In the last list of the top Grandmasters in each country series, we went over the best Female Chess players. Now in this article, we’re going through the ten best Chess players of all time.
How Players Were Picked For This List
Putting together a list like this in any serious capacity is no easy task, so I used the following criteria in order to help with putting this list together.
- Resources Available
- Length of Career
- Consistency in Winning
- Time Period
All of these factors were taken into consideration in ranking the players. The time period, or era, is one of the more important and often overlooked factors considered when discussing any sort of order in ranking the greatest Chess players of all time.
With that being said, let’s start with number ten.
10. Paul Morphy
Full name: Morphy, Paul Charles
Federation: United States of America
World Ranking: N/A
Classical (Std): 2689 (Converted to current standards)
Paul Morphy is arguably the best player of all time with the consideration of this context in mind: the time period.
Morphy wasn’t just beating the best players in the world at the time, he was better than the best by the equivalent to a 300 ELO point rating. Which is ridiculous. That kind of a gap in skill does not exist today and has never existed. The difference in rating between the top Grandmasters today is less than 20 points.
It’s similar to Flo, the sprinter who set the record for the 100m in 198x. Her record still stands today and will likely never be broken. #2 isn’t even close, Flo won by such a huge margin.
When he was 12 years old, Morphy took on a professional chess player named Johann Lowenthal and won twice and drew in the third encounter. Morphy learned by watching other people play. Morphy did not receive chess training from a grandmaster. He also did not get his unique chess talent from any expert.
His father was a lawyer who served as an attorney general and supreme court justice. He did not yet have the legal age when he graduated from law school in 1857.
He was unable to practice law as a result of this. Essentially, this would become the basis for Morphy’s professional chess. Because he was unable to practice, Morphy had a lot of leisure time on his hands.
Morphy’s reputation grew, and he was dubbed the chess champion of the world. In 1867, Morphy played against five chess grandmasters and won three games, drew two games. Paul Morphy was under a lot of stress and abuse from the public and friends in 1864, which caused him to be a failure as a lawyer. This resulted in his chess career coming to an end on his preference. In 1859, he decided to retire from active chess competitions.
9. Mikhail Botvinnik
Full name: Botvinnik, Mikhail
World Ranking: 3040
Blitz: Not rated
Classical (Std): 2354
Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik was born in Finland. He is a six-time World Chess Champion and an electrical engineer and computer scientist who helped develop the fundamentals of computer chess. He was born in St. Petersburg, where he learned the game as a child and advanced quickly, winning his first of six USSR titles in 1931.
Botvinnik was the USSR’s first world-class chess player. After World War II, he became a vital member of the coaching system that allowed the Soviet Union to dominate top-level chess during that period. Vladimir Kramnik, Garry Kasparov, and Anatoly Karpov are just a few of his prominent pupils.
8. Emanuel Lasker
Full name: Lasker, Emanuel
Federation: Berlinchen Prussia
Emanuel Lasker spent a large amount of his life playing chess. This is apparent since he began playing chess at the age of thirteen. Lasker was one of the most outstanding players in his day, and he is still considered one of the world’s greatest chess champions. Emanuel Lasker was a German chess player, mathematician, and philosopher who was world chess champion for 27 years, from 1894 to 1921, with the longest reign of any officially recognized world chess champion in history.
He was also a gifted mathematician, developing game-theory ideas. It’s worth noting that his ideas were well received across the world. Furthermore, he’s putting a lot of effort into it through his brother and instructors. He was also eager to take on well-known chess players from all across the world and emerged victoriously.
7. Vladimir Kramnik
Full name: Kramnik, Vladimir
Title: Grandmaster (GM) 1992
World Ranking: 18
Classical (Std): 2753
Vladimir Kramnik, a former World Champion and previously one of the world’s best players of Russia, on June 25, 1975. When he was young, Vladimir Kramnik was a student of Mikhail Botvinnik, the founder of the Soviet system.
From 2000 to 2006, he was the undisputed World Champion, defeating Veselin Topalov in 2006 to claim the 14th unquestioned title. He then won the unified championship from Garry Kasparov in 2000 and claimed supremacy over all other titles. The title was passed on to Viswanathan Anand in 2007, who is now the 15th undisputed (and previously former) World Champion.
At the category 21 Gashimov Memorial in April 2017, Kramnik was second on tiebreaks over Wesley So and Veselin Topalov, scoring 5/9. Half a point behind winner Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
6. Viswanathan Anand
Full name: Anand, Viswanathan
Title: Grandmaster (GM) 1988
International Master (IM) 1985
World Ranking: 16
Classical (Std): 2753
Vishwanathan “Vishy” Anand was the 15th undisputed World Champion, holding the title from 2007 until 2013. He also won FIDE World Championships in 2000 and 2002. Anand, along with seven other players, tops the list of Grandmasters with 2800 Elo.
In March and May 2011, when he was world #1, Anand reached 2817 in the ELO ratings. For 21 months between April 2007 and May 2011, Anand was ranked world #1. Anand was born in Mayiladuthurai but was raised in Chennai.
The Lightning Kid is the name given to him by his friends for his fast chess skills. Anand has always been known for his speed of calculation and movement.
His early classical games were frequently played at or near blitz speed, and this skill has served him well in allowing him to become perhaps the most extraordinary blitz and rapid player of all time.
5. Anatoly Karpov
Full name: Karpov, Anatoly
Title: Grandmaster (GM) 1970
International Master (IM) 1969
World Ranking: 203
Classical (Std): 2617
At four years old, Anatoly Karpov began learning chess and became a candidate master by the age of eleven. Mikhail Botvinnik’s chess academy accepted Karpov at the age of twelve. By finishing fourth in Caracas in 1970, he was elevated to International Grandmaster. He battled World Champion Robert James Fischer to compete in the Karpov – Fischer World Championship Match (1975).
Karpov became the 12th World Chess Champion when FIDE ruled that Fischer had forfeited (1975), making him the youngest World Chess Champion during that time. In 1994, Karpov won the Linares tournament, edging over Kasparov by 2.5 points with a tournament performance rating of 2985. In May 1974, his rating was 2700, making him the second player (after Fischer) to reach this milestone during that time.
4. Jose Capablanca
Full name: José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera
Title: Grandmaster (GM)
From his debut in 1922, José Raúl Capablanca was known as the “Human Chess Machine” for his remarkable endgame skills, accuracy, and speed. He was nicknamed the “Human Chess Machine” because of his legendary endgame abilities, precision, and quick play.
The playing style of Capablanca significantly influenced the styles of subsequent World Champions Botvinnik, Robert James Fischer, and Anatoly Karpov. Before their encounter for the world championship made them bitter rivals, Botvinnik noted that Alekhine had received a lot of training from Capablanca in positional play.
After quitting university and touring hundreds of cities across the United States, winning over 95 percent of his games, Capablanca rose to prominence as one of the world’s finest players, particularly after his victory in the Capablanca – Marshall (1909) New York match exhibition.
He also wrote several books, including A Primer of Chess, Chess Fundamentals, and My Chess Career.
3. Bobby Fischer
Full name: Robert James Fischer
Title: Grandmaster (1958)
Country: United States
At his unbelievably age of 13, he exhibited a stunning brilliance in 1956, which dubbed “The Game of the Century.” He was the youngest American Champion ever (1957/58), capturing the US Championship.
At the age of 15, Fischer became both the youngest grandmaster (at the time) and the youngest candidate for the World Championship. He has won the United States Championship an incredible eight times by at least a point each time. He holds the tournament record for scoring the tremendous amount (11-0) in history.
2. Magnus Carlsen
Full name: Carlsen, Magnus
Title: Grandmaster (GM) 2004
World Ranking: 1
Classical (Std): 2855
The 16th undisputed World Champion is Magnus Carlsen (Sven Magnus en Carlsen). He took the title from Viswanathan Anand in November 2013, and he successfully defended it in a rematch with his prior title holder in November 2014.
In November 2016, Magnus reclaimed his title when he beat Sergey Karjakin in the rapid game tiebreaker after the 12-game classical encounter was tied. In London in November 2018, he defended his title against Challenger Fabiano Caruana.
Since Fischer is in this list as well, there is an article on Magnus Carlsen vs Bobby Fischer if you’re interested in a comparison.
1. Garry Kasparov
Full name: Kasparov, Garry
Title: Grandmaster (GM) 1980
International Master (IM) 1979
World Ranking: 2
Classical (Std): 2812
Garry was the 13th world champion. Kasparov was the undisputed World Champion from 1985 until 1993 and Classical World Champion from 1993 until 2000. His early primary influence was Alexander Alekhine’s combative and combinative style of play, which he learned as a child while watching his father.
Garry is regarded as one of the chess all-time greats; Kasparov’s Elo ratings have been rated world #1 by Elo for the vast majority of his career, from 1986 until his retirement in 2005.
Garry was the world’s top-rated player for a record 255 months, a record that far surpasses the best route to the top of the leaderboard, as judged by other top players.
To recap, here’s the names of the best Chess players in history.
- Garry Kasparov
- Magnus Carlsen
- Bobby Fischer
- Jose Capablanca
- Anatoly Karpov
- Viswanathan Anand
- Vladimir Kramnik
- Emanuel Lasker
- Mikhail Botvinnik
- Paul Morphy
That concludes the list of the ten best Chess players of all time. If you like list posts like this, you may also be interested in seeing the ten best Indian Chess players or the best Canadian Chess players.