The greatest chess player hands down was......

Jul 31, 2007, 7:33 PM |
I found this great info at citizendiumn. I believe that the raw talent of Morphy and Fischer would have crushed Kasparov if they had the technology that is available for chess training today!

"There is no consensus on who is the greatest chess player of all time, but it is a topic often discussed by fans and addressed by writers. Basically the classification is, and can only be, a matter of opinion of whomever is making the claim.

Determining the greatest player of all time is complicated by a number of factors. For example, it is generally agreed that if 19th century master Paul Morphy (or someone of his era) came back to play 20th century champion Garry Kasparov (or any other modern champion) without preparation, Morphy would be crushed because chess understanding has advanced over time, and modern grandmasters analyze openings much more deeply than ever before. These considerations alone, however, do not mean that Morphy was not as great a player as Kasparov, they only mean that Kasparov has advantages due to living later and having modern chess knowledge. Perhaps Morphy would be able to quickly absorb modern theory and rise to the top again.

One possible criterion for all-time greatness is the amount by which a player exceeded his contemporaries. For example, Morphy was head and shoulders above the competition of his day in a way that Mikhail Botvinnik never was. And Philidor was so far ahead of his contemporaries that for a long time he had to take a handicap against everyone else. But should Botvinnik be considered less great a player for having worthy rivals?

And by another criterion, namely length of time at the top of the chess world, Botvinnik's achievements must be considered far greater than Morphy's (even though his reign as World Champion was interrupted by Vasily Smyslov and Mikhail Tal). But then his reign was nowhere near as long as Philidor's, although there was no official world title back then. Furthermore, Emanuel Lasker was the undisputed champion for 27 years, a reign no other player has even approached. However, he played infrequently in later years, and there was no standardized system for championship matches: champions played challengers whenever both agreed to a match. Especially in today's world, with dozens of possible challengers to the championship, longevity is a poor determinant of skill.

Yet another complication in determining who was the greatest is the dichotomy between talent and hard work. Capablanca's natural gift for chess was arguably unrivaled, but he lost his title to Alekhine because Alekhine prepared much more diligently for their match. Is this evidence that Capablanca was in fact a better player who lost due to laziness, or evidence that due to his laziness Capablanca was in fact the inferior player?"