is the best




Bobby Fischer for sure because that 1 Man defeated Soviet Chess Army .


Thanks Rune, will check-out.

Whether Carlsen is the absolute best ever it must be so annoying to be Ding or Fabi knowing that whatever you do the cool guy is just going to beat you... Even when he loses you get a sense it's because he's not really trying...


didnt carlsen say that he would beat fischer or something? and as for difference in eras, would that really apply to someone of fischer's caliber? who studied far more? who is absolutely prepared for almost all openings? plus, if someone of his level would really have this much trouble (as u guys think he would) with modern openings, then he isnt worthy of his hype. wasnt it spassky that said that overcoming bad positions without preparation is the least a master can do or something? carsel is more accurate regardless. ill go for him 100%  

Plato-Potato wrote:

Carlsen would like to think so, but it’s really immature to say he would beat someone from another era.

immature because...?


um, u guys really overrate the amount of info we have nowadays. like, a lot. I mean, if someone could make a case for us being far more advanced, id gladly agree (so long as its correct), but until then, i really cant see it. players are more advanced because the game got more serious, it has been played by more people, for a long amount of time. different ways of looking at it, studying, etc. people now take more time, and dont always attack unless they have a good shot. they arent afraid of defending. they dont make soundless sacrifices just cuz they got a good 'feel' anymore. they simply think more moves ahead than most players did back then. they arent afraid of complicated positions nowadays. fischer was good at chess because he did the same thing we do in this day and age. almost exatcly the same, actually. 

magnus is just better at those things than fischer


so having more games to study somehow makes us better players? if funny how that explanation gets directly countered by older players themselves. look at alekhine vs capablanca. almost self explanatory. 

and computers make it easier finding positions, but they dont do the work for us. u think magnus catn find the same positons a computer could, given enough time? how about fischer?


Already Happened.

SchaakVoorAlles wrote:
quietheathen1st wrote:

didnt carlsen say that he would beat fischer or something?   


If he did it is about what you'd expect him to say.  Doesn't mean it is true!

Carlsen was asked which players from the past he would like to play if he could play them today, and answered Tal and Fischer. On the question if he thought he could beat them he said yes. I think many would have liked him to say no though :-)

TheWombat5 wrote:

"so having more games to study somehow makes us better players?"

The more games you have from top players the better as that enables you to see how opening lines perform in real games, you should know that.

"if funny how that explanation gets directly countered by older players themselves."

Older players get weaker with age naturally, and yes today's older players are far stronger and more knowledgeable that those from 30-40 years ago.

"and computers make it easier finding positions"

Computers evaluate positions better than any human, they don't 'find' them. They help players assess possible unused lines.

being a good player has the same effect, my man. u should know that. look at carlsen, cough cough

seems like u didnt get what i meant. thats fine.

yes because they can consistently look 20 steps ahead. humans cant do that. they cannot copy it.


This is a really dumb question. Of course Robert James is MUCH better.


Bobby Fischer would win. No question.


When it comes to will to win, there is no comparison.