Even if you don’t know much about the chess world, there are some names in the game which are famous all around the world. If you do love chess, there are some players who hold iconic status for their prowess at this sport of kings. Here, we take a look at some of the very best chess players ever to have graced the board.
It would be impossible to make any list of the greatest chess players without mentioning Magnus Carlsen. The current World Chess Champion, Carlsen was just 13 when he first earned his title as grandmaster back in 2004. It was 2009 when he reached an enormous ELO rating of more than 2800, and in 2010, he achieved the number one position in FIDE’s rankings.
In 2013, Carlsen defeated Vishy Anand, the reigning champion to become World Chess Champion, retaining his title the following year and reaching a rating of 2882, which was the highest rating ever to be achieved in the game’s history. As a strategic genius, Carlsen will be extremely difficult to beat.
Another huge name in the world of chess, Kasparov began training in the game when he was just 10 years old. 1979 saw him being entered accidentally into a professional chess tournament which, against all the odds, he won. In 1985, he took the World Title which he held until 2000. When he retired from professional play in 2005, he had been the top-ranked player in the world for two decades. In 1996 he lost a game against the IBM's chess computer - Deep Blue.
If you’re a die-hard chess fan, it’s possible you’re of the school of thought which says that Bobby Fischer is the best player ever. Having won twenty matches consecutively in 1970, he achieved legendary status. Two years later, he became the World Champion.
In 1969, Karpov was the junior chess champion. In 1974, he went onto defeat Spassky and Korchnoi and challenged Bobby Fischer in the World Championship. When Fischer refused to play because of a disagreement over playing conditions, Karpov took the title by default. He went on to reign for almost a decade. In 1995, he won the Linares tournament, widely believed to be history’s strongest tournament.
Having held the title of World Champion between 2007 and 2013, Indian player Vishy Anand may still be under the shadow of Magnus Carlsen but is no less a talented player. His FIDE rating is almost 2800, placing him in the ranks of the top world chess players, and in 2017, he took the title of Rapid Chess World Champion. He also holds the distinction of being the first grandmaster to be Indian – an accolade he was awarded at the age of just 18.
Born in 1987, this young player is an American grandmaster who started playing the game before he reached 5 years of age having been coached by his own stepfather, the chess author and FIDE Master Sunil Weeramantry. When he was just 10 years old, Nakamura was awarded a National Master title, and this gave him the honour be being the youngest ever American who had earned that title. He went on to become America’s youngest Grandmaster in 2003 when he was just 15 – breaking Bobby Fischer’s record by 3 months. Today, he is recognised as the world’s best blitz and bullet chess player. He has a cult following who watch his games over the internet, and he holds many rating records.
Not only his Nakamura a genius in the rapid chess arena, but he also currently stands in the 16th spot of the FIDE’s ranking, and his peak FIDE rating is over 2800.
Russian player Anish Giri was born in St Petersburg in 1994 but plays for the Netherlands. Having first begun playing chess when he was just 6, Giri earned the honour of becoming a FIDE Master when he was just 14 and in 2009 became an International Grandmaster before even reaching the age of 15. This made him the youngest Grandmaster in the world at that time.
Giri is currently 5th in the FIDE rankings, which is remarkable considering that he has very little time to practice his game. He has only recently finished studying but is now working towards a full-time chess career, with his eye on the World Championship title.
No list of the best chess players would be complete without a nod to the father of modern chess, Wilhelm Steinitz. Born in 1836 in Prague, he was the first ever official World Champion of the game and, while he first began playing with an all-out assault approach, he was instrumental in changing the chess landscape by developing a new positional playing style. It was this unusual approach that led to him becoming of the game’s most dominant players, and in more than a quarter of a century of chess, he was never the loser.
Compared to today’s standards, Steinitz came to the game late. He was 12 when he first began playing and didn’t begin playing seriously until in his 20s. During the 1850s, he took huge strides forward, making his name in the world of chess. It was after winning a tournament in London in 1862 that he made a move into professional chess and it was only a matter of time before he took the title of Best Player in the world. Between 1862 and 1892, Steinitz won every single serious match he played – something which no player has ever been able to replicate. More than a century after his death, he is still widely respected and loved as one of history’s chess legends.
There are many chess players from across the ages and all around the world who have the honour of being ranked among history’s best at the game. Those listed here are the giants who stand out from the crowd. However, there are many more who have earned impressive ratings and who are widely respected among fans of the game.