One of Carlsen’s (b. 1990) great strengths is his broad opening repertoire. These days at Carlsen’s level, the modern player has to know everything, like a computer. At 16, Carlsen had by then already been a GM for a couple of years, played in his first FIDE World Cup tournament, and achieved 60th place in the world rankings.By then it was by clear that Carlsen was a greatly gifted player with a wide range of skills. Carlsen grew in the new chess computer age and the question was would he ever become the world’s number one player. According to Norwegian GM Agdestein, Carlsen tried to know everything, like a computer.
Carlsen was brought up in a family and coaching environment that acted both as a support for the development of his chess skills and as a protection against any undue pressures that might threaten to disturb normal schooling and family life. Carlsen's grew up in a disciplined but enjoyable chess-playing environment. This balance was achieved through a regime of light coaching that aimed primarily at facilitating his ability to develop his own skills and regular play in many tournaments.
In a New in Chess interview immediately after his son had become the world's youngest grandmaster, Magnus's father, Henrik, said, "Everything has gone quicker than we expected ... so far Magnus has enjoyed everything he has done [and] I'd hate to see him lose that joy [in the game]." In the same New in Chess interview Magnus said, "I like open positions with small tactics in them ... threatening and threatening, when I have the initiative ... maybe sacrifice some pawns."
In March 2004, at the very strong Aeroflot Open, in Moscow Kasparov's former coach, Alexander Nikitin, expressed the view that Carlsen's promise, at 13, could only be compared to that of a young Kasparov. Agdestein commented on Carlsen’s exceptional memory. "Magnus's memory is incredible." After a training session in 2004, Peter Heine Nielsen observed that Carlsen didn't take notes; he just remembered things.
Carlsen progressed well after gaining the GM title, but he still had a lot of work before he reached the very top level. His rating was high enough to obtain an invitation to the 2004 knock-out world championship, but he was no match for one of the favorites, Levon Aronian, and lost to him in the first round. His result, in the B Group, at Wijk aan Zee 2005, was good but far from outstanding. However, Carlsen was still only 14 years-old.
His results began to improve from about the middle of 2005 and by the end of the year he finished 10th in the knock-out World Cup event. This result gained him a qualification place in the next round of world championship Candidates' matches and a 2625 FIDE rating.
In 2006, no less an authority than Viktor Korchnoi, in an article in New in Chess on the new generation, placed Carlsen, Nakamura and a player named Pentala Harikrishna as among the most promising. Korchnoi was looking for players with a boundless love of chess as an art, an effort to play in an unconventional manner ... searching for and finding fresh, brilliant ideas and creativity (as opposed to what he described as computer and hack work. Korchnoi rated Carlsen's "fighting personality" the highest.
According to Jan Timman, in 2008, in New in Chess, "Carlsen is a strikingly all-round player [who] plays many different types of games and seems to feel at home in all of them."
Despite Korchnoi’s railing against computers, it has been observed that part of Carlsen’s success is because he is a child of the computer age. He has absorbed a tremendous amount of information that older players couldn't hope to match without the aid of computers. Anand believes computers do not mean the end for creativity and gifted players like Carlsen (and Anand, himself) play in ways that make them different. Jan Timman said he thinks Carlsen is at his best in technical positions but at the same time he exhibits deep insight, brilliant tactical ability and demonstrates total commitment and passion.