Top 10 Greatest Chess Players of All Time

Every chess player who takes the game seriously has their own opinion on who the greatest chess player in history is. From the 1st world chess champion to the great Bobby Fischer, we count down our list of the top 10 greatest chess players found in history.

10. Wilhelm Steinitz

Wilhelm Steinitz was the first of many world champions of chess and one of the greatest chess players. Born on May 17, 1836, the young Austrian learned to play chess at the age of 12 and began to play chess seriously in his 20’s. Steinitz’s exploits would come to be known around his country and would lead to a revival of the game. He was the undisputed champion from 1886–1894 and some even consider him to be the champion even as early as the 1860’s.

9. Mikhail Tal

Mikhail Tal was a legend and is known as the “The Magician of Riga” for his fantastical play. Born on November 9, 1936, Mikhail Tal is considered the best attacking player of all time and was also regarded as a creative genius as his play was incredibly unpredictable. Tal was so good that to this day he hold records for both the 1st and 2nd longest win streaks in competitive history. Tal became the 8th world champion by the age of 24 and is considered by many as one of the greatest chess players by many.

8. Paul Morphy

Paul Morphy is awesome, he learned to play chess by simple watching others play the complex game of strategy: chess. Born on June 22, 1837, Morphy began to play chess at a very young age and was considered one of the greatest chess players in New Orleans. At the age of 12, he defeated Hungarian master, Johann Löwenthal, in a best out of 3. He went on to become the world champion from 1858-’59 before he retired to focus on his career in law.

7. Viswanathan Anand

India’s first Grandmaster and five-time world champion, Anand is considered to be one of the greatest chess players the world has seen to date. He received the rank of chess Grandmaster by the age of 18 after numerous tournaments from his youth. His play style is aggressive, but it is an all-around player with a great defense as well. He is a tactical genius as he only requires a few moments before initiates his plan.

6. Emanuel Lasker

Emanuel Lasker, world champion for 27 years (1894–1921) is to this day considered one of the greatest players of our time. Born on December 24, 1868, began learning to play chess at an early age from his brother Berthold Lasker, who, at the time, was among the top 10 greatest chess players in the early 1890’s. Emanuel employed a “psychological” approach to his game and could be found committing inferior moves to confuse his opponents. He would study heavily on his opponents and use their weaknesses against them and play with their heads. Lasker was a true tactical genius.

5. Anatoly Karpov

Anatoly Karpov, a child prodigy and rival to the great Bobby Fischer. Karpov was a master at playing positional chess and would always capitalize on the mistakes of others and punish them aggressively. He became a Grandmaster at the age of 19 and was the world champion for 10 years straight (1975–1985). He was a passive player and also had an exceptional ending and although he kept his collection of openings narrow, he was one of the greatest chess players in the world.

4. Alexander Alekhine

Alexander Alekhine, a true genius. You might recognize his name through his own personal discovery, the Alekhine’s Defense, but he’s much more than just a chess theorist. He had two reigns as the chess world champion, one from 1927–35, and 1937–46; nearly 20 years as the world champion. A brilliant man with exceptional talent in all aspects of the game from opening to checkmate; he was truly one of greatest chess players. This is one chess player you don’t want to face.

3. Judit Polgar

Considered by some as the greatest child prodigy the world has ever known, Judit Polgar, definitely deserves to be on everyone’s list of greatest chess players. Born on July 23, 1976, she would only need 15 years to reach the ever elusive rank of Grandmaster. Polgar’s skill is absolutely out of this world. She started in tournaments at the age of 6 and reached the rating of 2080 in the Hungarian Chess Federation by the age of 9. She then went on to defeat an international master at the age of 10 and a Grandmaster at the age of 11.

2. Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer is considered to be the best chess player if not one of the greatest chess players of all time by many through his method of play and the speed by which he rose up the rankings. Bobby Fischer born on March 9th, 1943, Fischer learned to play chess at the young age of 6 and played many of his first games against himself. Extremely dedicated to chess, he studied the game and became a Grandmaster by the age of 15 and he even wrote his own chess book. At the age of 20, Fischer won the 1963–1964 U.S. Championship with a perfect score the only one in that tournament to this day. Fischer was a master of positional play and the opening game; truly a mastermind.

1. Garry Kasparov

Like Fischer, Kasparov is at the top of most people’s lists as one of the greatest chess players of all time, Garry Kasparov became the youngest ever undisputed at the age of 22 after defeating Anatoly Karpov. Born on April 13, 1963, Kasparov had the highest rating of 2851 until surpassed by Magnus Carlsen in the year, 2013. Kasparov was a chess scholar and could handle any situation thrown at him. He was known for his aggressive style of play and extensive opening play. Kasparov went on to personally train Magnus Carlsen who arguably has a chance to become one of, if not the greatest chess player we’ve seen to date.

Originally published at on March 8, 2016.