10. IBM´s Deep Blue

It may seem odd to have a computer among the greatest chess players, but that’s exactly what this machine was designed to do, play chess. The rivalry between Kasparov and IBM began in 1989 but it wasn’t until May 11, 1997, that Deep Blue finally succeeded in defeating the then World Champion Garry Kasparov in a 6 game match. It won 2, lost 1 and had 3 draws after being defeated by Kasparov the previous year, though 1996 was the first year a computer actually won a game against a reigning World Champion. The win shocked the world, as it dawned upon us that we had succeeded in creating machines that could outthink us. Kasparov accused IBM of cheating, claiming IBM had chess players intervene during the match. IBM denied the allegations. Kasparov challenged them to a rematch, but IBM refused and dismantled Deep Blue. Nowadays, computers are regularly used by professional chess players as training partners and there are even World Championships for Chess Programs. It is that contribution that leads me to put Deep Blue on this list.

9. Paul Morphy USA

Many have claimed that Paul Morphy was the greatest chess player in history, and those claims could have been proven true had he actually pursued a career in chess. After teaching himself the game as a child by watching family members play, he was considered one of the best players in New Orleans by age 9. He famously played General Winfield Scott in 1846, who thought he was being made fun of when Morphy was introduced as his opponent. Morphy went on to easily defeat him in two games, the second of which was effectively over after only 6 moves. At age 12, he defeated the visiting Hungarian Master Johann Lowenthal in 3 matches, who initially viewed the match as a waste of time. In 1857, Morphy participated in the First American Chess Congress, which he won comfortably and was considered the champion of the United States. Too young to pursue his career in Law, Morphy travelled to Europe. By 1858, he had defeated all the English masters, except Staunton, who declined after seeing the young prodigy play. Next he travelled to France where he easily defeated the leading European player, Adolf Andersson, despite being very ill with intestinal influenza. He won 7, lost 2 and drew 2 and was by then considered the strongest player in the world, despite being only 21. Morphy returned home and retired from chess, only playing very occasional games. Had he pursued his career further, there is no doubt that Paul Morphy would be a contender for the number one spot. He was arguably the most gifted chess player to have ever lived, years ahead of his time in play and theory.

" The ability to play chess is the sign of a gentleman. The ability to play chess well is the sign of a wasted life."

8.Mikhail Botvinnik

A lifelong Communist, Mikhail Botvinnik held the World Championship on and off for 15 years, from 1948 to 1963 when he was eventually defeated. Not only a great player, he made significant contributions to developing the World Chess Championship after WW2. He also coached some of the greats, including Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik. He learned chess at the age of 12 and within a year had won his school championships. In 1925, he defeated the great Capablanca in an exhibition game, though the Cuban was playing simultaneous matches. In 1931, at only 20, he became the Soviet Champion, scoring 13.5/20, no mean feat considering the enormous chess talent to come out of the nation. He then went on to tie a match with Flohr, considered the number one challenger for Alekhine’s World Championship crown. By the mid 1930’s, Botvinnik was holding his own against the greatest players in the world, finishing strongly in many tournaments. The outbreak of WW2 prevented him challenging Alekhine for World Champion in 1939. In the early 1940’s, he won the right to challenge Alekhine by defeating a strong Soviet field for the title of “Absolute Champion of USSR,” however it never eventuated with Alekhine’s death in 1946. He won the newly formatted title in 1948, with a score of 14/20 against 4 of the world’s best players. Botvinnik defended it in 1951 with a draw against David Bronstein, then again in 1954 with another draw against Smyslov, until his defeat in 1957 against the same opponent. He won a rematch in 1958, before losing the title again to Mikhail Tal in 1960, then winning the rematch in 1961. Finally he lost it for the final time in 1963 to Tigran Petrosian. He retired from competitive play in 1970, where he devoted himself to the development of computer chess programs and training young Soviet players.

"Chess is the art of analysis"


Created with images by matadorb - "chess black chess pieces board games" • Wokandapix - "chess game strategy" • levyfulop - "The King's Game" • Eigenberg Fotografie - "Chess"

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