When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay.
One of the oldest and world-famous board games, Chess is the finest demonstration of intellectual opulence. Two minds battle over a board with black and white pieces with tactics and logic. The best chess players of all time have sharp intelligence and a broad understanding of consequences that make them distinct winners.
15 Best Chess Players of All Time.
1. Magnus Carlsen
Highest Rating: 2882
Born on November 30, 1990, in Tønsberg, Norway, he is the second-youngest world chess champion. Known as the Mozart of Chess, he attained the limelight after defeating former world champion Anatoly Karpov in 2004 in a blitz chess tournament.
At the age of 5, he received basic chess instructions from his father, an amateur chess player. He was a curious child and was quite patient observing the game. Patience was the distinguished trait of young Carlsen that designed his promising chess career.
In 2006, he won the Norweigan Chess Championship at the age of 15. With spontaneity and great potential, he defeated Viswanathan Anand in 2013 and became the world champion. He has defended his title three times: in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
A great football fan, regarded as the smartest person alive, Carlsen endorses several sports brands. A cameo in The Simpsons made him quite popular for entertainment reasons.
2. Paul Morphy
American chess prodigy and an unofficial World Chess Champion, Paul Morphy (1837-1884) was a great chess master of his era. One of the best chess players of all time; he had a brief but remarkable career. In his childhood, he was considered one of the best New Orleans chess players.
After college, he won the First American Chess Congress and praised for his skills. He later traveled to European countries to participate in reputed chess games. He won and made a great impression in the chess culture. In 1857, he returned to New Orleans and declared his retirement to continue his law career.
3. Garry Kasparov
Highest Rating: 2851
There was a time when people believed chess and Garry Kasparov were synonymous with each other. Soviet-born Kasparov was the youngest world chess champion. For 225 months, he ranked number one, a historic and remarkable achievement.
In 1980, he became an international grandmaster at the age of 17. Born to a Jewish father and an Armenian mother, he started playing chess at age 6. One of the best chess players of all time, he was the Soviet Youth Champion at 13.
Kasparov received his initial training at Mikhail Botvinnik’s chess school, where he honed his skills under the guidance of famous players. After winning the World Junior Chess Championship in 1980, he challenged Karpov for the World Chess Championship title.
Finally, in 1985, with a series of ups and downs, he defeated Karpov and became the youngest World Chess Champion at 22. Interestingly he was also the first Chess player in history to be defeated by a supercomputer called Deep Blue.
4. Fabiano Caruana
Highest Rating: 2844
One of the best chess players of all time, Fabiano Caruana, is an American-Italian chess player born in 1992. Being raised in New York City, he got trained under National Master Bruce Pandolfini at 6. He was the youngest American chess player to defeat a Grandmaster in a professional tournament.
In 2004, his family moved to Europe for better training for Caruana. He also holds the title of the Youngest Grandmaster in the history of the United States of America. He is also a 4-time Italian National Champion.
Many sports critics find Caruana an intellectual replica of Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik. Berlin Candidates Tournament win is seen as Fabiano’s career-defining victory. He is one of the promising chess players of the current scenario.
5. Bobby Fischer
The eleventh World Champion and the most appreciated among the best chess players of all time, Bobby Fischer learned chess moves at 6. He was also the youngest ever US champion. This American legend is considered one of the best chess players of all time.
He went to Russia after political negotiations and impressed several chess players with his speed and tactics. He had won two silvers and a bronze at four Men’s Chess Olympiads between 1960-70. In 1972, he won the World Champion title and became a household name.
6. Levon Aronian
Highest Rating: 2830
One of the best chess players of all time, this Armenian grandmaster is the fourth highest-rated player in history. Born in 1982, he was awarded the grandmaster title in 2000 by FIDE.
Recipient of Master of Sport of the Republic of Armenia in 2009, Aronian learned the basics of chess through Grandmaster Melikset Khachiyan. In 1994, when he won the under-12 World Chess Championship, sports critics declared the rise of a new Grandmaster.
In an interview, Aronian shared the fact that his elder sister introduced chess at home. Today, with more than a two-decades-long career, he is still known for his remarkable playing style. A good tactician, well versed with tricks, and rare intuition power, this is how critics describe Aronian.
7. Emanuel Lasker
Undisputed World Chess Champion for 27 years from 1894 to 1921, Emanuel Lasker was a German chess player, philosopher, and mathematician. He is regarded as one of the best chess players of all time for his dominating playing style.
It was believed Lasker used a psychological method on the board to tackle his opponents. He always had a tactical advantage over his opponents. In modern times, he is remembered for his exceptional defensive technique.
8. Wesley So
Highest Rating: 2822
Recipient of Grandmaster title in 2008, this Filipino-American chess master is one of the best chess players of all time. At a tender age, he exhibited exceptional talent by memorizing different chess moves. Born in 1993 in the Philippines, he started participating in local tournaments at the age of 9.
His major win was the Philippine National Chess Championship at the age of 10. He was the ninth youngest chess grandmaster in history and the strongest under sixteen player. On February 26, 2021, he took American citizenship after spending a decade in Minnesota.
He has won the US Championship twice and also the Olympic team gold. He has a remarkable aggressive and tactical playing style. He has learned a lot from Kramnik’s games and regards him as an inspiration.
9. Alexander Alekhine
He was a Russian-French grandmaster known for his versatile attacks on board. Born in 1892 in Moscow, he became a grandmaster at the age of 22. He broke the world blindfold chess record three times.
One of the best chess players of all time, Alekhine wrote two classics on his games: My Best Games of Chess 1908–1923 and My Best Games of Chess 1924–1937. He remained the world champion from 1927 to 1935 and 1935 to 1946 until his death.
10. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
Highest Rating: 2820
In the Essent Tournament, 2007, an Armenian youngster stole attention with his remarkable playing style. The best player at the World Team Chess Championships, 2009, Mamedyarov is the highest-ranked Azerbaijani player.
Born on April 12, 1985, in Sumgait, Azerbaijan, he is among the best chess players of all time. He is known for his experimental style. He also demonstrates an aggressive style of play.
His father trained him at the early stage of playing. The love for chess runs in his family as his two sisters are Woman Grandmasters. He won the 3rd Shamkir Chess Tournament, 2016, defeating Caruana in the tiebreak.
11. Boris Spassky
World Chess Champion from 1969 to 1972, and one of the best chess players of all time, Boris Spassky, was a Russian player. Born in Leningrad to a military family, he started playing chess at 5. He defeated Mikhail Botvinnik at 10 and drew attention.
He has beaten World Champions like Garry Kasparov, Bobby Fischer, Mikhail Tal, and Anatoly Karpov in his career. Also, Spassky has won the Soviet Chess Championship twice. He is acknowledged for his statistic approach.
12. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Highest Rating: 2819
One of the best chess players of all time, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave or MVL, started competing in several tournaments at the age of 6. This French genius is the seventh-highest rated player of all time. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and great potential as a promising chess player.
In 2004, he became an international master after a series of participation in different tournaments. At the age of 14 years, he achieved the Grandmaster title in 2005. He has participated in seven Chess Olympiads and remained an integral part of the French team.
He is renowned as an attacking player. He glamorizes his strengths and is known as a dangerous opponent to anyone. Critics see a great array of opportunities in MVL’s playing style.
13. Viswanathan Anand
Highest Rating: 2817
It is believed that the game of chess was originated in India and later spread across the globe. Viswanathan Anand: former World Champion and highest-ranked Indian player, sensationalized the chess popularity in India and beyond. Known as the tiger of Madras, he was the youngest Indian to achieve the International Master title.
His 20 years long career has numerous achievements that describe Anand’s genius. He is the five-time (2007-13) World Champion and winner of prestigious international awards. He occupied the No. 1 rank for 21 months.
Anand’s charisma lies in the fact that his opponents have admired his playing style. He always moved his opponents with his remarkable speed. Greatest chess players like Kavalek and Kramnik believe him as one of the best chess players of all time.
14. Wilhelm Steinitz
A chess theoretician and the first undisputed world chess champion, Wilhelm Steinitz was an Austrian chess player. Nicknamed the Austrian Murphy, he began playing chess at 12. His father was a tailor in Prague, and Steinitz was his 13th child.
He started his professional career in his 20s and became the world champion in 1866 at the age of 30. He moved to the United States of America in 1883 and began his writing work. The world remembers him as one of the best chess players of all time for his dedication towards chess: the body and soul of his life.
15. Vladimir Kramnik
Highest Rating: 2817
Kramnik has been the product of Mikhail Botvinnik’s school. He showcased his playing genius in the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila. He defeated Garry Kasparov in 2000, World Championship, and won the Chess Oscar for the year.
Kramnik is seen as one of the best chess players of all time: regarded as the toughest opponent to beat. Many chess critics believe that Kramnik has shaped the chess opening theory. He has achieved both FIDE and Classical titles.
The Best Chess Players of All Time mentioned in the post have the credit to preserve and popularize chess. They worshipped chess and began playing this board game at a tender age.