World Chess Champions

Leia Smith | 02 - 20 - 2024
Top 20 World Chess Champions

Though umpteen games are played around the world, Chess takes a unique place. Winning in chess competitions ain’t a low-hanging fruit. Because it requires concentration, logical thinking, critical thinking, spatial reasoning, and prediction. With each move the player makes, fans hold their breath, fingers crossed, and cling to the edge of their seats. Many legends have played chess, but only a few managed to reach the world championship throne. Read along to know more about them. 

Top 20 World Chess Champions 

  1. Wilhelm Steinitz 

Wilhelm Steinitz 

Wilhelm Steinitz, mostly known as the father of positional chess, was an analyst, chess theoretician, and author of positional school in chess. Ever since he defeated Johannes Zuckertort in the first world championship, he became the most notable person in the history of chess. In 1873, Steinitz even suggested a new positional style for play, which was debatable at the moment but later accepted by everyone. He had several matches to defend his title but was unfortunately defeated by Laskar in 1894. 

Who invented the positional chess?
  • A. Wilhelm Steinitz
  • B. Emanuel Lasker
  • C. José Raúl Capablanca
  • D. Alexander Alekhine
  1. Emanuel Lasker 

Emanuel Lasker

This German chess player was also a mathematician and a philosopher. Emanuel Lasker was the first and longest player to reign as the World Chess Champion for 27 years(1894 – 1921). He defeated Steinitz in the title match in 1894 and held the throne until 1921. Admirably, Lakser played in several tournaments becoming the strongest player in history. He won matches against Marshall, Tarrasch, Janowsky, and Schlechter.

  1. Jose Capablanca 

Jose Capablanca

Jose Raul Capablanca was one of the talented players, who reached the throne rather quickly before World War I and challenged the longest reign of Lasker. He was considered one of the best endgame players ever. He defeated Lasker 4-0 in the title match and was crowned the third world champion. However, this human chess machine lasted up to six years. 

  1. Alexander Alekhine

Alexander Alekhine

Being a Russian and French chess player was celebrated as a top player by the age of 22. 

Alekhine was skilled at attacking play and deep combinations. He ruled the games in the 1920s and bagged $10,000 by winning against Capablanca. In 1927, Alekhine played in Buenos Aires, which is still considered a remarkable duel in chess history where he won the match in +6-3= 25 and became the fourth world champion. 

  1. Max Euwe 

Max Euwe

Max had beaten Alekhine in 1935, proving himself the toughest challenger during his period.

Notably, to this date, he is the only Dutch world champion and the only Dutch grandmaster in chess history. 

  1. Mikhail Botvinnik 

Mikhail Botvinnik 

After Alexander Alekhine died, a five-player chess tournament was conducted to hire a new chess champion.  The tournament took place in Hague and Moscow, Mikhail was the first Soviet chess player to grab the championship. Later on, he prevailed as a leading competitor for 30 years. Botvinnik introduced three future champions: Karpov, Kasparov, and Kramnik.

  1. Vasily Smyslov

Vasily Smyslov

Smyslov possesses a very solid style that supported him in gaining major wins in many games. He was the first player to win the world championship in Second Chance. Also, Smyslove beat Botvinnik three times with a winning score of (34.5-33.5).

  1. Mikhail Tal

Mikhail Tal

Tal was the youngest player during his time to become a world champion. While Symslov was known for his solid style, Tal’s was dynamic and known for his accuracy, which involved calculation and intuition. In a 1960 match, Tal defeated Botvinnik and gained the throne; however, it didn’t last more than a year as Botbinnik seized the throne again in the next game. 

  1. Tigran Petrosian 

Tigran Petrosian 

Iron Tigran— the monicker he got for his unshakable playing style which Tigran used for defense. Importantly, he was the one who ended the longest reign of Botvinnik in the world championship. 

  1. Boris Spassky

Boris Spassky

Spaskky was a universal player who could tackle the game with any kind of position. He was the last one to use the King’s Gambit which became an advantage to win multiple games. He entered the chess arena when he was 19 and proved himself to be the most potential challenger in his era.

  1. Bobby Fischer 

Bobby Fischer 

Robert James Fischer is credited with disrupting Soviet rule. This iconic player ruled the chess world from 1969 to 1972, peaking during his era. He debuted in the chess game at the age of 16, too young to compete with the Soviet players. Fischer won against Taimanov, Larson, and Petrosian, leading him to compete with the reigning champion Boris Spassky. He won the title game(12½–8½) and became the 11th world champion. 

  1. Anatoly Karpov 

Anatoly Karpov 

Anatoly Karpov was considered a skillful positional genius in chess history. Though he climbed the world champion throne through forfeiting, Karpov was an active player who won several tournaments in chess. After Fischer lost the game Karpov was crowned the 12th world champion. He held his position for 10 years by defeating the others in the title match. 

  1. Garry Kasparov 

Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov was believed to be the future champion as he won the world championship at a young age. He won matches against Beliavsky, Korchnoi, and Smyslov. His match against Karpov is the longest in the history of chess. 

  1. Vladimir Kramnik

Vladimir Kramnik

Graduated from the Botvinnik chess school, Kramnik proved himself a tough competitor from the beginning. In 2000, Kasparov conducted a title match in London, where Kramnik defeated Kasparov with admirable scores of 8 ½ – 6 ½. In 2004, he challenged against Topalov and won the title. 

  1. Viswanathan Anand

Viswanathan Anand

Viswanathan Anand has the pride of being the first grandmaster from India. He was known for his speed of play. Anand challenged Kramik in the 2007 World Chess Championship and won the competition admirably. 

  1. Magnus Carlsen 

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen is the youngest player to exceed the 2400 rating mark in chess history. In 2010 he withdrew from the candidates because of the game format. He later reentered the zone in 2013 candidates and won the match against Vladimir Kramnik. In the same year, he dethroned Viswanathan Anand becoming the world champion. 

  1. Ruslan Ponomariov

Ruslan Ponomariov

Ponomariov is one of the greatest players in chess history. He was a teenager when he won the world championship, beating his fellow countryman Vasyl Ivanchuk by a score of 4 ½ – 2 ½.

  1. Rustam Kasimdzhanov 

Rustam Kasimdzhanov 

In the 2004 world chess championship in Tripoli, Rustam won the title against Micheal Adams. 

  1. Veselin Topalov 

Veselin Topalov 

Topalov was a Bulgarian Chess grandmaster and a former ‘FIDE world chess champion.’ He won the title and chess Oscar in 2005. He ranked in the top place in the chess world.

  1. Ding Liren 

Ding Liren

Liren is a Chinese chess grandmaster who won the candidates’ tournament this year. He is considered the highest-rated Chinese chess player in the history of chess. 

 list of World chess champions

1 Ding Liren China 2023–present
2 Magnus Carlsen Norway 2013–2023
3 Viswanathan Anand India 2007–2013
4 Vladimir Kramnik Russia 2006–2007
5 Veselin Topalov Bulgaria 2005–2006
6 Rustam Kasimdzhanov Uzbekistan 2004–2005
7 Ruslan Ponomariov Ukraine 2002–2004
8 Viswanathan Anand India 2000-2002
9 Alexander Khalifman Russia 1999–2000
10 Anatoly Karpov Russia 1993–1999
11 Vladimir Kramnik Russia 2000–2006
12 Garry Kasparov Russia 1993–2000
13 Anatoly Karpov Soviet Union 1975–1985
14 Bobby Fischer United States 1972–1975
15 Boris Spassky Soviet Union 1969–1972
16 Tigran Petrosian Soviet Union 1963–1969
17 Mikhail Botvinnik Soviet Union 1961–1963
18 Mikhail Tal Soviet Union 1960–1961
19 Mikhail Botvinnik Soviet Union 1958–1960
20 Vasily Smyslov Soviet Union 1957–1958
21 Mikhail Botvinnik Soviet Union 1948–1957
22 Alexander Alekhine France 1937–1946
23 Max Euwe Netherlands 1935–1937
24 Alexander Alekhine France 1927–1935
25 José Raúl Capablanca Cuba 1921–1927
26 Emanuel Lasker Germany
  German Republic
27 Wilhelm Steinitz Austria-Hungary
  United States

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