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World Champions

‘‘The first officially recognized world Chess championship was held in 1886, when Wilhelm Steinitz beat Johannes Zukertort in a match held in the USA. The outstanding players before this date are well known, but there were no official champions. Each champion has their own particular brand of play — be it aggressive, attacking, tactical or strategic — which is just as personal as their signature.’’

— Chesmayne

Paul Morphy
Unofficial World Champion
1837-1884


Many people consider Paul Charles Morphy the greatest Chess player the world has ever seen. He wrote no book, his ideas and guiding theories are embedded in his games. Morphy led the game of Chess from darkness into the dawn of discovery. His ideas revolutionized the game and made him shine against the shadows of his contemporaries. He believed in developing his pieces rapidly and perhaps his legacy to the world of Chess was the concept of a quick and efficient development.

He was without question the best player of his time and considered the World Champion since there was no official World Championship at the time. A match with Staunton would have resolved the issue.



Wilhelm Steinitz
1st World Champion
1886-1894


To determine Morphy's successor, a match was held between Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort in NY, St. Louis and New Orleans. Steinitz won by a score of 12½-7½, becoming the 1st World Champion.



Emanuel Lasker
2nd World Champion
1894-1921


Emanuel Lasker's more refined and superior style proved decisively for Steinitz and in 1894, Lasker defeats Steinitz by a score of 12-7 in a match held in New York, Philadelphia and Montreal.



José Raúl Capablanca
3rd World Champion
1921-1927


Only an even stronger engame player like José Raul Capablanca could replace Dr. Lasker. The "Chess Machine" as he was called, won the title against Emanuel Lasker in 1921 without a single game lost.



Alexander A. Alekhine
4th World Champion
1927-1935 / 1937-1946


In a long match in Buenos Aires in 1927, Alekhine defeats Capablanca on his initial defense by 18½ to 15½. His relations with Capablanca were so bad, that he never gave him a chance to regain the title.



Machgielis (Max) Euwe
5th World Champion
1935-1937


In 1935, in Holland, Dutchman Max Euwe won the title to Alekhine by a score of 15½ to 14½ and was the World Champion from 1935-37. Max Euwe was the President of FIDE, the World's official body.



Mikhail M. Botvinnik
6th World Champion
1948-1957 / 1958-1960 / 1961-1963


When Alekhine died (he had regained the title from Euwe earlier), FIDE took control of the title and held a match to determine a new Champion. Botvinnik won the five-player event with 14 out of 20 points.



Vasily V. Smyslov
7th World Champion
1957-1958


Vasily Smyslov's great endgame skill was the main reason he defeated Botvinnik for the title in 1957 and yet he played three matches against Mikhail Botvinnik for the title over the years 1954- 58.



Mikhail N. Tal
8th World Champion
1960-1961


Tal, from Riga returned from Moscow with the title after defeating Botvinnik by 12½ to 8½ in 1960. He was World Champion for one year after losing the Championship title back to Botvinnik in 1961.



Tigran V. Petrosian
9th World Champion
1963-1969


Petrosian defeated Mikhail Botvinnik in 1963 with a 12½ - 9½ score. He retained his Championship in a Match against Boris Spassky in 1966 by a 12½ - 11½ score. He loved constricted and cramped positions.



Boris V. Spassky
10th World Champion
1969-1972


In 1969, Boris Spassky defeats Tigran Petrosian by a 12½ - 10½ score. A child prodigy, he became an International Master at the age of 16 and in 1955, at age 18, he became an International Grandmaster.



Bobby Fischer
11th World Champion
1972-1975


Bobby Fischer ended the Russian domination of the World Championship. He defeated Boris Spassky in 1972 in Reykjavik, Iceland by a score of 12½ to 8½ and becoming the first American to win the title.



Anatoly E. Karpov
12th World Champion
1975-1985


In 1975, Karpov won the World Championship by default when Fischer refused to agree to the terms for a match. His series of matches against Kasparov has set a record for most games by two opponents.



Garry K. Kasparov
13th World Champion
1985-1993


In 1985, Kasparov wins Karpov for the title by a 13-11 score. He defeats Karpov again in 3 more attempts for the title in '86, '87 and '90. In 1993, he splits with FIDE to form PCA. Was stripped of FIDE title in '93.



Alexander Khalifman
14th World Champion
1999-2000


Russian Grandmaster Alexander Khalifman won the FIDE World Championship in 1999. He defeated 8 players in a knockout event held at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada from July 31 to August 29.



Viswanathan Anand
15th World Champion
2000-2001


Viswanathan Anand won the FIDE World Chess Title on Christmas Eve 2000, in a match held in Teheran, Iran and New Delhi, India. He beat Alexei Shirov in the final game by a score of 3½ - ½.



Ruslan Ponomariov
16th World Champion
2002 —


Ruslan Ponomariov became the youngest Chess Grandmaster in history. At the age of 18, (born Oct. 11, 1983) he won the World Chess Championship by beating Vasilly Ivanchuk in Moscow by 4 1/2 - 2 1/2.





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