Assessing the Players' Dominance with Rating
I've already compiled stats on the most dominant players in history. But during the long discussion in the CAPS thread ("Who was the best world champion?"), I also thought about rating inflation over the years. Fischer was head and shoulders ahead of everyone with his 2780 rating, but now this number is routinely broken - there are much more 2600+ and 2700+ players now to play against and maintain the rating.
Still, ratings can be useful for assessing the players' relative strength. Here's a table that compares the yearly rating of the world's number one with the average rating of all other 99 players in the Top 100 (and 9 other players from Top 10) to see how far ahead of the field he really was.
The rating tables were used for January of each year, with exceptions of 1971-1973 (July), 1974 (May), and 1994 (July; this was Karpov's highest-ever rating, so I think it was only fair to include him. Also, Kasparov was expelled from the FIDE ratings in 1994 due to conflict).
For the Number 50 and Number 100 players, I chose either the most or the least known of the several that shared the place.
Click on the picture to view it in full.
There are some interesting trends. The number of 2600+ players has started to grow explosively in 1989, and the number of 2700+ is growing steadily since 2005 (since 2004, there are only 2600+ players in the Top 100).
Fischer back when he was still playing and Kasparov in the early 1990s dominated even in the Top 10. In the brief interregnum between Kasparov and Carlsen, it was quite tight at the top. And Carlsen's leadership looks more like Karpov's by the numbers - ahead of a strong pack, but not as much as Kasparov or Fischer.
Kasparov was either world's number one or two for 24 years (his expelling from FIDE list in 1994 notwithstanding), and Karpov - for 23 years. I wonder if Carlsen manages to break this record.