It is arguable that history is replete with records of people who took the chess game by the storms during their time. The debate about who makes to the list of the greatest chess players will continue to elicit varied reactions many years to come. Every person has his or her own way of rating different players, and chess players are not an exception. This article appreciates the difficulty and takes into account the achievements of the players during their early years, the number of winnings in major tournaments, the number of successful defenses, and their overall contribution to the world of chess. Here is a list of the five most important chess players of all time based on how each one dominated the world of chess during their active play.
Garry Kasparov (1963)
He is perhaps rated by many as the greatest of all in the history of chess. Unlike any other chess player, Garry proved his prowess in playing the game while his childhood friends were playing boyish games. At the age of 22 years, he won the coveted world chess championship becoming the world’s youngest ever chess player. As they say, every superstar was once a beginner, but Garry had a unique beginning when he was accidentally entered into a championship but which he won. By 1983 (22 years), Garry was surprisingly ranked the world’s number 2 chess player. The following year, he entered a competition to challenge Karpov, the then world’s greatest player but lost narrowly in a 48-game match. Perhaps this remains one of the most compelling moments in his career as a chess player.
As fate would have it, he won the world title the following year and defended his title three times back-to-back. Since this time Garry remained the number one player, a ranking that he defended throughout his remaining period of active play until his retirement in 2005.
He was enrolled at Mikhail Botvinnik’s chess school at the age of 10 years. His illustrious gaming career began to blossom at 15 when he won a professional tournament in which he has been erroneously entered. Perhaps the most memorable loss was in 2000 when he lost to Kramnik. Up to his retirement in 2005, he remained the first on the ranking list. This was the time when he had won the prestigious Linares tournament for the 9th time. The records show that Kasparov dominated the sport for whooping years, becoming the player with the longest and successful career life.
- Anatoly Karpov (1951)
Karpov is remembered as the youngest ever Soviet National Master at the age of 15 years when he won the World Junior Chess Championship in 1969. He defeated Korchnoj and Spassky and Bobby Fisher, a four-time world champion five years later. When Fischer withdrew his participation, Karpov automatically became the reigning champion between 1975 and 1985 as well as 1993 to 1999. However, in a highly competitive match, he lost to Kasparov in 1985 after he successfully defended it two years in a row. He won the most prestigious Linares tournament in 1995 but unfortunately lost the title in protest over the changes in FIDE rules. All these accomplishments certainly fit him as one of the most important chess players in the history of the game. His most memorable game was in 1994 when he played in a Linares tournament in which he won with a resounding 11/13. Some of the names he outshined during the time include the highly ranked players such as Garry Kasparov, Boris Gelfand, Evgeny Bareev, Vassily Ivanchuk, Vladimir Kramnik just to name a few great players.
3) Magnus Carlsen (1990)
Carlsen’s chess career is laden with many incredible achievements, including the fact that he won the grandmaster title in 2004 at the age of 13 years. Five years later, Magnus Carlsen made an entrance into the Elo rating of over 2800 and became the world’s No.1 according to FIDE rankings. His star as a career chess player continued to shine and it was in 2013 that he made a maiden entrance into the golden league when he defeated the then reigning champion Vishy Anand in a 12-game match becoming the new World Chess Champion. He successfully defended his title in 2005 in a repeat match with Vishy Anand. In 2014, he also won the World Rapid Championship and World Blitz Championships respectively. By May 2014, he reached his highest FIDE ranking of 2882, which was the highest rating in the history of the game. Two years later, he successfully challenged Sergey Karjakin, a Russian Super-GM at the time. What sets Magnus apart as one of the greatest players of all time is that his career placed him on a pedestal of a player without any weaknesses. He is known to play strategic positional chess but at the same time seldom missed tactical opportunities winning at any slightest chance he gets.
4) Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900)
Wilhelm Steinitz is regarded as the father of modern chess owing to his mastery of the art of the game. In 1873, he developed a new style or strategy of positional play. This style was perceived to be cowardly compared to the traditional all-out attack style. His contributions to the game of chess through numerous publications have played a crucial role in modern-day chess. Today, Steinitz is known as the father of positional play. Many years after he exited the stage, world’s greatest players such as Lasker and Tarrasch among other important players recognized him is their master. His tactful playing style enabled him to defeat Adolf Anderson, a powerful and great chess player of his time. Although Steinitz did not play many games, he is remembered for winning all of the games, including the one he won against Blackburne in a resounding 7/0. He won the highly regarded world championship in 1886 after a long stay outside of active play. He reigned for 8 years, beating Chigorin and Gunsberg. Later on he lost his title to Lasker in 1894 before retiring from active sports.
5) Jose Raul Capablanca (1888-1942)
He is arguably the undisputed grand master of blitz chess! What is unique about him is that he started his career as a chess player at 4 years and at the age of 13 years, he won against the then Cuban reigning junior champion. At 18 years, he defeated the American Chess Champion, Frank Marshall. In 1921, he defeated Lasker, the world’s reigning champion at the time. As a new champion, he successfully won the world championship 6 times in a row, an achievement that many chess players consider incredible.
Capablanca was the undoubted master of blitz chess and is the player to have started his career at the most tender age of 4. At 13, he defeated the Cuban champion. At 18, he defeated the US Champion Frank Marshall with a score of 15-8. Finally, in 1921, he won the World Chess Championship and ended the reign of Lasker. As the new World Chess Champion, he successfully defended his title for six consecutive years. He stunned the entire world in 1922 when he played 103 games, in which he won 102 games and drew 1! Five years, later, he lost his title to Alehine and although he continued to play in some of the major tournaments, he was not able to reclaim his title until his retirement in 1931.
Why the above Players Merit the title
These five great chess geniuses of their time made a name in the history of the chess game. Their accomplishments and huge contributions to the game have been written in indelible marks and will leave to be remembered by generations to come. This is the reason they qualify to be on the list of the top five great chess players of all time.