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Best Player ever ?

  • ShahidAnwer
  • | Dec 25, 2008
  • | 5518 views
  • | 27 comments

MIR SULTAN KHAN

(born 1905, died Apr-25-1966) Pakistan

Mir Sultan Khan was born in 1905 in Mittha in the Punjab, India. His prowess at the Indian variety of chess brought him to the notice of Colonel Nawab Sir Umar Hayat Khan who taught him the European game.

After winning the All-India Championship in 1928 (+8, =1, -0) he went to England and quickly came to the notice of English masters William Winter and Frederick D Yates who helped him overcome his lack of theoretical knowledge. He was British Champion in 1929, 1932 and 1933.

He played on three British Empire Olympiad teams in 1930, 1931 and 1933 and participated in some international events. He was 2nd at Liege 1930, 3rd at Hastings 1930-31 and 3rd= at London 1932. In matches he beat Savielly Tartakower (+4, =5, -3) in 1931 and lost to Salomon Flohr (+1, =3, -2) in 1932.

He returned to India with Sir Umar in December 1933 and played very little serious chess again. He passed away in Sargodha, Pakistan in 1966.

Here are some quotes of people about him:

  • ‘An unlettered, illiterate genius.’ H. Schonberg, Grandmasters of Chess (1973 edition), page 213.
  • ‘[he] was completely illiterate and could therefore not benefit from books on the game.’ A. Sunnucks, The Encyclopaedia of Chess (1976 edition), page 469.
  • ‘an illiterate peasant.’ E.R. Brace, An illustrated Dictionary of Chess, page 275.
  • ‘completely illiterate.’ F. Wilson, A Picture History of Chess, page 98.
  • ‘… his complete inability to read any European textbook on the game.’ R.N. Coles, Mir Sultan Khan (1977 edition), page 7.

We are going to see his famous game against the Chess Machine known as Jose Raul Capablanca. He gave his Queen for 2 Rooks and then defended briliantly. Check for yourself.

YouTube: The most talented player of all time?!

Comments


  • 10 months ago

    Captbilal

    hey guys this Mir Sultan Khan was grandfather of my friend. I know this family. They belong to my city. Interestingly, no one in his family plays chess. Infact Mir Sultan himself never wanted his children to learn or play this game.

    He was a genius, trust me.

  • 3 years ago

    ShahidAnwer

    jessicafischerqueen Surely there wasn't much literature in Urdu / Punjabi at that time, infact there isn't any good material in Punjabi / Urdu right now in Pakistan as far as i know.

  • 4 years ago

    jessicafischerqueen

    Why did you post all those comments about him being "completely illiterate?"

     

    Sure he couldn't read English, but as Edward Winter points out, there's no evidence he couldn't read in his own language.  Why don't you put some positive quotes about him there, such as when Capablanca referred to him as a "genius."

  • 5 years ago

    chessoholicalien

    Earlier you gave a ridiculous list of players who had defeated Capa and Sultan Mir Khan ( factual comments, as you may call them ) and now your saying that "Khan himself proves that you can be good at chess without theory", so this is I guess, a very ironic argument.

    What's ironic about it? It proves Khan was a good player, I've never denied that. In fact he was an excellent one. But the "ridiculous" (as you call it) list of players shows that even Capablanca was fallable.

    You also said that:-"You don't even have to be literate to be good at chess (though admittedly it doesn't hurt)". And now your saying that naturally talented and gifted children could advance in chess without chess theory.

    Read my post. I said natural talents could advance far, but to become truly great they need to learn some chess theory. This applies both to Khan and Capablanca.

    In other words your saying that, Mir Sultan Khan was a talented, gifted player of chess (which you failed to acknowledge earlier)!!

    Where did I deny it? Read my original post, where I say "...his achievements are still VERY impressive." But if you feel unsure about it, I'll make my opinion totally clear: Mir Sultan Khan was a very, very good chessplayer. Really phenomenally good. A real sensation. But was he the best player ever? No. The facts I assembled show he wasn't.

    Well, at least you did find something positive in Mir Sultan Khan chess career after all the research you did (I think) to find every possible flaw in his career.

    My research hardly took me long. What did you expect? Everyone to unthinkingly agree with the (apparently rhethorical) question of the OP? There are many things about Khan's chess career which are positive and impressive. But he was not the best ever. Now do you understand where I'm coming from?

    In case you think I'm singling out Khan for special treatment, you might be interested to know I'm currently making a list of World Champions beaten with the Black pieces. That list includes favourite players of mine including Capablanca, Fischer (his chess, not the man) and Kasparov.

    Perhaps you're letting your nationalistic bias prevent you from handling criticism of the OP in an objective way?

  • 5 years ago

    RazaAdeel

    Earlier you gave a ridiculous list of players who had defeated Capa and Sultan Mir Khan ( factual comments, as you may call them ) and now your saying that "Khan himself proves that you can be good at chess without theory", so this is I guess, a very ironic argument.

    You also said that:-"You don't even have to be literate to be good at chess (though admittedly it doesn't hurt)". And now your saying that naturally talented and gifted children could advance in chess without chess theory.

    In other words your saying that, Mir Sultan Khan was a talented, gifted player of chess (which you failed to acknowledge earlier)!!

    Well, at least you did find something positive in Mir Sultan Khan chess career after all the research you did (I think) to find every possible flaw in his career.

  • 5 years ago

    chessoholicalien

    Replying to RazaAdeel:

    I really dont know what are you trying to say over here chessoholicalien.

    You mean it's not obvious from my post?

    Either you're saying that Jose Raul Capablanca didn't know how to play chess or Mir Sultan Khan was a very bad player of chess.

    Where do I say either of those things? I merely pointed out that Capablanca was past his prime. Even reigning (or former) world champions can lose the occassional game against lesser players. Capablanca's loss against Réti being one obvious example.

    You're list of players who had defeated Capablanca from an unreliable source doesn't prove anything.

    So ChessBase, which is undoubtedly one of the world's largest producers/vendors of chess software and databases (among other things) is an unreliable source? Products used by large numbers of leading players. That's a very bold statement you make. Perhaps you'd like to provide a more reliable source?

    You're second comment "You don't even have to be literate to be good at chess" is abolutely wrong!

    I stand by my statement. It's perfectly possible to be taught verbally how the pieces move and the rules of the game. It's well-known that Capablanca learned merely by watching the pieces move. Someone with good spatial awareness and an eye for tactics could then play a perfectly good game (as Capablanca obviously did). Gifted small children can do this. Khan himself proves this point, as he was already an excellent chessplayer before he came to the UK and started learning any theory!!

    You are right in saying that to get very good/expert you need to understand a deal of chess theory. Even Khan had to do this, his natural talent alone was not enough. The same applies to Capablanca.

    You don't have to post such rude comments.

    It looks like my refutation has ruffled your feathers. I don't consider my comments rude, just factual (aside from a small tongue-in-cheek at the end, which would only offend a very insecure person). My comments achieve what they were designed to do. The question posed was Khan the best player ever? My factual comments prove he was not.

  • 5 years ago

    RazaAdeel

    I really dont know what are you trying to say over here chessoholicalien. Either you're saying that Jose Raul Capablanca didn't know how to play chess or Mir Sultan Khan was a very bad player of chess (maybe youre better than him?!).You're list of players who had defeated Capablanca from an unreliable source doesn't prove anything. He is already known for losing very few games in serious matches.
    You're second comment "You don't even have to be literate to be good at chess" is abolutely wrong! He was illiterate means that he was unaware of any chess theory and being at top level it is almost impossible to beat former world champion without chess theory. He probably just had a chess board at home and had no chess instructor or teacher until he came to britian.

    P:S- "And best player ever....remains merely an opinion. You don't have to post such rude comments"

  • 5 years ago

    chessoholicalien

    NM Tonydal:

    I got the list from Megabase2009. It might include games that were simuls, rapid or offhand games.

    One player, Sharp, beat Capa 4 times with the black pieces!

  • 5 years ago

    chessoholicalien

    Best ever? NOPE. He beat Capablanca once in their only meeting when Capablanca was past his prime. Should Richard Réti claim he was the "best player ever" because he put an end to Capablanca's 8-year long unbeaten streak in 1924?

    The following players have also beaten Capablanca at least once! :

    Alekhine, Aurbach, Botvinnik, Adams, Atkins, Autran, Bain, Barrett, Beckman, Bermingham, Black, Blake, Bland, Bock, Brunnemer, Buela Taborda, Chambers, Clough, Cohen, Cole, Columbia Univ, Corzo, Dittrich, Erdel, Felderhof, Fox, Fridezky, Friedenberg, Fuentes, Germann, Gerwig, Grieg, Guillen, Hardy, Hellqvist, Higgins, Holbein, Howland, Hughes, Zhenevsky, Jaffe, Jayne, Kalske, Karff, Katz, Kevitz, Kofmann, Koksal, Korclan, Kunkel, Labatt, Laferriere, Lang, Larsson, Lassen, Leede, Lewis, Lipschütz, Loman, Marin, Marshall, Matisons, McGuire, Milnes, Miotkowski, Miranda, Molina, Murdock, Natali, Olson, Palacio, Panov, Pape, Park Ave CC, Parley, Paroulek, Penteado, Perkins, Piazzini, Piccardt, Pomeroy, Pratt, Prokofiev, Ramsey, Rasmussen, Reid, Rice CC, Rudnik, Schenk, Schlage, Schneck, Seguin, Selman, Selover, Sergeant, Sharp, Shutes, Siegmann, Siero, Spielmann, Spinhoven, Stearns, Steifer, Steiner, Stewart, Stuart, Szapiro, Tarrasch, Thomas, Tozer, Tuckerman, Verlinsky, Viana, Wainwright, Walker, Wamsley, Watts, Whitaker, Williams, Winkelman, Wolfe, Wolff, Wolfson, Zabinskij, Znosko Borovsky, Chajes, Coleman, Desler, Eliskases, Eliott, Euwe, Flohr, Gemzoe, Janowski, Keres, Kluxen, Lasker, Lilienthal, Llorens, Muffang, Portela, Reshevsky, Riumin, Rubinstein, Sämisch, Tolush, Tuka, Van Groningen, Vasiliev, Weiss.

    Should all of these players who were not world champions or world #1s also be said to be "best in the world" because they beat Capablanca?

    Khan, by the way, also lost to Vera Menchik (who never beat Capablanca over many tries) when Menchik even had the Black pieces.

    Khan, in his short career, also lost to: Alekhine, Colin, Flohr, Gilfer, Maroczy, Przepiorka, Ruben, Rubenstein, Steiner, Bogoljubow, Colle, Euwe, Jackson, Michell, Mikenas, Nimzowitsch, Pirc, Ståhlberg, Tartakower, Thomas, Vidmar, Winter and Yates.

    Not all of those players are household names either.

    According to Chessgames.com, Khan had an overall record of 60.4%.

    Players who had/have a BETTER overall record than Khan (selection):

    Morphy, Lasker, Rubinstein, Keres, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, Schlechter, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Adams, Anand, Korchnoi, Blackburne, Bogoljubow, Bronstein, Fine, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Larsen, Miles, Najdorf, Nakamura, Nimzowitsch, Nunn, Paulsen, Petrosjan, Pillsbury, Shirov, Spassky, Staunton, Steinitz, Tal, Tarrasch.

    According to Wiki, the highest Khan got was #6 in the world. He had a peak 5-year rating of ELO 2530. Chessmetrics gives him a highest rating of 2699, well below many other players. Khan doesn't even make it onto any of the Top 100 lists for peak ratings for 1 year, 2 years, 3 years or 5 years.

    He was never world #1 and he didn't play for the World Championship.

    From all of the above, it becomes clear that Khan is NOT the "best player ever".

    You don't even have to be literate to be good at chess (though admittedly it doesn't hurt). Considering his background, though, his achievements are still VERY impressive.

    Of course you're gonna claim he's the best, though, because he's from (what is now) Pakistan (and additionally he's Muslim ;-)

  • 6 years ago

    uneeb123

    Cheers to the illiterate genius.

    Definitely the best player.

  • 6 years ago

    KODIAK42

    What ever Mir Sultan Khans place in history, and personally I think he ranks with the best. He was a true genius of the game of kings and should be more widely known and studied. Thanks for bringing his name and talent to the fore again.

  • 6 years ago

    AZI

    ooh well but so prolonged  game .

    he really done a lot at that time.

  • 6 years ago

    ShahidAnwer

    Well frankly speaking we can never agree on best of the best in any sports let alone chess but this is one amazing game if we have the knowledge that the player who defeated Capa here is unable to read advance theories / concept of chess as he couldn't read english. But still being able to play such a game, it speaks volumes for his sheer natural talent. Check the You Tube video for details.

    The following comments describe the whole thing in different words. Thanks madpawn Smile

    by madpawn - 7 days ago
    London England

    Does anyone truly understand what a momentous achievement it was to defeat the great Capa in such an emphatic fashion - despite having no idea about the developments in chess theory from Steinitz onwards?

  • 6 years ago

    mpcchess

    I'm not convinced.

  • 6 years ago

    H2oh

    The question is the same for boxing, cyciling etc. Fisher was best in his time. Kasparov was best in his time. How could someone hold a record like G. Kasparov and not be the best. Someone else will come along and top that. But it wont be Kramnik, sorry Vlad. So Anand is going to be next?  Opinions dont make us right. Just brings out opinions. So who has the best winning %, who has most wins, who has longest at # 1 etc. It still is opinions. 

  • 6 years ago

    uneeb123

    I have seen that game (one of his few rare games that were recorded). Raza made me look at it.

    He seems to be really good.

  • 6 years ago

    RazaAdeel

    Now this is the game of natural talent vs natural talent.Capablanca is himself being called as the most talented champion of all time in the history of chess and somebody with even less knowledge of (atleast the European Style) chess defeats him.

  • 6 years ago

    VincentValentine

    I don't seem to so understand what their move for....

    For defence ? for attack?

    I just don't understand for certain part...

  • 6 years ago

    madpawn

    Does anyone truly understand what a momentous achievement it was to defeat the great Capa in such an emphatic fashion - despite having no idea about the developments in chess theory from Steinitz onwards?

  • 6 years ago

    consolites

    Garry Kasparov was d Best player ever.

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