Chess has been around for centuries and has been enjoyed by kings and commoners alike. It is one of the greatest strategy games of all time. However, over the years, the popularity of the game has waned. This blog will take a look at chess and some of the greatest players of all time, including names like Magnus Carlsen, Boddy Fischer, etc.
10 greatest chess players of all time
Born in 1990, Carlsen is a chess grandmaster and current World Champion. He became a grandmaster at age 13 years, 148 days, which made him the third-youngest grandmaster in history. His peak rating is 2882, making him one of two people to ever reach that rating. As of January 2017, he holds all three world records: highest peak FIDE rating (2882), highest blitz rating (2961), and highest average ranking points (fIDE average) over a calendar year (2904). Without a doubt one of the greatest players to ever grace us with his presence on Earth.
Kasparov is considered by many to be not only one of, but perhaps even the greatest chess player in history. Born in 1963 in Baku, Azerbaijan, Kasparov’s parents were both grandmasters in their own right. By age 10 he was already an international master and at 13 he earned his grandmaster title. Kasparov began playing chess professionally when he was 16.
Fischer is regarded as one of, if not the greatest chess player ever. A child prodigy, Fischer became an international sensation by taking part in both the 1963 and 1966 Interzonal tournaments, becoming a Grandmaster at 14 years old. In 1970, he defeated Soviet world champion Boris Spassky in a match held in Reykjavik, Iceland and was hailed as World Champion; however, his reign was controversial and many chess experts still dispute whether or not he deserved to be named champion. Despite his short-lived tenure as world champion, Fischer’s amazing play and impassioned personality made him an icon for chess players around the world.
Jose Raul Capablanca
Born in Havana, Cuba, Capablanca was once ranked as one of the best chess players in history. In 1921 he became World Champion by defeating Akiba Rubinstein, who many had considered to be invincible at that time. His reign lasted for five years until he lost a match to Emanuel Lasker. He remained active in chess until 1928 when he retired from competition and began practicing law full-time. He would return to tournament play briefly during World War II when most tournaments were canceled due to travel restrictions and only amateur players were allowed to compete.
He continued his career as a lawyer after his retirement from tournament play but died at age 55 from peritonitis that developed after an appendectomy.
Wilhelm Steinitz (December 30, 1836 – May 30, 1900) was an Austrian chess player who was officially ranked as World No. 1 from 1866 to 1894. Some historians contend that he was one of a few players who were considered to be world champions before there was a formal championship match or title awarded.
He is also widely recognized as being instrumental in reforming chess and revolutionizing how games were played during his time. Given his enormous impact on today’s game, it’s hard to imagine anyone playing better back then than Steinitz did.
A German chess grandmaster who was world champion for 27 years, he won more matches than any other chess player in history. He is often referred to as The World Champion. The American chess expert Fred Reinfeld once wrote that Lasker had more talent for chess than any man who ever lived. Emanuel Lasker was a prodigy from an early age, and his progress—while irregular—was steady. At 15 he played several strong players, including Alexander Alekhine, and at 16 beat Wilhelm Steinitz’s record as youngest German master by gaining his title a year earlier than Steinitz had.
Between World War I and World War II, Alekhine won every chess tournament he played in from 1927 to 1946. After dominating tournaments for nearly a decade, he became one of only five chess players to have a plus score against Jose Capablanca, who was considered unbeatable at that time. However, Alekhine wasn’t just known for his dominance over Capablanca—he was also notorious for his hot temper. After beating Efim Bogoljubov in 1934, Alekhine is quoted as saying: Don’t worry; you’ll see me again. I am bound to murder you yet! That will be my next coup d’grace!
Karpov was consistently one of the strongest chess players in history, but it was his rivalry with fellow grandmaster Garry Kasparov that solidified his legacy. He won more chess games than any other player in history (365), and he also had more tournament victories than any other player for a three-decade span (1980-2000). However, Karpov never won a world championship match, losing to Kasparov three times in matches held between 1984 and 1990. Karpov did become FIDE’s champion in 1999 though. Overall, Karpov was ranked No. 1 in chess for 255 months total over four different periods spanning from January 1975 until October 2005 when he finally dropped behind Magnus Carlsen.
Born August 17, 1911, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Mikhail Botvinnik was a chess Grandmaster who remains one of Russia’s most famous chess players to date. After becoming World Champion following a five-year fight with fellow Soviet chess master Mikhail Tal, Botvinnik is widely considered to be one of the best—if not THE best—chess players in history. His legacy includes over 15 titles and seven world championships between 1948 and 1963—the longest any player has held that title at the time. Although he never regained his top status after 1963, Botvinnik continued playing well into his 60s and remained active in Soviet politics. He died on May 5, 1995, at age 83.
Vasily Vasilievich Smyslov (September 17, 1921 – July 4, 2010) was a Russian chess grandmaster and World Champion from 1957 to 1958. Although he never won a major tournament or beat Mikhail Botvinnik in a head-to-head match, Smyslov was regarded by many as one of the greatest players in history; he achieved an estimated Elo rating of 2700, one of only three players to ever reach that rating. At one point FIDE Class A requirements were changed from 2000 to 2500 so that more active grandmasters would be qualified for international tournaments.
These are some of the greatest chess players of all time. If you think I missed some player, then you can comment below!