The world of chess does not share the American horse-racing problem of longing for another Triple Crown winner.
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen became a triple world champion when in Dubai in June he added the FIDE World Rapid Championship and FIDE World Blitz Championship to his world title at classical time controls.
Is it a Triple Crown?
Technically it is not a Triple Crown because he won the FIDE World Chess Championship in November and not in this calendar year. He will have to successfully defend his title at classical time controls later this year against challenger Vishy Anand for the Triple Crown to officially count. But many view this remarkable feat done within a seven-month span as a legitimate Triple Crown.
How does it compare to achievements of other champions?
It is really hard to put his achievement in perspective because rapid chess has only been played recently with the introduction of the digital chess clock that allows for increments of time to be added on after each move. Bobby Fischer, for example, played at classical time controls and in blitz tournaments during his active years in the 1950s and ’60s, but never played in a rapid event. Earlier champions like Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Jose Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine did not participate in world blitz or rapid chess events. If they played blitz, it was strictly for fun with no title on the line. Rapid chess was almost a foreign concept to them. Nevertheless, Carlsen’s accomplishment is stupendous. To win titles at three distinct time controls took tremendous drive, energy, talent, motivation and determination.
Not the same as running 100 meter dash, 5,000 meters and the marathon
What Carlsen achieved is certainly not the same as winning a hundred meter dash, a 5,000 meter run and the marathon. Most chess players of world championship caliber are excellent at classical controls, rapid and blitz. However, this is not always the case. Fabiano Caruana is ranked fourth in the world at classical time controls but is a mediocre blitz player who finished tied for 35th at the blitz championship this June. Although almost all world chess champions excelled at blitz, the fastest time control still requires a different skill set than classical chess. At lengthy time controls players have to calculate several moves into several variations. In blitz players rely more on instinct and having quick sight of the board.
American Hikaru Nakamura slips a bit
Coming into the rapid and blitz championships, American Hikaru Nakamura was the highest rated player and the top seed in both disciplines. He did not perform well in the rapid championship and saw his rating plummet to sixth place. However, he did manage to medal with a third-place finish in blitz and his rating fell only one spot, from first to second, behind only Carlsen. Defending World Blitz Champion Lê Quang Liêm of Vietnam finished a respectable fourth in this year’s event.
Carlsen, the best ever?
Carlsen is already the highest rated player in chess history at classical time controls. This may be due to rating inflation that has occurred over the years. But with the excellence the Norwegian continues to demonstrate, more people are becoming convinced he would have defeated Fischer or Garry Kasparov in their prime. Unlike the reclusive way Fischer behaved upon winning his title, Carlsen is an active champion. He shows up at tournaments and he finds a way to win, making believers of more and more chess fans.
Related articles: King Magnus Carlsen, Highest Rated Human in Chess History
Magnus Carlsen, New World Chess Champion