Kramnik Leads Fighting Chess Index Top 50, Radjabov At Bottom
Teimour Radjabov. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Kramnik Leads Fighting Chess Index Top 50, Radjabov At Bottom

| 66 | Misc

The top 50 of the Fighting Chess Index, introduced by Australian grandmaster and economist David Smerdon, has GM Vladimir Kramnik in first place. GM Teimour Radjabov, who was criticized this week for playing quick draws at the Superbet Chess Classic, is last.

Smerdon introduced his Fighting Chess Index on Thursday on his blog. He explains it is "a composite, weighted measure of the combativeness of top chess players" and notes that it is based on data of the last five years before the pandemic.

Smerdon has combined data about the frequency, length, and color of drawn games from top players to provide a single score for each individual, which he argues "can be used to compare the degree of ‘fighting chess’ among players." The top 50 below includes the active players with the highest average rating based on their games between 2015 and 2020.

David Smerdon Fighting Chess Index Top 50

Rank Fed Name FCI Rank Fed Name FCI
1 Vladimir Kramnik 80.1 26 Vasyl Ivanchuk 66.6
2 Le Quang Liem 79.3 27 Levon Aronian 66.4
3 David Navara 78.9 28 Wei Yi 66.1
4 Fabiano Caruana 78.4 29 Radoslaw Wojtaszek 65.9
5 Vladislav Artemiev 77.3 30 Anish Giri 65.9
6 Pavel Eljanov 77 31 Sam Shankland 65.8
7 Arkadij Naiditsch 76.9 32 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 64.7
8 Jan-Krzysztof Duda 76.8 33 Boris Gelfand 64.1
9 Magnus Carlsen 76.5 34 Wang Hao 64
10 Ernesto Inarkiev 76 35 Ruslan Ponomariov 63.9
11 Veselin Topalov 75.2 36 Ding Liren 63.7
12 Hikaru Nakamura 73.5 37 Etienne Bacrot 61.3
13 Ivan Cheparinov 71.4 38 Bu Xiangzhi 61.2
14 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 71.4 39 Peter Leko 61.1
15 Vidit Gujrathi 71.3 40 Vladimir Malakhov 60.9
16 Pentala Harikrishna 71.1 41 Nikita Vitiugov 60.7
17 Leinier Dominguez 71.1 42 Zoltan Almasi 59.5
18 Alexander Grischuk 68.9 43 Yuriy Kryvoruchko 59
19 Dmitry Andreikin 68.9 44 Francisco Vallejo 58.8
20 Yu Yangyi 68.6 45 Peter Svidler 58.7
21 Ian Nepomniachtchi 68.5 46 Dmitry Jakovenko 58.2
22 Maxim Matlakov 68.5 47 Viswanathan Anand 57.9
23 Sergey Karjakin 68.1 48 Evgeny Tomashevsky 57.9
24 Richard Rapport 67.8 49 Rustam Kasimdzhanov 57.6
25 Wesley So 67.2 50 Teimour Radjabov 51.2
The FCI is a score out of 100, where a higher score means the player is more ‘"fighting." Data is based on Caissabase (November 2020 version) and includes all regular chess games (no Chess960) from 2015-2020 by players who had played at least 100 games and had an average rating of at least 2400 in this period.

Smerdon calculated the percentage of draws, "short" draws and short draws with White as well as the average length of draws for each player. He chose 30 moves as the threshold for a short draw in accordance with Sofia rules.

He then ran a principal component analysis, which he explains as follows: 

"[It] combines all of the metrics above, weighs them in such a way as to avoid double counting (e.g., it recognizes that someone with many short draws will also have a low average draw length), and extracts one number to represent the ‘hidden concept’ that these measures might explain—in this case, 'fighting chess.'”

Smerdon also adjusted the scores such that players who more often play opponents near their own strength, such as in more round-robins, aren't punished for scoring more draws than similar players who play games with bigger rating differences, such as in large open tournaments.

Teimour Radjabov

Radjabov's bottom place in this list won't be a surprise for the pundits who criticized the Azerbaijani grandmaster for his (theoretical) short draws in Bucharest this week.

Between 2015 and 2020 Radjabov drew more than 60 percent of his games and played a short draw almost once in every five games. Smerdon: "The 2022 Candidates contender finishes 50th in almost every variation of the index that I tried."

In a comment to, Smerdon said: "I wasn’t taking a position on the short draws debate. I’d actually been meaning to make this index for a while, just for my own interest (I like playing around with chess data now that I’m a semi-decent researcher). The timing just worked out!"

Vladimir Kramnik

To see Kramnik at the very top might seem surprising but the 14th world champion, who retired from classical chess events in January 2019, seemed to have a different approach in his final years as an active player. In 2015-2019 he recorded a short draw in fewer than four percent of his games.

Vladimir Kramnik chess
In the final years of his career in classical chess, Vladimir Kramnik was the most fighting top GM of all. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Vishy Anand

The story is different for another world champion. GM Vishy Anand, still active, is in 47th place. Smerdon explains Anand's score as follows:

"Since 2015, Anand played a short draw in roughly one out of every seven games, with an overall draw rate of 55 percent. On the other hand, some of these short draws may be aimed at conserving energy in blitz and rapid events (i.e., events with multiple rounds per day), and these are more likely to be played with Black (42 percent of his short draws)."

Smerdon does emphasize in his article that the index is based on 2015-2020. Anand is surely a much more combative player if you look at a wider time frame, and Smerdon plans to do just that in a follow-up post.

Top 100

In his article, Smerdon also provides the FCI scores for the top 100 players by rating in 2015-2020. The top 10, in order of most to least fighting, is Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Ding Liren, Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Anand.

Of this top 100, the four most combative grandmasters (just ahead of Kramnik, who is in fifth place) are GM Igor Kovalenko (Latvia), Gawain Jones (England), Hrant Melkumyan (Armenia), and Sanan Sjugirov (Russia).

Hess, Gunina

Smerdon mentioned a few names of highly combative players outside of the top 100. For instance, there is our regular commentator GM Robert Hess, who has a score of 94.0. Smerdon explained: "When he does draw a game, which happens only 12 percent of the time, it lasts more than 60 moves on average."

Not surprising is GM Valentina Gunina's high score (93.6) with which she tops the FCI for female players. Smerdon said: "Her FCI score is consistent with her recent performance in the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix in Gibraltar, in which she played 10 decisive games in a row before drawing her final round after 135 moves." 

It's well worth visiting Smerdon's blog and checking out his full article, which has more explanations and clarifications and also answers questions such as, “Isn’t it impossible to measure fighting spirit with statistics?” and “Aren’t stronger players more likely to draw their games because chess is inherently a draw?”

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