Who is the Strongest Chess Player?

  • billwall
  • | Oct 27, 2008

Who is the strongest chess player in the world?  We can assume that it is Viswanathan Anand after he won the 2008 world chess championship, followed by Vladimir Kramnik, his challenger.  But on the official world chess federation (FIDE) rating for October, 2008, there are four other chess players rated higher than these two players.  The highest ranked player is Veselin Topalov (2791), followed by Alexander Morozevich (2787), Vassily Ivanchuk (2786), and Magnus Carlsen (2786).   Anand is rated at 2783 and Kramnik is rated at 2772.


Over the years, Garry Kasparov has been ranked #1 on the official FIDE rating list 23 times.


The best-ever Elo ratings are Kasparov (2851), Topalov (2813), Kramnik (2809), Anand (2803), Morozevioch (2788), Ivanchuk (2787), Carlsen (2786), Fischer (2785), and Karpov (2780).


The Live Top List, a provisional world chess rankings list by Hans Runde, lists the top 6 players as Anand (2796), Topalov (2791), Ivanchuk (2789), Morozevich (2779), Carlsen (2778), and Kramnik (2759).


The Chessmetrics database by Jeff Sonas listed the top 10 players for 3 year peak range as Kasparov (2874), Fischer (2867), Capablanca (2857), Lasker (2855), Botvinnik (2852), Alekhine (2841), Karpov (2833), Anand (2822), Kramnik (2815), and Pillsbury (2806).  Over a one-year period, the top players in Sonas’s list are Fischer, Kasparov, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Lasker, and Alekhine.  In a 20-year span, the top players are Kasparov, Karpov, Lasker, Alekhine, Korchnoi, and Smyslov


The Bratko and Guid method of strongest player was calculated using computers and the best chess programs to look at the quality of play, regardless of game score.  The top world champion that showed the lowest average error was Capablanca, followed by Kramnik, Karpov, Kasparov, Spassky, Petrosian, Lasker, Fischer, Alekhine, Smyslov, Tal, Botvinnik, Euwe, and Steinitz.  The top world champion that had the lowest percentage of blunders was Capablanca, followed by Petrosian, Karpov, Kramnik, Smyslov, Kasparov, Spassky, Alekhine, Lasker, Fischer, Tal, Botvinnik, Euwe, and Steinitz.  The world champion that best performed when facing complex postions was Kramnik, followed by Capablanca, Karpov, Kasparov, Petrosian, Fischer, Lasker, Alekhine, Spassky, Smyslov, Tal, Botvinnik, Euwe, and Steinitz.  The world champion that played the best moves was Fischer, followed by Euwe, Kramnik, Alekhine, Kasparov, Lasker, Steinitz, Karpov, Tal, Spassky, Botvinnik, Petrosian, and Steinitz.


Charles Sullivan at TrueChess.com has compared chess champions based on best year.  His ranking is Fischer, Anand, Smyslov, Kramnik, Spassky, Botvinnik, Euwe, Capablanca, Petrosian, Kasparov, Karpov, Talk, Alekhine, Lasker, Morphy, and Steinitz.  The ranking based on the best 10-year period is: Fischer, Capablanca, Kasparov, Kramnik, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Karpov, Lasker, Spassky, Petrosian, Alekhine, Anand, Tal, Ewue, and Steinitz.


Stefan Fischl was done some chess statistics and listed the top Elo performance from 2000 to 2008 as Kasparov (2812), Anand (2780), Kramnik (2773), Topalov (2770), Leko (2742), Ivanchuk (2737), Morozevich (2737), and Svidler (2726).  His top players for the last 12 months (09/2007 to 08/2008) include Anand (2808), Morozevich (2786), Carlsen (2785), Topalov (2783), Kramnik (2774), and Ivanchuk (2764).


In 1978, Arpad Elo listed his top players over the best five-year span of their career.  The top players were Capablanca (2725), Botvinnik and Lasker (2720), Tal (2700), and Alekhine, Morphy, and Smyslov (2690).


In 1989, Keene and Divinksy ranked the top players when considering games between the top 64 players in the world.  The top players were Kasparov, Karpov, Fischer, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Lasker, Korchnoi, Spassky, Smyslov, and Petrosian.


In 2008, after Fischer’s death, Anand ranked Kasparov as the strongest player ever, followed by Fischer.


Historically, the top 19th century chess players were Morphy (2802), Steinitz (2798), Lasker (2753), Kolisch (2709), Tarrasch (2685), Paulsen (2677), Neumann (2676), Zukertort (2675), von der Lasa (2659), and Pillsbury (1900).  This is according to the Edo ratings by Rod Edwards.


Stefan Fischl’s historic players’ statistics for 1851 to 1890 include Steinitz, Anderssen, Morphy, Mackenzie, Winawer, Zukertort, Paulsen, Englisch, Blackburne, and E. Williams as the top players.


If we look at world champions and how long they reigned, the list is as follows: Lasker (27 years), Alekhine (17 years), Karpov (16 years), Kasparov (15 years), Botvinnik (13 years), Steinitz (8 years), Kramnik (6 years), Capablanca (6 years), Petrosian (6 years),  Fischer (3 years), Spassky (3 years), Anand (2 years), Euwe (2 years), Ponomariov (2 years), Smyslov (1 year), Tal (1 year), Khalifman (1 year), Kasimdzhanov (1 year), and Topalov (1 year).


Kramnik, Anand, Kasparov, etc have all been beaten by chess computer programs.  The top chess programs are Rybka (3009) which is the current world compter chess champion, Naum (2863), Hiarcs (2853), Fritz 11 (2857), Shredder 11 (2848), Zap (2823), and Fritz 10 (2800).


  • 21 months ago


    Everybody is big at his time. U cannot compare players of different ages. Who is the greatest James Bond? Who is the greatest footballer?

  • 2 years ago


    All chess players mentioned here are great.Personally,I love Anatoly Karpov beacause he considered chess as  Art+Science+Sport.In my opinion,the strongest chess player in the history is who capable of acquiring new information and new tactics quickly and whose positional development is extremely obvious..Thanks

  • 2 years ago



  • 3 years ago


    carlsen is the best, But I like Tal better, also, though carlsen is practically invincible, Tal is a true genius

  • 3 years ago


    The strongest chessplayers were before the birth of computers and ELO ratings.

  • 3 years ago


    Someone wrote too many o's up there

  • 4 years ago


    The top players for me are Kasparov, Short, Torre, and Fischer!

    I believe that they can defeat each other.

  • 4 years ago


     Morphy is the best . .

  • 5 years ago


    kasparov is the greatest chess player of all time! He made many2 records. period.

  • 6 years ago


    thanks for this info.SmileLaughingCool

  • 7 years ago



  • 7 years ago


    How about " Jan Timman "  aka "the best of the west " . He was  #2 early 80 ies yet  he's never mentioned in any players top 10 lists . Jan deserves more credit .

  • 8 years ago


    Thx Bill,For this very informatic article.u r giving a lot of information in it.

  • 8 years ago


    Innocent Very informative article, thanks a lot......

  • 8 years ago


    You are Awe Inspiring Amazingly Mr.Bill Wall.Absolutely the very best I see in you in Compiling of all of this.=Fantastic.Superbly done very well.

  • 8 years ago


    Very nice article, thank you for compiling such detailed information.

  • 8 years ago


    thanks for the info, 


    my favorites are  Capablanca, Kasparov, Morphy and Fischer

  • 8 years ago


    Another great article Bill.  We all love your articles and we all learn from some of your articles.  Thank you so very much for the great work you do for this community you are an inspiration to us all.

    Once again thank you so very much

  • 8 years ago


    thanx for the info.....

  • 8 years ago


    Wow! Very informative article. Thanks Bill!

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