The Best Player Never to Become World Champion?

paretobox

Retrospective grading pretty much gives us all the possibles in terms of strongest playing non champions.  But a slighlty different question might be:  Which players -- like Schlechter -- might have done well against the world champions in a match played at their peak, but weren't perhaps as formidable in tournaments so were edged out by others?  For example, both Resehevsky and Fine might have done well against Alekhine and Botvinnik in a long match.  I also wonder if someone like Maroczy might have been underrated.

SpiderUnicorn

I think Efim Geller was also one of the strongest GM not to make it to WC. His plus score against 4 World Champions (Mikhail Botvinnik +4−1=7, Vasily Smyslov +11−8=37, Tigran Petrosian +5−3=32, Bobby Fischer +5−3=2.) and overall record in games against world champions is positive: +39−36=131.

SpiderUnicorn

Paul Keres's record vs strong GMs and WCs.

 

 

 

fabelhaft
paretobox wrote:

Retrospective grading pretty much gives us all the possibles in terms of strongest playing non champions.  But a slighlty different question might be:  Which players -- like Schlechter -- might have done well against the world champions in a match played at their peak, but weren't perhaps as formidable in tournaments so were edged out by others?  For example, both Resehevsky and Fine might have done well against Alekhine and Botvinnik in a long match.  I also wonder if someone like Maroczy might have been underrated.

I don't think it really has much to do with some players being stronger in matches than in tournaments or something like that, it's just that in a match it's enough if one opponent, for one reason or another, is playing far below his best. That happened to for example Lasker in 1910, Alekhine in 1935, Kasparov in 2000 and Carlsen in 2016. Schlechter was maybe not better than Rubinstein in 1910, Euwe better than Capa in 1935, Kramnik better than Anand in 2000 or Karjakin better than Caruana in 2016. It's just that in a match the opponent can be off form, while in a tournament one opponent being off form isn't enough.

JustARandomPatzer

I'm going to say Korchnoi. Keres and Reshevsky are close though.

BlackKaweah
fabelhaft wrote:

”Perhaps you should examine Schlechter's career more closely”

”He won Stockholm 1906 going undefeated”

"lost only one game at San Sebastian 1911"

I still don’t rank him anywhere near Korchnoi. If you bring up Stockholm 1906 on his list of achievements on the subject greatest ever non-World Champion it’s also worth mentioning the level of opposition :-) He shared first with Bernstein, and the other participants were far from elite players. San Sebastian 1911 was no bad result, but Rubinstein was undefeated and finished well ahead of Schlechter. Nothing wrong with the latter, but he was no Korchnoi or Keres. I’d place him a bit below for example Aronian too, but that doesn’t mean that he was anything else than a great player. 

PS. Edited to add some info on San Sebastian 1911

 

You missed Schlechter's result at Ostend 1906, Tied for first with Maroczy ahead of Rubenstein, Bernstein, Burn, Teichmann, Marshall, Janowski, Duras, Mieses, Tschigorin, Marco and many other masters. Not a bad result.

Schlechter may not be a top ten of all-time player, but he's not far behind. I'm slowly working my way through a collection of his games and am constantly amazed and delighted by them. Lasker was the strongest of that era, maybe of any era, but at the height of his powers Schlechter was not out-classed and was right there with Rubenstein.

SmyslovFan

Schlechter was top 5 in the world for several years between ~1900-1920, but he was never number 1. Rubinstein was #1 in the world, as was Maroczy, Tarrasch (briefly) and Pillsbury. Tarrasch had his chances to become champion. Maroczy wasn't consistent enough. Capablanca suggested he was too defensive.  Pillsbury contracted syphilis and was unable to reach his potential. 

I don't rank Pillsbury among the greatest never to become world champion, but he is one of many sad cases of great players who didn't reach their full potential. Leonid Stein, who died at the age of 38, is another.