Who is the greatest attacker in chess history?


Already to post #19 before the first Shirov mention. A travesty.


The obvious candidates include Paul Morphy, Adolph Anderssen, Rudolph Spielmann, Alexander Alekhine, David Bronstein, Paul Keres,  Rashid Nezhmetdinov, Mikhail Tal, Efim Geller Gary Kasparov, Alexei Shirov, Vasily Ivanchuk, Judit Polgar, and Alexander Morozevich. I'm sure there are plenty others.

Some of the best American attacking players include Harry Pillsbury, Frank Marshall, Kamran Shirazi, Larry Christiansen and Hikaru Nakamura.

But in order to be a truly great attacking player, you have to be able to see when the attack doesn't work and how to bolster that attack.

Of that list, Alekhine, Tal and Kasparov are probably the best  attacking players of all time.


Those 3 and Bronstein.




That Roman guy Laughing

  1.  Napoleon 

2. The love child of Judit Polgar and Alexei Shirov


This "Caveman" is known as The Marvel of Minsk. Go through some of his games; he makes Tal look like Nimzowitsch: http://www.chessgames.com/player/viktor_kupreichik.html


chess2Knights wrote:

Of course all world champions are great attackers and tactical players but to say that Petrosian more known for technique, defense and endgame play is the equal of Tal in combinations and tactics would not be accurate. If I said Tal who as a world champion also was a great defensive player and endgame player this would be accurate not not compared to Petrosian. Who was the all round better player between the two I would go with Petrosian but not having the tactical, attacking or combination ability the equal of Tal. Tal and Alekhine about a toss here.

Certainly your thoughts have their merit. I am not disputing who was more known for using attacking as the foundation of their game. Certainly Tal was more well known for his attacks than Capablanca or even Petrosian. However, If I would have simply said yeah you are right, after you disagreed with my first post, it wouldn't have truly stated that I knew what you were getting at by your original reply. I didn't want appear argumentative or just disagree. I wanted you to see how I could possibly justify my mindset. To help shed more light on the subject, I'll say I acknowledge Kasparov was also an awesome attacker, but the reason I don't admire his way of doing it is that, it reminds me too much of how a computer plays. What I admire about Tal is that he took risks with no guarantee that his attempts would work. I admire Fischer for attacking very computer like before the computer era, but still yet showing very human qualities to his play in his planning. I admire Capablanca for the examples I have seen to make things simple. When I play, I use a method of playing I learned from him to help me coordinate my attacks. After losing many games while being behind 1 tempo or missing a counter attack. I took from Petrosian the idea of thwarting your opponents chances 1st, smothering their position, and then searching for or trying to force tactics, even through sacs, while making sure they're sound. I can't help but hold these players in such high regard after not only learning from them but after seeing what they accomplished.


Tal was great but there was another GM named Nehzmetidinov who was a great attacker as well. I don't know whom I would say is better.


Nezhmetdinov was not as capable as Tal at creating attacks. If there was no attack, Nezhmetdinov would often go on suicide attacks rather than build up the attack. For every great win Nezhmetdinov had against strong opponents, he had an equally abject loss.

The legend of Nezhmetdinov is made from his memorable wins, but he was not nearly as great at attacking as Tal was.

SmyslovFan wrote:

Nezhmetdinov was not as capable as Tal at creating attacks. If there was no attack, Nezhmetdinov would often go on suicide attacks rather than build up the attack. For every great win Nezhmetdinov had against strong opponents, he had an equally abject loss.

The legend of Nezhmetdinov is made from his memorable wins, but he was not nearly as great at attacking as Tal was.

It is noteworthy to me that you used the idea of the " build up" or "preparation" for the attack as the distinguishing thing between those two players. It is also the reason why I have chosen certain players to be so lethal. Preparation is everything, without a good plan, you are taking a bad guess.



Rudolph Spielmann said, "I can comprehend Alekhine's combinations well enough; but where he gets his attacking chances from and how he infuses such life into the very opening - that is beyond me."

That is why I rate Alekhine ahead of Spielmann, Tal ahead of Nezhmetdinov, and Kasparov ahead of everyone.


Percentage of their games that ended with this player launching into a mating attack (including games where the opponent resigned before mate was delivered) [edited for clarity]

1.Paul Morphy 22.27%
2.Adolf Anderssen 8.66%
3.William Steinitz 7.67%
4.Harry Nelson Pillsbury 6.78%
5.Amos Burn 6.53%
6.Henry Blackburne 5.90%
7.Emanuel Lasker 5.60%
8.Garry Kasparov 4.99%
9.Rashid Nezhmetdinov 4.97%
10.Henry Bird 4.86%
11.Siegbert Tarrasch 4.50%
12.Bobby Fischer 4.30%
13.Mikhail Chigorin 4.29%
14.Alexander Alekhine 4.23%
15.Jose Raul Capablanca 4.07%

The games of Frank Marshall, Paul Keres, Alexei Shirov, Mikhail Tal, Alexander Morozevich, Alexander Shabalov, Judit Polgar, Rudolf Spielmann, Alvis Vitolinsh, Vassily Ivanchuk, Boris Spassky, David Bronstein, Efim Geller and Tigran V. Petrosian ended in mate less often.  Tigran V. Petrosian in particular was a very conservative player.

Disclaimer: I posted this table to stimulate discussion.  It is not intended to be an answer to the question "who is the greatest attacker?" [added for clarity]


What relevance does the % of games ending in checkmate have to the conversation?  Grandmasters almost never give up checkmate. They resign.

All that list shows is that players tended to allow checkmate more before World War I than since then.

Showing the average number of moves in decisive games is only marginally better. There have been plenty of attacks that ended up winning the game only for the opponent to keep playing for another 20 moves or more.


The kind of games where a player allows himself to be mated are ones where the attack arose suddenly and with great force, surely the mark of a strong attacker.  If the win is a matter of endgame technique, the loser is more likely to just resign.

There has been a huge shift especially in the post-war period.  Defensive technique improved, but also players became more used to the idea that it was OK to agree a draw early in the game, and go home instead.  Morphy and Anderssen fought tooth and nail, and the thought of offering a draw wasn't really in their makeup.

Shirov or Morozevich are more likely to mate their opponents than Aronian or Leko, and that is surely a function of their attacking skill.


I think there are a couple of other things to be considered to truly put those things in perspective. First of all, the guys at the top who pioneered modern chess. With second class competition mainly, it was far easier for Morphy to have such a high checkmate percentage. Also, look at the winning percentages, especially with white, would be a better indicator of their attacking prowess. Just as another person indicated earlier, most GM's see it coming and resign, that doesn't make the victor less of an attacker.


Just to clarify my list are of games where a mating attack is in progress, not one where the loser was actually mated.  Most of the losers do in fact resign before they get mated.

As an example, here's one of the games - Amos Burn a few moves from mate against Siegbert Tarrasch:


I doubt that...it is a subjective idea to begin with....


I would say Wilhelm Steinitz. First of all, because he became acknowledged as the best player of his time in which an all or nothing attacking style was normal. Secondly, because of the splendid combination with which he won from von  Bardeleben in Hastings 1892. Thirdly, because he realized that an attack should be prepared and developed positional play. All modern chess play is indebted to him. Not only did he attack his opponents, he also attacked their playing style - and won!

Finally, just because... :-)