Chess book - Chapter 2, Part 2

May 10, 2008, 5:17 AM |

If you have not yet seen that I am writing a book, you can find out more on my blog. Here is the second part of chapter two, cronicling the history of chess, and grandmasters in particular, from the first official international chess tournament. If there is anything that is inaccurate, poorly worded, or that needs adding, please leave comments for me. Some player's profiles should be coming out soon.


    The first official international chess tournament was held in the year 1851 in London. It was a tournament between sixteen of the best chess players in the world, organized by Howard Staunton, himself a competitor. Staunton raised the prize money, and invited the players. The tournament was set up as a single elimination, which turned out to be a mistake. If the two best players were paired together, one would be eliminated, and not even finish in the top 8. Adolf Anderssen of Germany won the match, 2 points ahead of Marmaduke Wyvill from Great Britain. Staunton finished fourth, which did not make him happy. He received his loss in ill grace. It was during the time that tournament was held that The Immortal Game was played. It was not played as a tournament game, but during a break as a casual game. The Immortal Game will be discussed in greater detail later, in Chapter 8: Annotated Games. The two major developments that this tournament caused were round robin tournament format, and time limits on games.
    Lets us now fast forward through time to 1886. Until this year, there has been no official chess world champion, merely tournament winners. Three years earlier, there had been a tournament to determine the top two players. This year there was a single match between these players, Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort. Both had won numerous tournaments. Both Steinitz and Zukertort had beaten Anderssen in previous matches. The setup of the first official world chess championship match was not an elimination bracket. The winner would be the first person to have win 10 games. The match started off with a win by Steinitz. This was followed by 4 wins by Zukertort. After 15 more games, Steinitz was able to make a comeback from his losing streak, and win, with 10 wins, 5 draws, and 5 losses, for a total score of 12.5-7.5 (a win is +1 point for the winner, and a draw is +0.5 points for both players).
    After this tournament, Steinitz defended his title for several years, before losing it to Emanuel Lasker in 1894, who won with (+10 -5 =4) (10 wins, 5 losses, and 4 draws), which was strikingly similar to Steinitz's win over Zukertort. Lasker held his title for a record of 27 years, the longest time to date! Steinitz also lost a rematch a few years later.
    Lasker held the title against many comers, until he was finally defeated in 1921 by Capablanca, who won with no losses (+4 -0 =10). Capablanca was considered one of the best chess players of all time. However, he was overconfident, and did not study, and consequently lost his title in 1927 to Alexander Alekhine (+6 -3 =25).
    Due to a loophole in the rules, Alekhine never played Capablanca again for his title. Instead, he held it for several years, before losing to Max Euwe in 1935, in a very close match (+9 -8 =13). Alekhine won his title back in 1937, in a much more decisive match (+10 -4 =11). He died in 1946, under mysterious circumstances, and was World Champion until his death.
    After Alekhine died, there had to be a way to find new chess champions. Let us venture back in time to 1914. It was around this time that attempts to start an official chess federation began. Fast forward a few years. It is now 1924, and we are in Paris. There is a chess tournament going on. During this tournament, the players decided that it was past time to have an official chess federation. They founded FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs, or World Chess Federation in English). This quickly became the official chess federation for the entire world. It is still around and successful today.
    What was the purpose of temporarily rewinding the clock of time? Because when Alekhine died in 1946, there was no world champion for two years. FIDE decided that they needed to do something. In 1948, they held the first chess competition for the title of World Champion. It took them two years because of the turmoil caused by World War II, and the Soviet Union's refusal to join, despite the fact that about half of the major chess players were Soviet. The outcome of this tournament was another world champion, Mikhail Botvinnik.
    In 1950, FIDE introduced its first official titles, Grandmaster, international master, and International Womans Master. It awarded 27 Grandmasters, 94 International Masters and 17 International Women Masters titles that year.
    Botvinnik held his World Champion title until 1957, when he lost his title to Vasily Smyslov (+6 -3 =13). He won it back a year later (+7 -5 =11). He held it again until challenged by Mikhail Tal, and lost it in 1960 (+6 -2 =13). Once again he won it back a year later (+10 -5 =6). He was the first person to have the title of World Champion 3 times. He lost it 2 years later to Tigran Petrosian (+5 -2 =15).
    Petrosian held his title against Boris Spassky in 1966 (+4 -3 =17), however, he lost to Spassky in 1969 (+6 -4 =13). Spassky lost to Robert James "Bobby" Fischer (+7 -3 =11). Fischer however, did not defend his title, and lost in 1975 to Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov.
    Karpov defended his title for several years before losing to Garry Kasparov (+5 -3 =16), in 1985. Kasparov kept his title, until 2000. He beat Karpov in several rematches over the years.
    Vladimir Kramnik finally beat Kasparov in 2000 (+2 -0 =13). He kept this title until recently. In 2007, Viswanathan Anand won the title in a new way; he won the FIDE World Chess Championship 2007. He will play a match against Kramnik to defend his title later in 2008 (as of writing).
    This brings us to the present world of chess. However, we skimmed rather briefly over some rather important chess players, so I will be discussing some of the ones that I think are more interesting of important in much more depth on the next few pages.