The best chess players in the year 2021 are:
- Magnus Carlsen (Norway)
- Fabiano Caruana (United States)
- Ding Liren (China)
- Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia)
- Levon Aronian (Armenia)
- Alexander Grischuk (Russia)
- Anish Giri (Netherlands)
- Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
- Wesley So (United States)
- Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan)
These players are currently the 10 best-rated chess players according to the International Chess Federation (FIDE).
It is difficult to choose who the best chess players are because one person might choose a set of 10, and another person could pick 10 different names. That’s why in this article we have chosen the top players based on FIDE rankings.
As you already know, 2020 and 2021 have been crazy years for the world due to Covid-19, so there have been very few over-the-board chess tournaments.
There have been some over-the-board tournaments on the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021.
The players that are in the top 10 right now have absolutely earned it and have been in the chess elite for several years now.
- Have you already read our article on the Best Chess Player Ever?
Even though the following list features the top 10 rated chess players right now, we have added a list of players at the bottom that could easily make it to the top 10 group any day.
The Best Chess Player in the World: Magnus Carlsen
This one is easy. Magnus Carlsen has dominated the elite chess scene for years.
He has been #1 in the world since 2010.
He has been the reigning World Champion since 2013, when he defeated Vishy Anand.
After that, he successfully defended the title three more times: in 2014 against Anand, in 2016 against Sergey Karjakin, and in 2018 against Fabiano Caruana.
Magnus Carlsen is also the highest-rated chess player of all time with a FIDE rating of 2882 in May 2014.
A Serious Challenger: Fabiano Caruana
The Italian-American Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana has come closer to taking away the crown from Magnus Carlsen than anyone else.
In the World Championship Match in 2018, Caruana and Carlsen drew the 12 first games (standard) and the Norwegian only retained the world title in the rapid games.
Fabiano Caruana has been #2 in the FIDE Rankings since May 2018, and he first climbed to that position in October 2014.
At the time, he was the youngest player to ever become a Grandmaster both in the USA and Italy. He achieved this honor at the age of 14 years and 11 months.
Fabiano Caruana is the third-highest-rated player in the history of chess with an Elo rating of 2844, after winning the Sinquefield Cup back in 2014.
Also in that tournament, he had an outstanding tournament performance rating of 3103!
Caruana won the Italian Championship four times, the US Championship one time, the 42nd Chess Olympiad playing for the USA, and several elite tournaments such as the 5th Grenke Chess Classic, the 6th Norway Chess, and the 6th Sinquefield Cup, as well as the Candidates Tournament in 2018.
#3: Ding Liren
Ding Liren, from China, has been #3 in the world since February 2019.
He is an extremely solid Grandmaster, to the point he held a 100-game unbeaten streak in 2018, something that had never been seen before.
He has won the Chinese Chess Championship on three different occasions and has played for his country in 4 Chess Olympiads where he won an individual gold medal and two team gold medals.
Ding Liren also won the Chess World Cup both in 2017 and 2019, and is the first Chinese chess player ever to qualify and play in a Candidates Tournament.
Definitely one of the best chess players in the world right now.
#4: Ian Nepomniachtchi
Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (“Nepo”) has been top 10 in the world since February 2019, and reached the #4 slot in April 2020, just when the lockdown due to Covid-19 forced organizers to suspend every over-the-board tournament (He was joint-leading the Candidates Tournament at the half-way point).
He won the Russian Superfinal and European Individual titles back in 2010.
Nepo qualified for his first Candidates Tournament in 2019, after finishing 2nd in the FIDE Grand Prix 2019.
Ian Nepomniachtchi helds an impeccable record in standard games against players like Vladimir Kramnik (+5 -4 =4), Vishy Anand (+3 -2 =5), and Magnus Carlsen (+4 -1 =6).
Also, in rapid and blitz games he has had a breath-taking performance against two of the great legends of chess: Anatoly Karpov (+2 -0 =0) and Garry Kasparov (+1 -0 =2).
#5: Levon Aronian
Levon Aronian is an Armenian chess Grandmaster that has occupied the #2 place of the FIDE ranking many times and has been top 10 in the world consistently since 2005.
Aronian is the fourth-highest rated player in history, after reaching an Elo rating of 2830 in March 2014.
He has been rapid, blitz and Chess960 world champion, and won the FIDE World Cup in 2005 and 2017.
Levon Aronian has won 3 gold team medals in the Chess Olympiads.
#6: Alexander Grischuk
Russian GM Alexander Grischuk (aka Sasha) has won the Russian Championship, the World Blitz Chess Championship 3 times, competed in 5 Candidates Tournaments, and won two team gold medals at the Chess Olympiad.
He qualified to play in the Candidates Tournament 2020, in which he is tied in 2nd place with 3.5/7, still unbeaten.
Grischuk achieved a peak Elo rating of 2810 in 2014, the same year he reached the #3 place in the FIDE ranking.
#7: Anish Giri
Anish Giri was born in Russia but plays for the Netherlands.
He first reached the top 10 of the FIDE ranking in 2014 and in 2016 he was #3 in the world.
Giri became Grandmaster at the young age of 14 years and 7 months.
Anish Giri reached a peak Elo rating of 2798. Giri has won several major tournaments incuding Wijk aan Zee, Reykjavik, London Chess Classic, Shenzhen Masters, and Reggio Emilia tournament.
#8 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Mamedyarov is the sixth-highest rated player in the history of chess with a peak Elo rating of 2820 in September 2018.
He has been World Rapid Champion and World Junior Champion, and has taken part in 3 Candidates Tournaments.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won the gold medal in the 2012 Chess Olympiad, and has conquered some of the most competitive chess tournaments such as Biel Chess Festival, Shamkir Chess, and Tal Memorial.
#9: Wesley So
Wesley So is a Filipino-American Grandmaster who has won the national championships of both countries.
He is also the fifth-highest rated player of all time, with a peak Elo rating of 2822.
Wesley So is the youngest player in history to smash the 2600 barrier at the age of 14 years.
He first reached the top 10 in November 2014 and was #2 in the world from March to June 2017, and then again in August of that year.
#10: Teimour Radjabov
Teimour Radjabov is a Grandmaster from Azerbaijan with a peak Elo rating of 2793 in 2012.
He has qualified to play in 3 Candidates Tournaments and was #4 in the world from July 2012 to April 2013.
Radjabov won the 2019 FIDE World Cup and thus qualified to participate in the following Candidates tournament. Some controversy arose when he chose to withdraw before the tournament began due to concerns over Covid-19 and then the tournament was postponed half-way through.
In 2021 there are several amazing chess players who are not in the top 10 but that definitely deserve to be mentioned.
#14: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
The Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave first appeared in the top 10 FIDE rankings in March 2014, and he has been a regular in this elite group since January 2016.
He is the seventh-highest rated chess player in history, reaching a peak Elo of 2819 in August 2016.
He became the then second-youngest Grandmaster in the world in 2005, at the age of 14 years and 4 months.
In early 2020, after Teimour Radjabov announced he wouldn’t take part of the Candidates Tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he was invited to participate and was in 1st (equal with Nepomniachtchi) after the first half of the tournament, with a record of 2 wins, 5 draws, and no losses.
# 16 Sergey Karjakin
Russian GM Sergey Karjakin is known in the world of chess as the Minister of Defense due to his impressive defensive skills on the board.
Karjakin is the youngest Grandmaster ever. He got the title when he was 12 years and 7 months old.
He received the gold medal in the Chess Olympiad 2010, has been World Rapid & Blitz Chess Champion, and also won the Chess World Cup 2015.
The Minister of Defense participated in 3 Candidates Tournaments, and in 2016 played against Magnus Carlsen for the world title but lost in the rapid tiebreaks.
# 17 Viswanathan Anand
What can we say about Vishy Anand? If we are listing the best chess players in the world, we can’t forget about him.
He has been an elite and top 10 player for over 25 years.
Vishy Anand has been World Champion on 5 different occasions (2000, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012).
He was #1 in the FIDE ranking for 21 months.
#18 Hikaru Nakamura
He became the youngest Grandmaster (at the time) in the history of the United States at the age of 15 years and 2 months.
Hikaru Nakamura has won the US Championship 5 times, and his peak Elo rating is 2816 in October 2015, when he also climbed to the #2 position in the FIDE ranking.
#19 Veselin Topalov
Bulgarian Grandmaster Veselin Topalov is a former World Champion and #1 in the FIDE ranking.
He played for the world title 3 times: in 2005, 2006 (lost to Kramnik), and 2010 (lost to Anand).
Veselin Topalov had a peak rating of 2816 in 2015.
#27 Peter Svidler
Svidler is a Russian chess Grandmaster and an eight-time Russian Chess Champion. Svidler has competed in three World Championship tournaments.
He also played in three Candidates Tournaments, in 2013, 2014, and 2016.
He has represented Russia at the Chess Olympiad ten times (1994-2010, 2014) winning five team gold medals, two team silvers, and an individual bronze.
Peter Svidler won the Chess World Cup 2011, was runner-up in the World Blitz Championship in 2006, and won at Fontys Tilburg, Biel, and Gibraltar. He assisted Vladimir Kramnik at the Classical World Championship matches in 2000 and 2004.
Many of the highest-rated players ever in the history of chess are active and competing right now.
This means we live in an amazing era of competitive chess, in which we literally have decades ahead to continue enjoying the superb chess all these players deliver month after month.
It is worth noting that the average Elo rating of top players has risen over time. This rating inflation makes it near-impossible to compare players of different eras.
Are there any other active players you think should be included in the list? Let us know in the comment section below!
GM Ron W. Henley created a series of courses to study the games of the two men who are now considered the best chess players on the planet: Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana.
Here’s what you’ll find in this bundle (11+ hours):
Magnus Carlsen The Magnificent
Magnus Carlsen is a chess phenomenon. Grandmaster at 13 years old, he cleared 2800 Elo just 5 years later and became world No. 1 the following year.
In 2013, Carlsen defeated Anand to become the new World Chess Champion and successfully defended his title against Anand in 2014, Karjakin in 2016 and Caruana in 2018.
Carlsen also smashed Kasparov’s record for the highest ever Elo rating – 2882 compared to Garry’s 2851.
The Fabulous Fabiano Caruana
Italian-American Fabiano Caruana went from playing amateur tournaments to being the 2nd highest-rated player in just 5 years.
What chess-playing secrets hold the key to Caruana’s incredible rise?
Recorded just before Fabiano’s historic World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen, GM Ron Henley seeks to answer this question with an expert analysis of 10 of Caruana’s most instructive games.
Magnus Carlsen’s Miniatures
In this course, GM Ron W. Henley has seized the chance to explore the talents of the “Mozart of chess” with a very unique format. GM Ron W. Henley takes you on a tour through Magnus Carlsen’s brilliancies by looking at 64 of his miniatures.
The great thing about this course is that Magnus’ miniatures aren’t only entertaining, but they also have an instructive value for chess improvement.
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