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      The Best Players of all time ...  
based on FIVE-to-SEVEN year peaks.

    Click  HERE  to see another page ... similar to this one.    

A friend recently found a few note-books of mine and returned them to me. 

I had done some of these note-books in the early 1980's, others were done in the 1990's. One covered the subject of chess ratings and was the impetus for this web page. I hope you find it interesting.

  Best Players of all time - based on 5-to-7 year peaks  

(Based mostly on calculations I did in the late 1970's and early '80's.)


  1.  Paul Morphy - estimated near (or even over) 2800. 

  2.  Robert J. Fischer - estimated over 2775, perhaps near 2800.

  3.  Garry Kasparov - estimated OVER 2760. 

  4.  Jose R. Capablanca - estimated over 2750.

  5.  Emanuel Lasker - estimated at or near 2750. 

  6.  Alexander A. Alekhine - estimated at or near 2750. 

  7.  Mikhail Botvinnik - estimated around 2730.  

  8.  Anatoly Karpov - estimated at (or near) 2730. 

  9.  Wilhelm Steinitz - estimated to be around 2715 - 2720.
     (Steinitz is on many of the lists that deal with the best players 
      of all time. He once went close to 15 years without losing a 
      game. His TEN-YEAR peak ... no matter whose rating system 
      you use! ... puts him in the top 10.)

  10.  Vicktor Korchnoi - estimated to be OVER 2700. 

I clearly remember taking a list - similar to this one, but NOT identical - to the U.S. Open and showing it to a mathematician who was also on the committee for RATINGS for the U.S. Chess Federation.  

He was generally very critical and derisive ... and had nothing positive to say about my list. (Kasparov was NOT on the list at that time ... this was prior to his becoming World Champion.) He also said that - statistically speaking - Steinitz was one of the WEAKEST World Champions, and probably would NOT be in the 'Top 30' of all time. (!!!) He also felt I had over-rated Korchnoi by around 50 points ... and wondered where Keres fit into all this. (I had not - at that time - done enough ratings of that era to have an idea of where Paul Keres would fit into this list. A 20-year-peak for Keres would have to be in the 2600-2700 range. Sonas gives Keres a FIVE year peak of 2723.) He also felt I might have over-rated Botvinnik. 

There are some real problems with my list.  One is Morphy was really only active for 2-3 years, and therefore this slightly skews the result. I also have completely ignored players after Fischer - with the happy exception of Garry Kasparov. I may have also UNDER-rated Karpov for this list. 

I also have a completely different technique for rating players than most mathematicians or statisticians. They use the method of taking modern ratings and working backwards. Very often, I simply (arbitrarily) assign ratings ... and work my way forward. (But use standard rating formula's from this point on!) Also ... due to the scarcity of events, ANY ratings prior to the 1900's have to be considered less than accurate. 

    The Best Players of all time ...  
 based on  FIVE-Year PEAKS  by  J. Sonas

  1.  Jose R. Capablanca - 2898.

  2.  Robert J. Fischer - 2892

  3.  Garry Kasparov - 2869

  4.  Emanuel Lasker - 2863.

  5.  Viswanathan Anand - 2820

  6.  Mikhail M. Botvinnik - 2818

  7.  Alexander A. Alekhine - 2812.

  8.  Vladimir Kramnik - 2811

  9.  Wilhelm Steinitz - 2809

  10.  Anatoly E. Karpov - 2793

Updated list - April, 2007 

  1.  Garry Kasparov - 2875 

  2.  Emanuel Lasker - 2854 

  3.  Josť R. Capablanca - 2843  

  4.  Mikhail Botvinnik - 2843 

  5.  Bobby Fischer - 2841 

  6.  Anatoly Karpov - 2829 

  7.  Alexander Alekhine - 2827 

  8.  Viswanathan Anand - 2818  

  9.  Vladimir Kramnik - 2812  

  10.  Harry Pillsbury - 2799  

April 13th, 2007:  I updated the information above. I used Mr. Jeff Sonas's own web page ... for five-year peaks. 

This is Sonas's list exactly ... I have copied the info with NO changes! 

There are some DEFINITE SIMILARITIES between my list, and the list by a fairly well-known and respected statistician, like Jeff Sonas.

But there are obviously problems with the Sonas list as well. 

First, his numbers seem a little high ... across the board, especially when you compare some of the SONAS Ratings with the FIDE Ratings. 

Secondly, the difference between Fischer and Capa is so small ... that it is virtually statistically insignificant. These two player's places could easily exchanged on this list. 

Thirdly ... I doubt that Anand deserves such a high place. Most of the really super-tournaments he has played in were won by KASPAROV!! And I can NOT see him being placed ahead of players like Lasker, Alekhine, Botvinnik, etc! 

Fourthly - Kramnik, while super steady - may not belong in the 'Top Ten' at all. He is great, and has maintained consistently good results, but just has not won near as many super-tournaments as a Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Alekhine or a Lasker. 

My fifth point - Karpov looks to be vastly under-rated by Sonas!! According to my calculations, Karpov dominated some of the best tournaments of his time ... and consistently cranked out performance ratings that were near - OR even ABOVE - the 2800 level. It seems to me you could easily advance him several places. 

And finally ... Morphy ... who dominated his generation ... like NO ONE before or since ... is nowhere to be found on the (Top 10) list by Sonas. 

Click  HERE  to go to (or return to) my chess home page. 

Click  HERE  to go to (or even return to) my "Best Players" page. 

  Copyright (c) LM A.J. Goldsby I 

  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby,  1985-2012. 
  Copyright © A.J. Goldsby, 2013.  All rights reserved. 


  Page first posted: July, 2003.  Last up-date:  Thursday; April 12th, 2007.  Last edit/save on: 01/06/2013 .