Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The Magnus Method - The Singular Skills of the World’s Strongest Chess Player Uncovered and Explained


BOOK REVIEW by Carl Portman


The singular skills of the world’s strongest chess player uncovered and explained

by Emmanuel Neiman

Emmanuel Neiman

Pages: 320

Published by: New In Chess  

2021 Softcover


What is this book about?

The official synopsis:


What is it that makes Magnus Carlsen the strongest chess player in the world? Why do Carlsen’s opponents, the best players around, fail to see his moves coming? Moves that, when you replay his games, look natural and self-evident?


Emmanuel Neiman has been studying Carlsen’s games and style of play for many years. His findings will surprise, delight and educate every player, regardless of their level. He explains a key element in the World Champion’s play: instead of the ‘absolute’ best move he often plays the move that is likely to give him the better chances.


Carlsen’s singular ability to win positions that are equal or only very slightly favourable comes down to this: he doesn’t let his opponents get what they hope for while offering them the maximum number of chances to go wrong. In areas such as pawn play, piece play, exchanges as a positional weapon and breaking the rules in endgames, Neiman shows that Magnus Carlsen has brought a new understanding to the game.


Neiman also looks at Carlsen’s key qualities that are not directly related to technique. Such as his unparalleled fighting spirit and his ability to objectively evaluate any kind of position and situation. Carlsen is extremely widely read and knows basically everything about chess. What’s more, as the most versatile player in the history of the game he is totally unpredictable.


The Magnus Method presents a complete analysis of the skills that make the difference. With lots of surprising and instructive examples and quizzes. Examining Carlsen’s abilities together with Emmanuel Neiman is a delightful way to unlock you own potential.




·         Foreword – by Emanuel Neiman

·         Introduction -

·         Thirteen chapters

·         Index of names

·         Bibliography


My thoughts and comments

This book has a very interesting layout. The chapters are divided into a specific approach by Carlsen to phases of the game, such as Calculation, planning, Attack, Defence, pawns, Endings, tactics and exchanges to name some. Chapter 12 is entitled ‘How to win against Magnus Carlsen: The hidden defects?


Well in one sense we are never going to need this, because we are never going to play against Magnus Carlsen but I wonder how many of the top players might have paused over this little chapter which is only four pages in length, two of which are diagrams.  


I enjoy endgames, so I visited that section of the book and attempted to ‘be’ Magnus and solve some of the puzzles. There really were fun. So many ‘easy to lose’ rook and pawn endgames. This gives an insight into how good Magnus really is.


I learned more about Magnus the chess player. I can see now how he does not mind to give up a pawn – sometimes even two – for activity in his quest to find a win. This occurs, where other players would be content with a draw.


He is excellent at finding ‘backward moves’ which is something that many chess players struggle with. Let’s look at an example. In this position, what would you play?



Be honest, you never considered 7.Ng1 did you? The computer actually recommends 7.Nc1 which seems more logical to me. We don’t really learn why Magnus played this, but it was a rapid Internet game so I am not going to get hung up about it. I wonder if he would have done similarly in a Classical game.


We look at the author’s view about positives and negatives and note that the strengths are not directly related to technique. He notes Carlsen’s strong points which come under six headings, and what about his ‘hidden defects?’ Well, this is covered in Chapter 12 but there are only a couple of pages of prose, followed by 9 diagrams as examples. Not much then in terms of defects, but then he is Magnus Carlsen. Perhaps his greatest defect is his optimism, which can lead to greater risk-taking. Well, I am sure that Ian Nepomniachtchi will be interested as he is soon to face MC in the World Championship finals.


Chess games

There are plenty of games, but not necessarily beginning from move one. We pick up positions part way through, depending upon the theme and the moment of truth, so to speak. The ‘games and solutions’ section takes up over half of the book and I suppose if the reader was lazy, they could turn directly there and enjoy the feast of fun in the answers but really this needs to be looked at as a whole and requires patience and time. A disciplined approach to study will reap rewards.


Does the book achieve its aim?

The author asks at the very beginning ‘Why another book on Magnus Carlsen?’ Well, this is different because of the layout of the book and it does zero in on fundamental aspects of his game in a clear and concise way. I have to say, the introduction is a long 21 pages but it does lay the foundation for what is to follow.


My chief question was ‘Can a club player really try to be Magnus in these puzzles?’ The answer is a resounding yes. Have a go, try to get into his head. I was surprised how many successful attempts I made. Whilst the aim of the book is of course to examine MC in all his glory we should not forget that by doing so, the club player should be able to raise their own level of chess understanding and subsequently their own playing strength.


Magnus says that he wants every chess game to be an event. This book is an event in itself and one could spend many hours over this coming winter enjoying the fruits of the author’s labour.


Just to note that the paper quality and text are excellent, as always with NIC. The diagrams are plentiful but I would like them to be a little bigger. I appreciate that this would increase the size of the book and may lead to increased cost to the consumer.


I wonder what Magnus would make of this book? Personally, I enjoyed it and I intend to spend more time studying it.


Who is the author?

Emmanuel Neiman is a FIDE Master who teaches chess in his home country France. He is the (co-) author of Invisible Chess Moves and Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna, highly successful books on tactics and training.


Praise for Emmanuel Neiman:


“An enjoyable and challenging book that will make you redress your competitive play.”  Yasser Seirawan, four-time US Champion, on ‘Invisible Chess Moves’





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