There will always be a debate when it comes to the greatest chess players of all time.
The following is a list of ten great players who have made a significant contribution to the great game of chess.
Be certain to read our ultimate list of the 10 greatest chess players of all time.
1. Fabiano Caruana
Fabiano Caruana holds a dual-citizenship of Italy and the United States. He was the youngest player to ever become a grandmaster, at the time, in Italy and the United States at only 14 years, 11 months, and 20 days old.
In 2007 Caruana was the youngest ever Italian Champion.
November 2008, saw Fabiano Caruana playing for Italy in the 38th Olympiad.
Included in the very strong field were Levon Aronian, Viktor Korchnoi, Michael Adams, Emanuel Berg, and Peter Leko.
He lost to Aronian and Leko but won against the other three.
Over the years he has gone on to win numerous tournaments including the Candidates Tournament which earned him the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Chess Championship in London, 2018.
Caruana is well-aware of the importance of physical fitness for today’s tournament chess player and believes it’s an often neglected part of chess. To prepare for his championship match Caruana included yoga in his preparation.
The match took place from November 9 to 28. All 12 classical time control games ended in draws.
Carlsen kept his title by winning the rapid tiebreak games 3-0.
2. Mikhail Chigorin
Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (November 12, 1850 – January 25, 1908) was a Russian chess player. During his chess career, he challenged Wilhelm Steinitz twice unsuccessfully for the World Championship.
Born in Gatchina the family later moved to Saint Petersburg. After losing both his parents, Chigorin moved into the Gatchinsk Orphan’s Institute.
He was only 10 years old at the time.
Chigorin was very influential in opening theory development.
There is a defense that bears his name in the Queen’s Gambit – the Chigorin Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6).
Arguably his best tournament showing was the 1895 Hastings tournament. He finished second ahead of Lasker, Tarrasch, and Steinitz.
Chigorin was regarded as a great player of gambit lines.
In 1907 Chigorin was diagnosed with an advanced and untreatable case of diabetes. He died shortly thereafter in January 1908.
Many Russians consider Mikhail Chigorin as the father of their school of chess because of his talent and teaching.
3. Max Euwe
Machgielis Euwe (May 20, 1901 – November 26, 1981) was a Dutch chess grandmaster and president of FIDE. He was better known as Max Euwe.
In 1935 he won the World Chess Championship from Alexander Alekhine.
Max Euwe remained World Champion until 1937 when he lost badly in a rematch with Alekhine.
Over a 31 year period, Max Euwe won every Dutch Championship he played in from 1921 – 1952. His 12 titles remain the record.
From 1970 until 1978 Max Euwe was president of FIDE when he dealt with the Fischer versus Spassky World Chess Championship match, 1972, and the defections of grandmaster Gennadi Sosonko and Victor Korchnoi.
Yuri Averbakh regarded Max Euwe as the best president FIDE ever had.
Paul Keres (January 7, 1916 – June 5, 1975) was born in Estonia .
Unfortunately, for Keres his attempts to challenge Alekhine in a world championship match were interrupted by the start of the Second World War.
Because of his tendency to finish as runner-up in Candidates tournaments, Keres earned the nickname of “Paul ΙΙ” or “Crown Prince Paul”.
Keres finished tied for second or alone in second place in four consecutive Candidates tournaments from 1953 – 1962.
By far Keres’ best tournament results came in international team play. Forced to become a Soviet citizen, Keres represented the Soviet Union in seven consecutive Olympiads, from 1952 – 1964.
Keres finished with a record of +97 -13 =51 in team play for the Soviet Union.
He died from a heart attack in Helsinki, Finland, at the age of 59, returning from a chess tournament in Vancouver, Canada.
5. Bent Larsen
Jorgen Bent Larsen (March 4, 1935 – September 9, 2010) was born in Tilsted, Denmark. He started playing chess seriously at the age of 17.
Larsen chose a professional chess career over civil engineering.
Bent Larsen played in two World Junior Championship tournaments in 1951 and 1953. He finished fifth and eighth respectively.
Along with Bobby Fischer, Larsen was regarded as being one of the strongest non-Soviet players in the world. In fact, Larsen played on the first board in the USSR versus Rest of the World match ahead of Fischer.
In the match, Larsen finished with 2 ½/4 against Boris Spassky.
One of the greatest chess players in tournament play, Larsen dominated competitive play between 1965 and 1973. When he won in Monte Carlo, 1968, he set a record of five consecutive major tournament wins.
In 1982 Larsen moved from Denmark to Buenos Aires where he lived for the remainder of his life.
6. Emanuel Lasker
Emanuel Lasker (December 24, 1868 – January 11, 1941) was a German chess player who held the title of World Chess Champion for an incredible 27 years, from 1894 – 1921.
That alone is surely enough to make him one of the greatest chess players ever.
Along with being one of the all-time greatest chess players, Lasker published chess magazines and chess books.
His books included “Common Sense in Chess” (1896) and “Lasker’s Manual of Chess.” (1925).
“Lasker’s Manual of Chess” is as well-known for its philosophical content as its chess teachings.
Lasker discovered he had a talent for chess while studying in Berlin.
In January 1920, Lasker signed an agreement with Capablanca to play a World Championship match in 1921.
The match was played from March – April 1921. Capablanca became world champion when Lasker resigned the match after the fourteenth game.
Lasker died of a kidney infection in New York on January 11th, 1941.
7. Tigran Petrosian
Tigran Petrosian (June 17, 1929 – August 13, 1984) was one of the greatest defensive players of all time. His defensive prowess was so great he earned the nickname “Iron Tigran”.
In fact, Petrosian himself confessed the book “Chess Praxis” by Aaron Nimzovitch had a great influence on his style of play.
Orphaned during the Second World War, Petrosian became a street sweeper. During this time he fell ill and developed hearing problems that stayed with him all his life.
Petrosian won the right to play for the World Chess Championship by winning a candidate’s match against very strong opposition.
Among the competitors were Pal Benko, Bobby Fischer, Efim Geller, Viktor Korchnoi and Mikhail Tal.
He would later win his match against Mikhail Botvinnik, in 1963, with 5 wins 2 losses and 15 draws.
Although Petrosian managed to defend his title against Boris Spassky in 1966, he lost the title to Spassky in a rematch in 1969.
Petrosian died of stomach cancer on August 13, 1984.
8. Judit Polgar
Judit Polgar was born in Budapest, Hungary, on July 23, 1976. Polgar and her two older sisters were part of an educational experiment by her father.
Laszlo Polgar believed geniuses could be made and were not born.
The experiment met with resistance from the authorities who disliked home-schooling because of its anti-socialist nature.
The three sisters met with more resistance from the Hungarian Chess Federation for refusing to participate in women-only events.
At the time she became International Master, Judit Polgar was the youngest to achieve the title. Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov were both 14 when they earned their International Master title.
Polgar was 15 years, 5 months when she became a grandmaster by winning the Hungarian National Championship, in 1991.
There is no doubt Judit Polgar is the strongest female chess player of all time and easily makes it into our list of the greatest chess players ever.
9. Boris Spassky
Boris Spassky became the 10th World Chess Champion when he defeated Petrosian in 1969. He lost the title in his famous 1972 match with Bobby Fischer.
Spassky was born on January 30, 1937, in Leningrad. He was 16 when he made his international debut in Bucharest Romania.
In 1955 Spassky won the World Junior Chess Championship, held at Antwerp, Belgium.
Spassky’s adaptable universal style of play helped him defeat many strong grandmasters. His strengths being tactics and the middlegame.
Over the course of his career, Spassky defeated six undisputed World Chess Champions at least twice.
They are Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov.
Many a chess player would love to claim one victory over any one of these all-time great chess players.
10. Mikhail Tal
Mikhail Tal (9 November 1936 – 28 June 1992) is regarded by many as the strongest attacking player to ever play chess.
He once held the record for the longest unbeaten streak in competitive chess – 95 games between 23 October 1973 and 16 October 1974
Tal was born in Riga, Latvia, and was nicknamed “The Magician from Riga”. He represented the USSR at three Student Olympiads from 1956-1958 and finished with a record of 19 wins, 8 draws, and no losses.
In 1960 Tal won his World Chess Championship match against Mikhail Botvinnik in Moscow. Tal became the youngest world chess champion at the age of 23.
A year later, Mikhail Botvinnik successfully regained his title by defeating Tal in their rematch.
Tal died on June 28, 1992.
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We all have our favorites and different criteria for judging the greatest chess players of all time.
Please share the names of your all-time greatest chess players in the comments.