Last Friday in Chennai, India Magnus Carlsen became the second-youngest ever world chess champion. The 22-year-old Norwegian defeated Viswanathan Anand, world champion since 2007 and Chennai's hometown hero. Carlsen has the highest ever recorded rating. Ratings cannot predict actual play, but his high rating implies that if a tournament of the greatest ever were played—including the likes of Bobby Fischer, Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, and Jose Raul Capablanca—Carlsen would win.
Carlsen represents a shift in the way humans play chess. In the 1990s, the question was can a computer beat the world’s greatest chess player. IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated Garry Kasparov in a seminal chess moment. However, rather than give up the game, chess players have considered the computer their tool not their conqueror and have incorporated computational analysis into their study, allowing them to consider a previously unfathomable number of moves and scenarios. The question now is how can computers make humans better chess players. Top players still play for practice, but they also spend hours upon hours mining databases for flaws in games and systems.
Some world champions ride off into the sunset when they lose their title, others stay engaged with the game, writing study guides and theories. Garry Kasparov and Jose Raul Capablanca have provided some of the best chess tactics books available. Magnus Carlsen has not written his guide to chess, but it is likely in the works.