Top 10 Best Chess Players in History, Part II

Top 10 Best Chess Players in History, Part II

Chess is, above all else, a language of movement, patterns, thought and calculation. The great masters must then be those who speak it fluently, but this does not completely define them. Some are romantic poets, some are linguists, some are singers and some are novel writers. Each has a different approach to their common tongue. We now continue our list of the top 10 best chess players in history.

5. Jose Raul Capablanca (1888-1942)

Capablanca held the title of World Champion from 1921 to 1927, during which he was considered close to invincible over the board. Learning the game at 4, by the time he was 18 years old, Capablanca became capable to defeating members of the world’s elite within a comfortable margin. Just to show the dimensions of his talent, in 1922, he held a simultaneous performance against 103 players, winning 102 and drawing 1. He finally lost the title to Alekhine, after which his play slowed down a bit. Jose Capablanca was also known as the “chess machine” due to his effortless and precise play. He adhered to the positional school of play, preferring long-lasting strategic advantages over tactical tricks.

4. Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900)

Wilhelm Steinitz is the first to approach chess empirically. He is considered to be the father of chess theory and to have contributed enormously to the understanding of certain principles which are now considered fundamental by any chess player. The Austrian master was the first to challenge the rather chaotic playing style of the XIXth century, preferring a more solid play to the spectacular combinational attacks of his peers. Many considered him “cowardly” over the board, but it soon became clear that his positional preferences come from a deep understanding of the game’s basic principles. He succeeded in holding the World Champion title from 1886 to 1894, defeating extremely strong chess players, such as Zukertort and Chigorin.  Steinitz died in 1900 in poverty, an undeserving end for such an influential figure.

3. Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941)

Emanule Lasker is known as the longest reigning World Champion is world history, defending his title for an incredible 27 years. He closed the gap between chess and other professional sports by demanding high fees for any appearance and thus helping turn chess into a valid professional option. He won the World title from Steinitz in 1894 and went on to defeat a number of strong contenders. Lasker eventually lost his title in 1921 to Capablanca, at the age of 53. Despite not contributing to chess theory to the same degree as Steinitz, for instance, Lasker is still cited as the main inspiration for many modern Grandmasters.

2. Anatoly Karpov (1952-)

Anatoly Karpov is a very close second in the list of the best chess players in history. Despite being relatively unknown when compared to the number one, it must be said that only two victories separate the two. Karpov has been undisputed World Champion between 1975 and 1985, then disputed Champion between 1993 and 1999, and continues to play in strong tournaments to this day. He won an incredible number of tournaments and is considered to be one of the strongest positional players in history. To the public, Karpov is best known for his long fights for the World Championship title with another legendary player, Garry Kasparov. Many professional chess players have tried to emulate the “Karpovian style” of play, which implied gradually reducing the rival’s options and suffocating his position.

1. Garry Kasparov (1963-)

The name of Kasparov became synonymous with chess, no other modern player having such a powerful influence over the game of kings. In 1985, Kasparov became the youngest player to win the World Championship title at the age of 22. Garry also held the largest ELO rating between 1986 and 2005, reaching a peak rating of 2851. After years of almost total domination of the chess world, Kasparov lost his title to Kramnik in 2000. Kasparov began his chess career at 10 years old, when he entered Botvinnik’s chess school. By 1984, he was the second rated player behind Karpov, finally defeating him in 1985. His very precise, very powerful style of attacking chess inspired a generation of players. Garry Kasparov dominated chess for 20 years and has done incredibly much to popularize the game, while also contributing enormously to chess theory. He surely deserves to be number one.



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