This is a subjective article like discussing who was the greatest heavyweight-boxing champion in history, or who were the most beautiful women of the 20th century, many different candidates have their supporters.
One thing some people don't pay close attention to in these 'greatest player ever' lists is that chess technique continues to improve, and chess players continue to improve. Morphy made gross positional blunders in some of his games, but he was far ahead of his contemporaries. In making my list I put emphasis on tournament records, estimated peak ratings, quality of opposition, longevity, and overall accomplishments. I am not considering records in blitz (5 minute games) or blindfold play. Technique is far superior today than it was in Lasker’s day, but yet he was a very strong “modern” grandmaster in many ways. Theory has evolved considerably since even the 60’s. In making my list I have considered both historical dominance and the strength of modern players. Both are in my list. One can only wonder how great Alekhine or Capablanca would be if they played today (I think they would be!)
Here is my top ten and the reasons why.
1. Garry Kasparov
Style: Brilliant Tactician and Attacker. An aggressively dynamic player. Noted chess teacher Bruce Pandolfini described Kasparov in this fashion, "Kasparov strives to gain deep positional sacrifices: Even when he can't calculate the end result conclusively, he can make sophisticated generalizations. He does anything to get the initiative and to force the play. Inevitably, he emerges from a forest of complications -- in which his intentions aren't all that clear -- with the advantage. He's not as artful or as clear as Fischer, but his play coincides with the realities of the day, which are all about defense."
In 1980, he won the World Junior Championship.
From December 1981 to February 1991, Kasparov made chess history by not losing a single event for nearly ten years. This was the period in which he created his reputation of invincibility.
Reigned as world champion in the modern chess age for 15 years from 1985 to 2000.
Was the youngest chess champion in history at age 22
Number one rated player since 1985 to present day, which is 18 years at the top.
Kasparov and Karpov began their marathon match in Moscow. The match was for the first to win 6 games. After 3 wins, 40 draws, and 5 losses, FIDE President Campomanes stopped the match after 5 months of play. The match was halted after Kasparov had just won 2 games in a row.
On September 3, 1985 Kasparov and Karpov resumed their match in Moscow. This time, Kasparov won with 5 wins, 3 losses and 16 draws. The match had been limited to 24 games.
1986 Kasparov defended his title against Karpov in London, then in Leningrad. Kasparov won with 5 wins, 4 losses and 15 draws.
1st place Brussels (OHRA) 1986.
1st place shared with Ljuobjevic at Brussels (SWIFT) 1987.
Kasparov defended his title in Seville, Spain 1987 against Karpov. He retained his title by drawing the match with 4 wins, 4 losses, and 16 draws.
Won 1990 World Championship match with Karpov won 4 lost 3 with 17 draws.
1st place at Linares Super GM Tournament. This was a Category 18 event, with 11 of the top 14 players in the world participating
Won PCA World Championship match in London against Nigel Short. Kasparov won the match with a score of 12.5 - 7.5.
Won Intel-PCA World Chess Championship over Vishy Anand in 1995 4-1-13.
Won total of 8 Linares Super GM tournaments outright, including his 2000 victory 3 points ahead of all players.
Won 10 Super GM Tournaments in a row.
Peak ELO Rating 2850. Chessmetric Rating 2895
2. Bobby Fischer
Style: A uniquely superb master strategist who was not afraid of complications. Fischer was a specialist in certain openings that he knew better than anyone else. A fighting spirit second to none, refused draws and played to win every game. Pandolfini called Fischer "a king of artful positioning. His opponents would see where he was going but were powerless to stop him."
Played Brilliancy Prize Fischer Immortal at age 13
US Chess Champion at age 14 with 8 wins 0 losses and 5 draws.
Grandmaster title at 15 the youngest GM in history a figure that would not be passed for over 30 years
8 time US Champion
In 1963 US Championship scored 11-0 not allowing a single draw
In 1962 Interzonal Fischer went undefeated in 22 games in taking first place.
In 1967 he participated in the Sousse Interzonal, but withdrew after leading the event with 7 wins and 3 draws.
In 1970, he played Board 2 in the USSR vs. REST OF THE WORLD match in Belgrade, beating Petrosian with 2 wins and 2 draws.
Played Board one in 1970 Seigen Olympiad winning the event 15 wins, 1 loss and 7 draws.
In 1971 Scored unprecedented 6-0 in Candidates match versus Taimanov
In 1971 Scored unbelievable 6-0 score again in Candidates match versus Larsen. His performance rating was 3060.
In 1972 Beat Petrosian in Candidates Final 5 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws.
Won World Championship over Boris Spassky 7 wins, 3 losses (one wasn’t played and forfeited) and 11 draws.
In 1975 Fischer abdicated his title over FIDE match conditions, surrendering the title to Anatoly Karpov.
In 1992 he came out of a 20 year self imposed exile and played a match in Sveti Stefan, Yugoslavia against old foe Boris Spassky. He won the match 10 wins 5 losses and 15 draws.
His Peak FIDE rating was 2785 and his peak USCF rating was 2810. Chessmetric Rating 2914
I don’t rate Fischer in the top spot because he went into exile for 20 years rather than defend his title.
3. Jose Capablanca
Style: Nicknamed the "Chess Machine" because of the systematic and seemingly simple method by which he bested his opponents. Capablanca was a natural player who is considered the epitome of the “Pure Positional” player. He preferred clarity of position, as well as logical and direct development, he tended to avoid complications and was satisfied to obtain small advantages and convert them to a superior endgame where he had no equal.
At age 12 won match against Cuban National Champion Juan Corzo 4 wins-3 losses-6 draws.
1st place San Sebastian 1911 ahead of ahead of Rubinstein and Schlechter it was his first major tournament.
In 10 years of tournament and match play from 1914 to 1924, including his World Championship match with Emanuel Lasker he lost ONLY ONE game!!
1st place New York 1913 Capa went 13-0.
1st place New York 1914 went 11-0.
Hastings 1919 his score was 10 wins and one draw
In 1921 in Havana. Capablanca won the World Chess Championship against Lasker with 4 wins and 10 draws, 0 losses.
London in 1922 Capablanca took first ahead of Alekhine, Vidmar, Rubinstein, and Bogolyubov, without losing a single game.
In New York 1924 Capablanca took second (won by Lasker) with 10 wins, 9 draws, and 1 loss. The loss was to Richard Reti. It was his first loss of a game in 8 years.
At New York in 1927 Capa took first a clear 2.5 points ahead of runner up Alekhine.
Capablanca lost the title to Alekhine in 1927, winning 3 games, drawing 25 games, and losing 6 games. The entire match took place behind closed doors. There were no spectators or photographs. The opening of 32 of the 34 games was the Queen's Gambit Declined.
In 1931 Capablanca played Euwe in a match and won with 2 wins and 8 draws.
Nottingham 1936 which included 5 past, present and future World Champions Capa tied for first with Botvinnik.
Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939, where he played first board for the Cuban team. He had the best score for board one, with 6 wins and 4 draws.
Capablanca took 1st or 2nd in 30 of the 35 international tournaments in which he played.
Capablanca has the distinction of having the lowest total losses of any GM in history.
Peak ELO Rating 2725. Chessmetrics Rating 2921 (#1)
4. Alexander Alekhine
Style: Imaginative tactician and attacker, a true chess genius in his originality of thought. His ideas were rich with complexity. “His attacks came suddenly, like destructive thunderstorms that erupted from a clear blue sky” (Kasparov). He studied the openings and made many contributions to theory. A very difficult man to beat, it was said that in order to win a game from him one had to beat him 3 times, once in the opening, once in the middlegame and again in the ending.
Competed in 87 tournaments and took first prize in 50 of them and finishing tied for 1st- 2nd in 12 of them.
1st shared with Bogolyubov and Maroczy at Carlsbad 1923.
In 1924 he took 3rd place in New York, behind Lasker and Capablanca.
1st place Baden-Baden 1925. This was the first international tournament in Germany since World War I.
In 1926 Alekhine beat Max Euwe in a match and challenged Capablanca for the world championship
1927 Won World Chess Championship from Capablanca whom he defeated 6 wins to 3 losses, and 25 draws. He defended twice against Bogolyubov in 1929 (11 wins, 9 draws, and 5 losses) and 1934 (8 wins, 15 draws and 3 losses) lost it to Max Euwe (Euwe had won with 9 wins, 8 losses and 13 draws) in 1935 and regained it in 1937 with 10 wins, 4 losses and 11 draws.
At the 1930 Chess Olympiad he scored 100% when he won all 9 games as board one for France.
1st place San Remo 1930. In a field that included Nimzovitch, Rubinstein, Bogolyubov, Spielman and Yates he scored 13 wins 2 draws for a performance rating of 2812.
Bled 1931 took first place 5.5 points ahead of runner up Bogolyubov.
1st Place 1938 AVRO in Holland featured the world’s top 8 players participating, the strongest tournament ever held to that time.
Died as champion with a total of 17 years as champion in 1946.
Peak ELO Rating 2690. Chessmetrics Rating 2827
I do not rate Alekhine higher since he refused to give Capablanca a rematch.
5. Anatoly Karpov
Style: Karpov played highly positional chess. He consistently improved his position by moves that show extraordinary positional understanding. He played without taking many risks, and without making many mistakes. He waited for his opponents to make the slightest inaccuracy and then grinded them to dust. Karpov's mastery of the ending was unparalleled, although he kept his openings repertoire relatively narrow, his middlegame was always solid.
World Junior Chess Champion in 1969.
1st shared with Victor Korchnoi at Leningrad Interzonal 1973.
Defeated Polugaevsky, Spassky, and Korchnoi in Candidates matches in 1974.
In 1974 he scored 12 out of 14 in the Nice Olympiad for a gold medal and top board one.
Received world title when Fischer abdicated in 1975.
World Chess Champion for 10 years from 1975 to 1985.
Defended his world championship title against Viktor Korchnoi in Baguio City, Philippines, 1978. Karpov won with 6 wins, 5 losses and 21 draws.
1st place at Montreal, Waddinxveen, and Tilburg in 1979. All three events were Category 15 events (average rating over 2600)
Won World Chess Championship rematch with Korchnoi in 1981. He won the match with 6 wins, 2 losses and 10 draws.
In 1984 World Chess Championship against Gary Kasparov he started off strongly going 5-1 but lost 2 games in a row when match was halted. The match was for the first to win 6 games. After 5 wins, 3 losses, and 40 draws FIDE President Campomanes stopped the match after 5 months of play. Karpov was suffering from exhaustion.
In 1985 rematch he succumbed title to Gary Kasparov who won 6-3-16 in a 24 game match.
1986 World Championship rematch against Kasparov he lost narrowly 4-5-15.
1987 World Championship in Seville he tied with champion Kasparov 4-4-16.
1990 World Championship in Lyons lost narrowly to Kasparov 3-4-17.
Won FIDE chess championship in 1993 Match over Timman when Champion Kasparov formed his own organization.
1st Place Linares Super GM Tournament in1994 with an incredible 11-2 record and a 3000 ELO performance rating.
1st Place Groningen 1995 Category 17 Super GM Tournament
1996 defended his FIDE Championship by defeating Gata Kamsky (USA) with the score 6 wins 9 draws and only 3 losses.
One of the most successful tournament players in history achieving over 140 victories in major chess events.
Peak ELO Rating 2725. Chessmetrics Rating 2815
6. Emmanuel Lasker
Style: Reuben Fine said, "In Lasker, I see, above all, the supreme tactical genius." Lasker also had a reputation as a defensive risk-taker. Lasker was a supreme fighter a characteristic that allowed him to turn many lost games into victories. He was equally at home in both position and combinative play. The supreme chess psychologist, he was the first GM to thoroughly study his opponents and was more interested in heading into play that his opponents were uncomfortable with than making the objectively best move. His endgame technique was legendary. The best summoning up of Lasker’s play can be found in the following quote, “Lasker’s play is like clear limpid water- with a dash of poison in it!”
Won Breslau German masters in 1889
In 1890 in Berlin he defeated Curt von Bardeleben , Jacques Mieses and in London Henry Bird in match play.
1st place London 1892 ahead of Blackburne.
Won Match against Blackburne 5 wins and 3 draws in 1892.
1st place 1893 New York International going 13-0.
Won a match against American champion Jackson Showalter 6 wins 2 losses and 1 draw in 1893
In 1894 Won World Chess Championship over Wilhelm Steinitz in New York by a score of 10 wins 5 losses and 4 draws. He was 25 years old.
In 1896 he won a four-master tournament in Saint Petersburg, ahead of Steinitz, Pillsbury, and Chigorin.
Won World Championship rematch with Steinitz in Dec 1896 scoring 10 wins 2 losses and 5 draws.
1st place London 1899 4.5 points ahead of the field which included Pillsbury, Janowsky, and Maroczy.
1st place Paris 1900 14 wins 1 loss and 1 draw
After 10 years of absence, the 7th World Chess Championship match was held in 1907 between Emanuel Lasker and Frank Marshall in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, and Memphis. Lasker won with 8 wins and 7 draws, and 0 losses.
In 1908 he defended his title against Seigbert Tarrasch in Germany by the score of 8 wins 3 losses and 5 draws.
1910 Lasker defended his title against Carl Schlechter in Vienna and Berlin. Lasker won the 10th and final game to tie the match with 1 win, 8 draws, and 1 loss. If Schlecter had only drawn this last 71-move game, he would have been the world champion.
1910 Lasker again defended his title with a match against David Janowsky in Berlin. Lasker won with 8 wins and 3 draws. Lasker had played four world championship matches in 4 years.
1st Place St. Petersburg 1914 ahead of Capablanca, Alekhine, Tarrasch, and Marshall.
In 1921 Lasker met Capablanca in Havana for the world championship title. Lasker was 52 years old and Capablanca was 32 years old. Lasker lost the title match after winning no games, drawing 10 , and losing 4. Lasker had been world champion for 27 years, 337 days.
1st place 1924 New York International ahead of Capablanca and Alekhine.
Lasker continued to play well at an old age taking 5th in Zurich in 1934, 3rd in Moscow in 1935, 6th in Moscow in 1936, and 7th in Nottingham in 1936.
He won 52, drew 44, and lost 16 world championship games, scoring 74 points in his 112 games. His winning percentage is the highest of any world champion in championship games, with a score of 66 percent.
Peak ELO Rating: 2720. Chessmetrics Rating 2886
7. Viswanathan Anand
Style: Superb tactical player with super-fast sight of the board. He finds complex tactical ideas in seconds. He makes moves very quickly, plays confidently, and calculates like a machine. He plays aggressive and attacking chess, but is also a solid defender.
1987 World Junior Chess Champion
Gold Medal Asian Zonal Chess Championship 1990
1st place 1992 Alekhine Memorial (cat 18) in Moscow ahead of Karpov.
1992 Won Match versus Vassily Ivanchuk (then world #3) 5-2.
1st place 1993 PCA Groningen Interzonal the strongest Swiss ever held.
1st place 1994 Melody Amber ahead of Kasparov, Kramnik, and Ivanchuk
1st place 1994 PCA Grand Prix ahead of Kasparov
Won 1994 PCA Candidates match versus Romanishin
Won 1994 PCA Candiates match versus Michael Adams
Won 1995 PCA Candidates Final versus Gata Kamsky in Las Palmas.
Lost World Chess Championship Match to Gary Kasparov
1st place 1997 Groningen Knockout Qualifier beating 3 of the worlds top 10 (Shirov, Gelfand, and Adams)
1st place 1997 Dos Hermanes Super GM Tournament (cat 19).
1st place Credit Suisse Classic Tournament in Biel (also won prize for most beautiful game)
1st place 1999 Hoogoven's Schaak Tornoi in Wijk Aan Zee with a record plus 6 score
1st place shared with Kramnik at 2000 Dortmund Super GM
Won the FIDE World Cup in 2000 Shenyang, China beating Bareev 1.5 - 0.5 in final
Won FIDE World Qualifier in New Delhi, won five rounds without losing a game
Won FIDE World Championships 2000 final in Teheran beating Shirov 3.5-0.5
Won the 2001 Duel of World Champions in a 10-game rapid clash with Vladimir Kramnik
in Mainz, Germany in June.
Peak ELO Rating 2766.Chessmetrics Rating 2836
8.. Vladmir Kramnik
Style: Sometimes called the "Iceman." Kramnik plays a style of tough defensive chess that is hard to beat, but also is a “silent but powerful attacker.” Described as “almost invincible “ by some opponents. He has a clear style of play and builds up strong positions for both offense and defense. His technique is flawless, and is a powerful positional player.
1991 World Junior (U18) Champion
Won 1993 Match versus Lautier +4 –1 =1
1993 FIDE Interzonal tied for 2nd with a +6 –2 =5 score.
Won 1993 Match versus Illescas +3 –0 =3
1994 FIDE Candidates beat Yudasin +2 –0 =5, lost to Gelfand +1 –2 =5
1994 PCA Candidates Lost to Gata Kamsky +0 –3 =3.
1st place 1995 Credit Suisse Masters (cat 17)
1st at Dos Hermanes Super GM 1996
1st at Dortmund Super GM 1996
1st at 1996 Melody Amber Super GM tourney
1997 1st or = 1st at Dortmund, Tilburg, Dos Hermanes, 2nd at Linares.
1st place 1998 Hoogevens Super GM Tournament
1st place 1998 Melody Amber
1st place 1999 Melody Amber
Lost 1999 FIDE World Championship KO rd 5/7
1st place 2000 Dortmund Super GM (cat 19) shared with Anand.
Won World Chess Championship in 2000 beating Gary Kasparov +2 –0 =13.
Won 2001 Match versus Leko +4 –2 =6.
Peak ELO Rating 2807. Chessmetrics Rating 2831
9. Mikhail Botvinnik
Style: The first product of the Soviet school, a disciplined and insightful player who remained at the top for decades. Ascended to the chess throne in 1948, no non-Soviet was to win again until 1972. Botvinnik could play clear positions well but was unafraid of complications. He had a strong grasp of the strategic elements of any given position. His methodical style and strategic mastery made him a dominant figure in the post World War II chess scene. Botvinnik developed many original opening ideas and enriched endgame theory with meticulous analyses.
There has been some speculation that Botvinnik won some of his matches and tournaments by collusion with other Soviet players as determined by Soviet officials. Fischer accused the Soviets of fixing world chess and Bronstein has admitted on record that he participated in some short draws in order to keep non-soviet players from winning important events. However, there is no denying Botvinnik’s playing strength.
1933 Drew a 10 game match with Salo Flohr at age 22.
1st place shared Moscow 1935 with Flohr and ahead of Capablanca, Lasker, and Spielmann.
1st place shared Nottingham 1936 with Capablanca and without loss of a game ahead of Alekhine, Euwe, Lasker, Flohr, Fine, and Reshevsky.
USSR Champion 7 times.
Won Vacant World Chess Championship in 1948 Hague-Moscow Tournament finishing 3 points ahead of the competition which included Keres, Reshevsky, and Euwe.
1951 Drew 24 game World Championship title match with David Bronstein.
1954 Drew 24 game World Championship title match with Vassily Smyslov.
Lost World Title 3 wins, 6 losses and 13 draws to Smyslov.
Won World Chess championship 7 wins 5 losses and 10 draws against Smyslov.
Lost World Title 2 wins 6 losses and 13 draws to the attacking wizard Mikhail Tal.
Won World Chess Championship 10 wins 5 losses and 6 draws back from Tal.
In 1963 he lost the World Title for the last time losing to Tigran Petrosian 2 wins 5 losses and 15 draws.
Against his contemporaries he played well: Lasker +1 – 0 = 3, Capablanca +1-1=5, Euwe +2-2=8, Fischer =1, Reshevsky +5-2=7, Flohr +5-2=22. Only Fine had a plus score against him 0-1=2
In the 6 Olympiads he played, he scored very well +39-3=31.
Peak ELO Rating 2720. Chessmetrics Rating 2828.
10. Mikhail Tal
Style: Called the “magician of Riga” Tal was the finest ever exponent of attacking chess. A highly imaginative tactician, he played with an all out sacrificial style creating immense complications that he reveled in. Tal was an attacking genius, a superb calculator with amazingly swift sight of the board. His attacking style consisted of beautiful displays of multiple, cascading fireworks, where the true nature of the positions during the execution of his combinations was unfathomable by his opponents. Tal purposely played moves that created the maximum complications for both sides. He once said, "One doesn't have to play well. One only needs to play better than his opponent". Dr. Lasker would have loved that quote, for he too deemed the game of chess as a struggle between two minds, as opposed to each player blindly making "correct" moves. Plagued by ill health throughout his career his reign as chess champion was a short one.
1st place Latvian championship at age 16.
1st place 1957 USSR Championship at age 20 ahead of Bronstein, Keres, Spassky, and Petrosian.
1st place or joint 1st place for USSR championship a total of 6 times.
1st place 1958 Portoroz Interzonal 2.5 points ahead of the field that included Petrosian, Bronstein, Gligoric and Fischer.
Gold medal 1958 Munich Olympiad scoring 13.5 out of 15, a phenomenal 90 percent and no losses.
1st place Zurich 1959 ahead of Gligoric, Fischer, Keres, and Larsen.
Won 1959 Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates tournament that included a 4-0 route of Bobby Fischer.
1960 World Chess Championship he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik by a score of 6 wins, 2 losses and 13 draws.
Tal was the youngest chess champion in history at age 23 until the ascent of Kasparov who won it at age 22.
In 1961 World Chess Championship rematch Botvinnik had spent the time since the first match doing his homework and systematically finding ways to take advantage of the kinks in Tal's incredibly complicated attacking style. Tal lost the rematch 5 wins, 10 losses, and 6 draws.
1st place Bled 1961 ahead of Fischer with 11 wins, 1 loss and 7 draws.
In 1962 Tal began play at the Curacao Candidates tournament, but had to withdraw because of kidney trouble.
1st place at Miskolc 1963 with 10 wins and 5 draws.
1st place shared 1964 Amsterdam Interzonal with Larsen, Smyslov, and Spassky.
1965 Candidates Cycle he defeated Portisch, and Larsen, but lost in finals to Boris Spassky
From July 1972 to April 1973 Tal had played 86 games in international competition without defeat. He had won 47 games and drawn 39 games in master play, including 1st place at Tallin and Wijk Aan Zee in 1973.
1st place1979 Riga Interzonal with 11 wins and 6 draws.
In Olympiad play, Mikhail Tal won 59 games, drew 32 games, and lost only 2 games.
He played close to 3,000 tournament games, winning over 65 percent of the time
Peak ELO Rating 2700. Chessmetrics Rating 2737
Paul Morphy: Morphy is actually my favorite player. If one rates the top players on how superior they were compared to their contemporaries there are only 4 considerations for the top spot. a) Capablanca who went 8 years without a single loss and won 30 of 35 International Tournaments that he compted in, b)Fischer who was the top rated player for 10 years before he won the title and won routes like his 11-0 US Championship in 1963 and his 6-0, 6-0 routes in candidates matches of strong GM's like Taimanov and Larsen, c) Kasparov who went 10 years from Dec 1981 to Dec 1991 without losing a single tournament, he also won 10 Super GM events in a row in the 90's, and d) Paul Morphy. Consider that Morphy played 227 competitve chess games winning a whopping 83%. His peak Chessmetrics rating is 2840 placing him 5th all time. Morphy was way ahead of his contemporaries in his understanding of strategic concepts. America's first great player helped revolutionize chess by his systematic and aggressive development. He was a monster tactician and also the first true positional player. However he also made many postional errors in his games as compared to modern Grandmasters and his technique was lacking. One of the founders of modern chess and a truly great player and important historical figure, without question the best player of his day. The best of the 19th century until the advent of Lasker at the turn of the century. He could have been the first official world champion, but like Fischer quit at his peak and never played again after conqueoring the best european masters. The main reason for not including him in the top 10 was he detested the idea of professional chess and despite his uncanny natural ability it is unlikely he would dedicate himself to be a chess professional.
Tigran Petrosian: World Champion 1963-1969. His tournament record is spotty, lots of 2nd place finishes. Between 1968 and 1975, Petrosian never lost more than a single game in any tournament he played in, however he did not win many of these tournaments. He drew more than half his total games, a higher fraction than any other world champion. In my view he played not to lose instead of trying to win this keeps him out of my top 10. He was not ambitious or determined enough to fulfill his true potential.
Boris Spassky: Qualified for 1st candidates at age 18, 5 times took 1st or shared 1st for USSR championship, tied for first in 1960 and 1964 Interzonals, Won 65 Candidates beating Keres, Geller, and Tal, but lost to Petrosian in world title match. Won 1968 Candidates matches beating Geller, Larsen, and Korchnoi. Won World Championship in 1969 finally beating Petrosian. Lost title 3 years later to Fischer. Lost 2 out of 3 World title Matches and though he had some successes his candidates defeats to Karpov, Korchnoi, and Portisch in the 70’s keep him out of the top 10, none of these players were rated close to 2700 at the time.
Akiba Rubinstein: A true chess genius and possibly the strongest player to never win the world title. He was a player with great positional intuition and his games flowed with perfection. Rubinstein is also considered one of the great end game players of all time. If not for Capablanca and Lasker, Rubinstein most surely would have been champion, though it must be said that Lasker never gave him a shot. At Teplitz-Schonau in 1922 he won 6 games, 4 of which were awarded brilliancy prizes. He took 1st at St.Petersburgh in 1909, shared 1st with Lasker at the great Carlsbad tournament in 1907, beating Lasker in their individual game. Took 1st place in 4 out of 4 International tournaments in 1912. Beat Lasker, Capablanca, and Alekhine the first time he played them! Rubinstein's story like that of Morphy, and Fischer is one of tragedy. He suffered from mental illness in the later stages of his career.
Aaron Nimzovich: One of the most creative and original thinkers in chess history. One of the founders of the "hypermodern" school of the 1920's. Invented the Nimzovich defense to the Queens Gambit which is rich in its positional concepts. Nimzovich was a strong tactician and highly innovative strategist. His "Immortal Zugzwang game" will forever throne him in Caissa's Hall of Fame. His masterpiece book "My System" is a staple in the library of every master and serious player, his concepts of the "blockade", "attacking a pawn chain at its base" and "prophylaxis" are all now part of standard theory. Won 1st place Dresden 1926 ahead of Alekhine. 1st place Carlsbad 1929 ahead of Capablanca. His games are very profound in their application of his strategic concepts.
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