Top 10 Best Chess Players Of All Time

The game of chess has seen more than its fair share of the absolute bests, with Russia having contributed significantly. The game and skills of players have evolved with time. Making a list of the top chess players of all time would therefore not just be difficult, but also wrong. But there are players who have made a major impact on the game during their times. The following are the biggest impact makers.

1. Garry Kasparov

Having started his chess training at the tender age of 10, Garry Kasparov began ruling the world of chess when he was just 22. By 1983, he became the second-best chess player in the world. In 1985, he became the youngest player ever to become world chess champion. And he was the undisputed king of the board until he retired in 2005, having dominated the game completely for two decades.

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2. Anatoly Karpov

Anatoly Karpov was world chess champion from 1975 to 1985, a period of 10 years. His reign was cut short by Gary Kasparov, who was quite young then. When Karpov was active, Fischer was doing the rounds too. The Karpov vs. Fischer showdown would have been a match made in heaven had it happened. Karpov had a very cold demeanor, with strong nerves, and an enigmatic playing style. Unlike other players, Karpov came in with a strategy to every game and never changed his gameplan in response to his opponent’s gameplay.

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3. Magnus Carlsen

Born in 1990, Magnus Carlen is the youngest player to be featured on this ‘all-time chess greats’ list. He became the chess grandmaster in 2004 when he was just 13. One of the biggest strengths of Magnus is the lack of any apparent “weakness”. He plays positional and strategic chess, but doesn’t miss out on tactical opportunities either. Due to his extraordinary skills and talent, Carlsen carries the “Mozart of Chess” nickname. Carlsen almost never does opening preparation and believes in fighting it out on the board. The man is still in his prime and has several more years of professional chess and brilliance ahead of him.

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4. Vishwanathan Anand

At 18, Vishwanathan Anand became the first Indian chess grandmaster ever. He was world chess champion between 2007 and 2013. Although Anand has never been the most dominant force during his peak, you cannot ignore the fact that the man has won pretty much every championship the world of professional chess has to offer. With a 2800 FIDE rating, Anand is currently active and his journey to greatness hasn’t come to an end yet. Anand’s longevity as a professional chess player is something very few other chess greats have managed.

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5. Alexander Alekhine

By age 16, Alexander Alekhine had already established himself as a great chess player. Unlike other chess legends who were born great, Alekhine worked his way up through sheer determination and hard work. By 22, he became the greatest in the world. He started his reign of greatness in 1927 when he defeated Capablanca. In 1929 and 1934, Alexander defeated Bogoljubov to keep his title intact. However, he lost to Max Euwe in 1935, only to regain the title in 1937. He held on to the title until 1946, the year he died. Alekhine’s playing style was ahead of time. He used concrete play to break positional chess laws. According to him, all things had to be assessed as per each position’s unique elements.

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6. Mikhail Botvinnik

Mikhail Botvinnik coached the likes of Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik and Anatoly Karpov, which should give you an idea about the man’s greatness. Mikhail also contributed greatly to the World Chess Championship. During the 1930s, Mikhail was already a name to reckon with in the Soviet Union. However, due to the Second World War, it was only during the late 1940s that people outside of the Soviet Union started taking notice of this greatness. His global reign started in 1948 and lasted till 1963. Botvinnik quit professional chess in 1970 and started to focus his attention toward developing chess programs and coaching young Soviet players.

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7. Bobby Fischer

Robert James Fisher or Bobby Fischer began his chess career at 14. He won eight U.S. Chess Championships, became grandmaster at 15, and was the youngest player ever to play in World Chess Championship. In 1970, Bobby won 20 matches on the trot, and defeated Boris Spassky couple of years later to become world chess champion. If it hadn’t been for the several conflicts and controversies in his life outside of chess, Bobby would have been a much greater and celebrated player than he is now.

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8. Wilhelm Steinitz

Branded as the “Austrian Morphy”, Wilhelm is viewed as a major contributor to the game. In 1873, he came up with a unique method of positional play that was not received well initially due to its defensive stance. However, his ideas now form the base for all modern-day positional themes in the game. During the 1800s, Steinitz has had the better of the greats of that period, including Adolf Andersson, Joseph Henry Blackburne, and Johannes Zukertort.

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9. Emanuel Lasker

Emanuel Lasker was the second chess world champion ever, after Steinitz. Also, he holds the record for holding the world champion title for the longest period – from 1894 to 1921, a period of 27 years. His reign come to an end when he was undone by Capablanca. Lasker’s style of play was more “psychological” wherein he spotted the fears and weaknesses of his opponents. At the same time, he was a sound strategist too.

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10. Mikhail Tal

Mikhail Tal is a chess great with a predominantly attacking game. Though Mikhail was champion for only a brief period (1960-1961), he still makes it to this list because he was different altogether. The man was a creative genius and extremely confrontational. His prowess in the game earned him quite a few unofficial nicknames. Mikhail played wild, but with tact. And for someone who was world champion only for a couple of years, it’s quite astonishing to learn that Tal has some of the longest winning streaks in the history of professional chess.

Top 10 Best Chess Players Of All Time
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