Top 10 Greatest Chess Players
Of All Time

By Abhinandan Lawati

Chess is usually a recreational sport but it can be a medium for a clash of heads too. When we say a clash of heads, we mean a competitive game where people use their brains to think ahead of their opponents. Compiled below is a list of some of the greatest chess players in the world. 

1. Garry Kasparov

In 1985, Garry made his mark as the youngest ever undisputed champion aged just 22. The man just couldn’t be usurped from his throne and he retired in 2005 still ranked no 1. He is perhaps the best chess player ever in the world. Garry Kasparov learnt his trade at Mikhail Botyinnik’s chess school. He is often remembered for his matches against another chess great Anatoly Karpov. 

2. Anatoly Karpov

The man holds the distinct honor of being the youngest ever Soviet National Master. He became a world champion for the first time when Bobby Fischer resigned in 1974. After that, the man overcame several contenders before losing his title to upcoming Garry Kasparov. The man has had over 160 first place finishes in his career. Currently, Anatoly is well involved in his political career. 

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3. Emanuel Lasker 

No one made the No. 1 position his own like Emanuel Lasker. The man was world champion for 27 years. He became a champion for the first time in 1894 when he defeated Steinitz. After tasting success for the first time, the man simply couldn’t get enough of it. After staying at the helm for 27 years, Lasker was finally defeated at the age of 53 by Capablanca in 1921.

4. Wilhelm Steinitz

Wilhelm Steinitz was the Chess World Champion from 1886 to 1894 for 8 years. The man is often credited to inventing several positional plays that currently shapes the modern game. Wilhelm’s defining moment came when he defeated Adolf Andersson for the world title. It was unfortunate that he had to lose his life because of poverty. 

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5. Jose Capablanca

Jose Capablanca excelled at Blitz Chess. He reigned as the world champion from 1921 to 1927. He set fire across the country with his displays. His victory as an 18 year old against the US champion Frank Marshall in 1906 was the defining moment in his chess career. After gaining that sort of momentum, the man built on it and went from strength to strength. He finally lost his world title in 1927 to Alexander Alekhine. 

6. Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer holds the honor of being the only player in history to win by a perfect score 11-0 in the US Championships. The man became a champion for the first time in 1972 when he beat Boris Spassky. Bobby simply couldn’t meet eye to eye with several FIDE conditions and thus never defended his title. It’s a shame that the man’s US passport was revoked because of several Anti-American remarks he made on radio stations. He passed away in Iceland in January 17, 2008. 

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7. Alexander Alekhine 

Russia’s Alexander Alekhine became a World Champion for the first time when he defeated Jose Capablanca in 1927.  The championship was finally decided with 6 wins for Alekhine to Capablanca’s 3; they drew 25 games. In 1935, Alexander handed his title to Euwe before regaining it in 1937. This time, he managed to hold onto the title until his death in 1946. 

8. Mikhail Botvinnik

The man is famous for coaching several legendary grandmasters such as Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasporov and Vladimir Kramnik etc. Besides his obvious phenomenal coaching talents, the man was also quite the player himself. He became the Soviet Champion at the age of 20. He became a world champion for the first time in 1948. After 15 years at the top of his game, he finally retired in 1970.  

9. Paul Morphy 

Paul Morphy taught himself to play chess by watching his family members play. Soon he started beating his family members with ease and his family was quick to take notice. Paul Morphy tasted unparalleled success when he defeated Hungarian Master Johann Lowenthal aged 12. He also became the champion of United States in 1857. Paul further cemented his place amongst the greats when he defeated Adolf Andersson when he was just 21. For whatsoever reasons, Paul never really pursued a career in chess. 

10. Viswanathan Anand

Anand rounds off our list of 10 greatest chess players of all time. The man is one of the 7 people to have crossed the 2800 mark in the FIDE rating system. Anand is definitely one of the most versatile chess players around; he has the distinct honor of being the only player to win the world championships in the Knockout, Tournament, Match, Rapid and Blitz formats. 

11. Deep Blue

We know that this is a list of 10 greatest chess players, but we felt it will be informative to throw in another world champion. Well, "Deep Blue" is not a human but a super chess playing computer developed by IBM. Deep Blue is the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion. In 1997 Deep Blue won the six game match against Garry Kasparov. The computer won 2 - 1, with 3 draws. Deep Blue has since been retired by IBM.

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