Legends of Chess


"Chess is eminently and emphatically the philosopher's game."

Paul Morphy (1837-1884)
Born: New Orleans
Died: New Orleans

The Pride and Sorrow of Chess. He imagined himself persecuted by his relatives and went into a state of seclusion. He thought his food was poisoned or that someone was out to kill him. He once attacked a person in the street and challenges him to a duel to the death to settle an imagined wrong. He had a fetish with women's shoes. Morphy had hats and cigars named after him. He was the first sports figure to issue a commercial endorsement when he dclared of a watch, "I have examined the contents of this watch and find it to be made of 100 percent genuine machinery." When he arrived in Paris to play Anderssen, he was suffering from the flu. His medical treatment consisted of being leeched. He lost four pints of blood and was too weak to leave his hotel bed. So, he played Anderssen from his hotel room and won 7-2. When he returned to New York, he was greeted by Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Samuel Morse, and John van Buren, the former President's son. Van Buren toasted Morphy as 'The Chess Champion of the World.' It was the first time that expression had been used.





"...I cannot imagine anything that puts such a strain on all the vital organs - brain, heart, kidneys and liver - at once, as the excitement when playing chess..."

Wilhelm Steinitz (1834-1900)
World Champion 1886-1894
Born: Prague
Died: New York

Steinitz took 6th place in the London 1851 tournament. After the tournament, he challenged the 5th place finisher to a match. Steinitz won. It would be another 31 years and 25 matches before anyone could defeat him. He won prize money in every tournament he ever played in except his last tournament, London 1899. The first recognized world champion who won the first official world championship match against Zuckertort in 1886. Steinitz started badly, being 1-4 down, but finally won with a 12.5 - 7.5 score. His daughter sold programs and photographs to spectators during the New York phase of the world championship match to earn a few extra dollars for the family. They couldn't afford a winter coat for her as she stood shivering in the vestibule in the cold January weather. He held the world chess championship for 27 years. After he lost his title, he showed signs of mental illness. He challenged God to a match and occasionally beat Him at chess with pawn odds. He believed he could move chess pieces through mental telepathy. He imagined he could draw energy from the earth and emit electrical currents. He was once held against his will in an insane asylum in Moscow in 1897. He had the delusion that he was phoning somebody in New York. He was sent to the asylum protesting violently. However, he enjoyed the food and played chess with other inmates. He stayed a week. He died in the East River mental asylum on New York's Ward Island, penniless, in 1900. When he died he left a wife and two small children destitute. He once spit on Blackburne and Blackburne hit him.






"Chess is a fight."

Emmanuel Lasker (1868-1941)
World Champion 1894-1921
Born: Berlinchen (not far from Berlin)
Died: New York

Lasker took first place at Breslau in 1889 by accident. Another competitor, needing a draw or win for first place, had a won adjourned game. After adjournment he lost. It was later discovered that one of his pawns was knocked off the board between sealing and resumption of the game, which would have given him the winning advantage. As a result Lasker, who was considering giving up chess, won the event and the title of national master. Five years later he was world champion. He once tried to breed pigeons for poultry shows. He tried for many months and failed. He learned later that all the pigeons were male. Between 1901 and 1914 he played in only three tournaments. In 1908 he married at the age of 48 and became husband, father, and grandfather all at once. His wife, a few years older than he, was already a grandmother. He tried to have the tournament rules changes for the older player at the international level. He proposed that play should be stopped after 2 hours for a half hour adjournment. His theory was that gentle exercises or turning to other thoughts for awhile would reinvigorate the older brain. During World War I he invested his life savings in German war bonds and lost it all. He wrote a book declaring that Germany had to win World War I if civilization was to be saved. His Ph.D. dissertation of 1902 on ideal numbers became a cornerstone of 20th century algebra. He believed that one of his opponents, Tarrasch, had hypnotic powers and wanted to play him in a separate room. Lasker's older brother, Berthold, won the New York State chess championship in 1902.






"As one by one I mowed them down, my superiority soon became apparent."

Jose Raul Capablanca (1888-1942)
World Champion 1921-1927
Born: Havana
Died: New York

Sent to Columbia University from Cuba in 1906 to study chemical engineering, he spent most of his time at the Manhattan Chess Club. Two years later he dropped out of Columbia University and dedicated most of his time to chess. In 1908-09 he toured the U.S. and lost only one game in hundreds of games played during simultaneous exhibitions, winning all the others. He was New York State champion in 1910.
In 1913 Capablanca obtained a post in the Cuban Foreign Office with the title of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary General from the Government of Cuba to the World at Large. After his divorce from his first wife, her family had him demoted to the post of Commercial Attache. He once had the mayor of Havana clear a tournament room so that no one would see him resign a game (against Marshall in 1913). He once refused to pose with a beautiful film star, saying, "Why should I give her publicity?"

Capa lost only 36 games out of 567 in his whole life. He did not lose a single game from 1916 to 1924. Capablanca never had a chess set at home. He died while watching a chess game at the Manhattan chess club. General Batista, President of Cuba, took personal charge of the funeral arrangements.






"Chess is vanity."

Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946)
World Champion 1927-1935, 1937-1946
Born: Moscow
Died: Lisbon

Alexander Alekhine (Aljechin) was the son of a wealthy landowner. He learned chess from his older brother around age 11. At 17 he gained his master title after winning a tournament in St Petersburg. He was a prisoner of war like all the other chess contestants at an international tournament in Mannheim in 1914. He was taken to Rastatt, Germany but he feigned madness and the Germans released him as unfit for military service. In 1915 and 1916 he served in the Russian Red Cross. He was captured by the Austrians and was hospitalized in Tarnapol due to a spinal injury. There, he developed his blindfold skills. After World War I, the Russian government decorated him for bravery. In 1918 he was a criminal investigator in Moscow. In 1919 he was imprisoned in the death cell at Odessa as a spy. In 1920 he was back in Moscow intending to be a movie actor. He also served as interpreter to the Communist party and was appointed secretary to the Education Department. He won the first Soviet chess championship in 1920. In 1921 he married a foreign Communist delegate and left Russia for good. In 1925 he became a naturalized French citizen and entered the Sorbonne Law School. At the Sorbonne his thesis dealt with the Chinese prison system. He did not get his doctorate from the Sorbonne as he claimed. In 1925 he played 28 games blindfolded, winning 22, drawing 3, losing 3. In 1927 he defeated Capablanca in Buenos Aires for the world chess championship. In 1930 he scored the first 100% score in the Chess Olympiad, winning 9 games on board 1 for France. In 1935 he lost his world championship to Max Euwe, but regained it in a return match in 1937. During World War II, he became a Nazi collaborator and declared he was ready to sacrifice his life for a Nazi Russia. He competed in seven tournaments in Germany during the war and wrote several pro-Nazi articles. He died in Estoril, Portugal after choking on an unchewed piece of meat. The body was not buried for 3 weeks as no one claimed the body. The Portugese Chess Federation took charge of the funeral. Only 10 people showed up for his funeral. His remains were transferred to Paris in 1956, paid by the French Chess Federation. His tombstone has his birth and death date wrong.






The Iron Willed Amateur

Max Euwe (1901-1981)
World Champion 1935-1937
Born: Amsterdam
Died: Amsterdam

Name pronounced uhr-vuh.

Twice world champion - 1935-37 and for 1 day in 1947. In 1947, the FIDE Congress voted for Euwe to be world champion since Alekhine died. However, the Soviet delegation, which joined FIDE in 1947, was late one day for this vote. They showed up the next day and had the title rescinded in favor of a match-tournament. He was once the former amateur heavyweight boxing champion of Europe. In the world championship match-tournament in 1948, Euwe wore gloves while playing his games. When he was asked why, he said the feeling of gloves on his hands psychologically induced in him a fighting spirit.






"Chess is the art of analysis."

Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-1995)
World Champion 1948-1957, 1958-1960, 1961-1963
Born: St. Petersburg
Died: Moscow

Former world champion (1948-57, 1958-60, 1961-63) who was the only man to win the title three times. He played every world champion of this century and the early trainer of Karpov and Kasparov. He never played a "friendly" or leisure game of chess in his life. He had a PhD (1951) in Electrical Engineering and worked on computer chess programs. He received $5,000 for winning his first world championship






"I have always lived between chess and music."

Vassily Smyslov (1921-?)
World Champion 1957-1958
Born: Moscow

Became a candidate for the world championship by taking 2nd place at the 1982 Las Palmas interzonal at the age of 61, the oldest candidate ever. In his candidates match with Huebner in Velden, Austria, the match was tied 7-7. To break the tie, both players agreed to use a roulette wheel to select the winner. Huebner's color was black and Smyslov's color was red. The wheel was spun at it came up 0. The second spin saw the ball land in "Red 3" and Smyslov won. He won the first World Seniors Championship in 1991 at the age of 70. Smyslov's father once beat Alekhine in a chess tournament in 1912.






"...Just as one's imagination is stirred by a girl's smile, so is one's imagination stirred by the possibilities of chess."

Mikhail Tal (1936-1992)
World Champion 1960-1961
Born: Riga
Died: Moscow

Known for his stare...

At a tournament in Poland in 1974, Tal was playing White against Adamski with both players in time trouble. Adamski's flag fell but Tal lost a piece and resigned. At that moment, Tal's wife said, "Black has not yet made 40 moves." A referee intervened and awarded the win to Tal since the flag falling happened before Tal resigned. Adamski appealed but his protest was rejected. Tal won the tournament. Tal's parents were cousins. In 1966 Tal was hit in the head with a bottle in a bar during the 1966 Olympiad in Havana and beaten up. He missed the first five rounds of the Olympics because of his injuries. He won the World Blitz Championship in 1988. In 1972-73 Tal played 86 games without a loss in international competition, winning 47 and drawing 39. He died of kidney failure in Moscow.






"One must beware of unnecessary excitement."

Tigran Petrosian (1929-1984)
World Champion 1963-1969
Born: Tbilisi
Died: Moscow

Name translates as "Tiger"...

Former world champion. Between 1968 and 1975 he never lost more than a single game in any tournament. He drew more than half his total games of chess, a higher fraction than any other World Champion. He received less than $2,000 for winning the world chess championship in 1966. In 1972 at the Skopje Olympiad he lost a game on time to Hubner, his first loss on time in his whole career. When he was later told that the incident had been shown on TV, he said, "If I had known that, I would definitely have smashed the clock." His first official match that he played was for the World Championship, which he won when he defeated Botvinnik in 1963. When he lost his match with Fischer in 1971, Petrosian's wife put the blame on his trainer, Alexey Suetin, and slapped him.






"Chess is like life..."

Boris Spassky (1937-?)
World Champion 1969-1972
Born: 1937, Leningrad

First Soviet to compete in a Swiss System tournament, the Canadian Open in 1971. His sister Irena has been the USSR women's champion at checkers several times. His ending against Bronstein in the 1960 USSR Championship was used in the opening sequence of the James Bond film "From Russia With Love".






"Chess is life..."

Bobby Fischer (1943-?)
World Champion 1972-1975
Born: 1943, Brooklyn

The youngest American chess champion ever (14), the second youngest grandmaster ever (15 years, 6 months, 1 day), and the youngest Candidate for the World Championship ever (15). Fischer once withdrew from a chess tournament because a woman was playing in the event (she was Lisa Lane and U.S. woman champion). His I.Q. has been recorded to be over 180. He recieved $3.65 million for defeating Spassky in the Fischer-Spassky II match in Yugoslavia in 1992. In 1962 he boasted, "Women are weakies. I can give Knight odds to any woman in the world!" His performance rating against Larsen in 1971 was 3060 after a 6-0 victory. In 1970 he won the Blitz Tournament of the Century in Herceg Novi, Yugoslavia by a score of 19 out of 22. After the tournament he called off from memory the moves of all his 22 games, involving more that 1,000 moves. In 1981 he was arrested in Pasadena under suspicion of a bank robber. He later wrote of this incident in a book entitled, I WAS TORTURED IN THE PASADENA JAILHOUSE.






"Chess is everything- art, science and sport"

Anatoly Karpov (1951-?)
World Champion 1975-1984
Born: 1951, Zlatoust in Ural Mountains

The first world champion to win the title without playing a chess match. He got the title in 1975 when Fischer refused to defend his title. Anatoly became a Candidate Master at the age of 11, a Master at 15, an International Grandmaster at 19, and world champion at 24. In 1978 he was named Soviet Union Sportsman of the Year and was personally decorated by President Breshnev. Karpov became World Champion before he became USSR Champion. He never scored worse than 4th place while world champion. No Soviet opponent has ever beat him outside the Soviet Union. He became the first millionaire playing chess. He is a member of the Supreme Soviet Commission for Foreign Affairs and the President of the Soviet Peace Fund. He is the first world champion to be born in Asia. He has the most complete collection of postage stamps on the topic of chess and specializes in stamps with reproductions of paintings. In 1989 a poll in the BRITISH CHESS MAGAZINE showed the Karpov was the world's most boring player, followed by Sammy Reshevsky. Karpov's diploma thesis at the Leningrad State University was entitled: "Spare time and its economic significance under Socialism." There is no mention of chess.






"I try to play, always, beautiful games... always I wanted to create masterpieces."

Garik Kasparov (1963-?)
World Champion 1985-Present
Born: 1963, Baku

Originally named Weinstein. He became a grandmaster at 17, the youngest Soviet champion at 18 and the youngest world champion at 22 years, 210 days. In his first international tournament, Baku 1979, he exceeded the Grandmaster norm and took first place as an unrated player. His first FIDE rating was 2500. He became the World Junior Champion in 1980 and co-champion of the USSR in 1981. He was the first Soviet to do a Western commercial. His highest rating was 2810 after scoring 9 1/2 - 1 1/2 in a Category 15 tournament in Belgrade in 1989.






"He could have played an intricate combination culminating in a draw on move 256 million. But, I guess he didn't look that far ahead."

Deep Blue
Born 1989: IBM

Deep Blue is the strongest computer chess machine ever built. In tournament chess, the average time someone is given to think of their move is 3 minutes. In this short amount of time, Deep Blue is able to calculate over 50 billion moves. That's a lot of parallel processors. In 1996 Deep Blue challenged World Champion Garry Kasparov to a match, which Kasparov mangaged to win by a small margin. However, in 1997 after Deep Blue received some extra parallel processors, and a spiced up opening database, it was able to defeat Kasparov in the return match. This was quite an accomplishment for Deep Blue. No computer had ever before defeated a World Champion. Garry Kasparov had never lost a match before.






Latest Champions

Gary Kasparov split from FIDE to form BGN (Brain Games Network) in 2000.

Now there are two world champions...

BGN Champions FIDE Champions

“It is time to establish a fair system for the World Championship”

"a dream became true for me - even if I do not realize everything for the moment surely yet!"

Vladimir Kramnik (1975-?)
World Champion 2000-present
Born: Tuapse, Russia

Kramnik became the BGN World Champion after beating his tutor, Gary Kasparov, in 2000. Vladimir Kramnik is a silent yet powerful attacker. Called the King of Dortmund, he is unassuming ,well mannered and deeply versed in theory. He was unbeaten in 82 straight tournament games.


Alexander Khalifman (1966-?)
World Champion 1999
Born: Russia

His father taught him how to play chess, when he was 6 years old. His first coach at the Pioneer Palace was master Vassily Byvshev, one of the strongest Soviet chess players of the 1950s, who also trained the first Soviet Women’s Chess Champion Ludmila Rudenko and Irina Levitina.


Vishy, the Tiger from Madras"

Viswanathan Anand (1969-?)
Born: India
FIDE World Champion 2000-2001

Indian Grandmaster (1988) who won the World Junior Championship in 1987. In 1995 he played Kasparov for the PCA world championship and lost. In 1998 he played Karpov for the FIDE world championship and lost. He has been among the top 5 players in the world for many years. His 1998 FIDE rating is 2795, second only to Kasparov (2815).




"Thanks to all who wish me success!"

Ruslan Ponomariov (1983-?)
Born: Ukraine
FIDE World Champion 2002-present



this webpage is accurate as of 02/2002
Hosted by www.Geocities.ws