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Best Tournaments (2)

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(Click  HERE  to return to my Home Page.)

 This page is a continuation of my "Best Tournaments" Page.
(Click  HERE   to go there now.)

Click  HERE  to see MY list of: 
"The Ten Greatest Chess Tournaments Ever Held."

 (All the comments below refer to the extensive list on the first  "Best Tourneys"  Page.)

I have numbered what I believe to be fifty of the  greatest tournaments of all time!   (Both the "Super 21" Linares Tournaments could also have been on this list.) These tournaments are NOT in order, but simply chosen chronologically by the date that they occurred! As Larry Evans points out, Jeff Sonas's list had  many  important omissions. I have attempted to fill a few of these missing tournaments in. {A.J.G.} ) 

Additionally, many of chess history's MOST IMPORTANT tournaments are 
in BOLD print.  (But not all of them)


  I would very much appreciate if someone would copy all of the above events, 
  convert Their cross-tables into a standard document form.  
(Preferably MS-Word.)  

I would then make this available as a download on my web-site. 
Anybody out there up to this task?

Here are the ten strongest super tournaments of all time: 
(according to Jeff Sonas)

  1. Linares 1993.  (Super-21, won by Kasparov)

  2. Linares 1994.  (Super-21, won by Karpov)

  3. Vienna 1882(!)  (Super-20, won by Steinitz & Winawer)

  4. Nuremberg 1896. (!)  (Super-20, won by Lasker)

  5. AVRO 1938. (Super-20, won by Fine & Keres)

  6. Linares 1992. (Super-20, won by Kasparov)

  7. London 1883. (!)  (Super-19, won by Zukertort)

  8. Hastings 1895. (Super-19, won by Pillsbury)

  9. Nottingham 1936. (Super-19, won by Capablanca & Botvinnik)

  10. Dos Hermanas 1996. (Super-19, won by Kramnik & Topalov)

(The exclams in parenthesis are used to denote relative surprise. These are tournaments most modern-day players have never even heard of! They are very strong, many of the older events have been {virtually} forgotten by chess history.) 

I personally feel that many of these more modern tournaments are over-rated

St. Petersburg, 1914  is one of the strongest tournaments of all time, according to many chess historians. I also personally feel that Bled, 1961 has to be one of the 
greatest ... (and surely one of the strongest) tournaments of all time.

 Larry Evans  gave the following answer:  
 (To the question that was posed by Sonas on the first page of "Great Chess Tourneys.")

 "This tremendous piece of work is bound to stir controversy! Based on Elo's research, Jeff was able to construct a yearly  Top - 10  list dating back to 1860. He ranked these by adding 4 points each if the number-one or number-two ranked player competed, plus 3 points for # 3 or # 4, plus 2 for # 5 or # 6, plus 1 for #7, # 8, # 9, # 10. The maximum number of possible points is 22." 
(This seems to me, a little arbitrary. {A.J.G.})

"London 1851, is missing, (it was a knock-out, not a round-robin). Stellar events like Vienna 1922 and New York 1927 also vanish because just four of the top ten took part. An argument obviously could be made that the 1948 World Championship belongs on this list, (#1. Botvinnik, # 2. Smyslov, #3. Keres, # 5. Reshevsky) -- but it was omitted because Euwe at # 11 fell behind Boleslavsky, Bronstein, Fine, Kotov, Najdorf, and Flohr.

For another perspective see "The Enthralling World of Super-Tournaments," 
(New In Chess, 1998/#7); by R.M. Gonzalez. He singles out Karpov's sensational 
 performance of 2977 in a field of 14 stars at Linares 1994, as one of the strongest 
 tournaments of all time. (Super-21.)"

My (LM A.J. Goldsby I) list of:

"Ten Greatest Tournaments of All Time,"

is as follows: 

(I give these by date, {which was played first};  NOT  by their rank!!)

  1. Hastings, [Engand] 1895 - Easily one of the greatest tournaments ever held. 
    I used to have an old book on this tournament, but I have lost it and now I have to be satisfied with a reprint. I have studied the games many times, and can tell you almost any player could improve after a careful study of these games.

    This was the first real, true international tournament. Practically every country of [chess] power was represented. Several of the best players that ever lived participated in this event. Many of these players are real legends. The former and current World Champion also participated. Just about ALL of the strongest players of that period participated. The result was a surprise victory for the American, Harry N. Pillsbury.

  2. London, [England or Great Britain] 1883  - One of the first great super-tournaments and completely dominated by J.H. Zukertort. Had he not lost his last three games to the absolute tail-enders of this event, [exhaustion, he was taking powerful drugs at the end of this event]; this would have been the greatest, single tournament performance by any player    EVER!  (It still may be, anyway.)

    Say Zukertort had won those last three games. And if his opponents would have had MODERN ratings, (circa 2000-2001) Zukertort's PR would have been in the 3100+ range. It's almost more than the mind can conceive of

    I have had several books on this tournament. It's also some very interesting chess. Great stuff!

  3. Nuremburg, [Germany] 1896 - A great victory for Emanuel Lasker. 
    Coupled with his victories at London, 1899; and Paris, 1900; this makes up probably three of the greatest tournament victories ever by a World Champion, especially prior to the end of the 20th century. (This is so odd, because he also won New York, 1924. And he won  St. Petersburg, 1914. Because he won so many great tournaments,  and placed highly in so many others, many of the 'older' authors would  argue that Emanuel Lasker was in fact the, "Greatest Tournament Player who ever lived.") 

  4. San Sebastian, 1911 - The great Cuban's [Jose R. Capablanca] little ...  "Coming-out party." 
    (A surprise victory for Capa, who at the time was a virtual unknown. Marshall [and others] had to speak up for him, [to the tournament committee] before he was even allowed to play!) Easily one of the strongest and best tournaments ever held. J.R. Capablanca was to win many tournaments, but this was one of his greatest. (His domination of the tournament at New York, 1927 was also one of the more impressive performances by a World Champion.) The Dover book on this event is required reading for any real chess fan. 

    Did you know that initially Capa was not going to be allowed to play? And that he was ONLY permitted to participate in this event after Marshall vouched for him, assuring the tournament committee that this event would be severely damaged {weakened} If Capa was not allowed to play. (Marshall has already several events, most notably Cambridge Springs, 1904, so his words carried a lot of weight with the various "power-that-be.")  (Added - May, 2006.) 

  5. Nottingham, [England] 1936 - Most chess historians (worth their salt) say this is easily one of the strongest and best tournaments ever held. (Many, such as J. Gaige & Tim Krabbe {and others} have said this is ... THE  strongest tournament of all time.)  Capa and Botvinnik tie for first. I highly recommend that you get the [Dover] book on this tournament and study it. It's great chess and a very good story. Maybe one of the strongest tourney's of all time!

  6. A.V.R.O; [Holland] 1938 - The great tournament held in the Netherlands to determine the challenger to World Champion, A. Alekhine. It was a double-round robin, and the players who participated were easily the best in the world. (At that time.) Keres, Fine, Botvinnik, Alekhine, Euwe, Reshevsky, Capablanca, and Flohr. Every player was a legitimate contender for the crown. FOUR (4) World Champions participated. Three of the other players were all very legitimate contenders for the Crown. Keres and Fine finished tied for first. (Keres was considered the winner on a rather arbitrary set of tie-breaks.) It produced some of the best chess games ever played. 

      After YEARS of research, I  ( A.J. Goldsby I )  must conclude    
      that this was the greatest and strongest tournament ever held. (!!!)   
       (Dozens of GM's - like Arnold Denker - agree with this opinion.) 

  7. Bled, [Yugoslavia] 1961 - (This tournament is not rated highly by Sonas.) 
    A gathering of some of the strongest players ever assembled. Tal won, but just barely ahead of Fischer. Fischer was undefeated and also beat Tal in their individual game. Perhaps one of the most momentous gatherings of all time. Forget the numbers,   practically all the players here are legends, and all the players in the top half of this tournament will surely all be enshrined ... in the  "Chess Hall of Fame." 

    ( # 1. - M. Tal;  {14.5}  # 2.) - R. Fischer; {13.5} 
    # 3-5) - T. PetrosianP. Keres,  and  S. Gligoric;  
    # 6-7.) - E. Geller  &  P. Trifunovich;  # 8.)  B. Parma;  
    # 9-10.) A. Bisguiser  &  Matanovich;  
    and 11-13.)  DargaJ. DonnerM. Najdorf;   # 14.)  F. Olafsson
    # 15-16.)  L. Portisch  &  B. Ivkov;  # 17.)   L. Pachman
    and three more rabbits. (Bertok, Germek, and Udovcich) ) 

    ( All the players in bold print belong in the  Chess "Hall of Fame,"  in my opinion. ALL the players named above would easily be GM's today, especially by modern standards. {The players in blue were either GM's, or Super GM's. They all either had, or would later have, outstanding playing careers. There are many  "Super GM's" in this group. Many were repeated contenders for the World Championships. There are great players, writers, and even a World Junior Champion (Ivkov) - and a player who would also win the World Junior ... later that year (Parma) - in this group.}  A very elite gathering of some of history's greatest players. ) 

  8. Linares, [Spain] 1993 - One of Gary Kasparov's greatest victories. 
    In a long line of superb victories. I don't know if there is a book on this event, but if there is not, there should be one! Practically every player who had a claim to be in the World's "Top Ten" was here, yet Garry steam-rolled everybody. One of the greatest chess tournaments in the pantheon of chess.

  9. Linares, [Esp.] 1994 - Anatoly Karpov's greatest triumph. He wins one of the strongest gatherings of players ever assembled and performs at a near 3000 PR clip. Even Capablanca in his heyday may not have played as well as Karpov did in this tournament. GM Arnold  Denker, writing in FLChess, said, "Karpov out-did Capablanca." (Knowing what a big fan of Capa GM Denker is, I know this was a hard admission for him to make.) Incredible chess. 

    (Get the old copies of the magazine, "Inside Chess," and play over some of these games.) Karpov's most amazing tournament. 

  10. CORUS/Wijk aan Zee, [Netherlands] 2001 - Yet another victory for Garry Kasparov.  
    Coming as it did, AFTER his defeat at the hands of Kramnik, he very clearly demonstrates that he is still a force to be reckoned with. This tournament, with practically all the best players attending, is easily as good as (or better than!) many of the older and more classical tournaments. (Also, some of the games played are fantastic struggles.) This Category 19-24 event is easily one of the strongest tournaments ever played. 

    (There may have been a few events that are very strong and could qualify for this list. But they were 
      played AFTER I created this particular list, and I am not going to update it on a daily basis.)  

     Note that this list only takes into account tournaments held up until 2001! 
      (One day - when I have the time - I shall come back and list notable tournaments since that date. May, 2006.) 

Well, folks that is my list. Having devoted my entire life to the study of chess, I think it is a list that should be taken very seriously. I tried very hard to be fair. I passed over St. Petersburg, 1914. (A personal favorite of mine.) I also skipped Cambridge Springs, 1904. (Another personal favorite.) After lengthy consideration, I decided it was not strong enough to be included on this list. I also passed over New York, 1924. (Yet another personal favorite!!)  This is because the tournaments on my list are all a little stronger. (At least!!)

I am also a little upset that a Bobby Fischer victory is not represented here. 
(Also Morphy is not included either.) 
But Fischer's PERFECT score in the U.S. Championship of 1963/64 is a mark that even Kasparov and Kramnik can only dream about. (Also his record of 21 consecutive victories against GM's may  never be broken.) His domination of the Interzonal Tournament of The Palma de Majorca, 1970 (Fischer won by 3.5 points); also stands as one of the most incredible performances in a tournament of that type. So Fischer may not have a tournament win in the Top Ten. I guess I can live with that. I guess he has more than enough triumphs and victories and records for one man.


I skipped MANY modern tournaments, and a few of the older ones. I have very valid reasons for just about all of these omissions. For instance, I skipped The Chess World Championship [Quadrangular] Tournament, The Hague/Moscow 1948. The  reason? It's all but a forgone conclusion that Botvinnik's opponents had to throw their games to him. {At least a few of them, enough to insure that Botvinnik won.} Its also well-known that the Soviets [During the rule of the communists, anyway.], often played in events, "As a team."  This tarnishes many of these events and puts them under a cloud. (In my opinion.)


I included many of the older tournaments where the strength of the actual games played is in question   and skipped many of the more modern tournaments for the reason that rating inflation just make them SEEM to be stronger. The trend towards very quick and dull draws in many of these events does not do much to win over the average chess fan, either. And if you were to carefully study  ALL   the games (every single game!) from the tournaments in my list, you would certainly improve your game, NO MATTER WHAT YOUR RATING IS!!!

    USCF LIFE-Master, A.J. Goldsby I 
     (June 06, 2001.) 

St. Petersburg, Russia; 1914

(For the last 5-7 years, I have been examining the games and studying the players of this event. This little section is an inspiration that results from all of that work. I hope you enjoy it and that it will give you a greater appreciation of the older tournaments. That is my goal, please let me know if you think I succeeded.) 

bst-tour2_ct01.gif, 08 KB

I have always felt this tournament was simply one of the strongest events ever held. This is not an un-informed opinion, many notable chess historians have expressed the same sentiments. Ever since I was a youngster, I read about this tournament ... and dreamed about just being able to sit in the audience and watch these legends of chess play the game.

The participants were a veritable "Who's Who?" of chess. 
(Certainly the best players of that time!) I present them in the order of their rating. 

 (The ratings below are adjusted and based on those from the web site of Jeff Sonas. See the Dec. 1913 rating list, or try here.)  

  1. Emmanuel Lasker (2796)  -  (World Champion) The best player in the world ... at that time. He also had the highest rating. And he had won MANY of some of the strongest tournaments ever held up until that point in chess history. 
    (St. Petersburg, 1895/96;  Nuremburg, 1896;  London, 1899;  Paris, 1900. 
     Just to name a few.) 

  2. Jose R. Capablanca (2750)  -  The Cuban Genius. At that time, he was basically the new kid on the block. (Before he won San Sebastian, 1911; {His FIRST international tourney!!}; no one really knew who he was.)  But just a few short years later, he was already firmly in the list of the world's best players. (#2!!) 

  3. Akiba Rubinstein (2690)  -  The man who won five straight, consecutive international tournaments. (In one year!!) At one time, many thought this player to be the next world champion. (I think Lasker purposely avoided a match with him ... and I cannot really blame him!) His best recent results were first at Lodz, 1908; and St. Petersburg, 1909. (Tied with Herr Lasker.)  

  4. Siegbert Tarrasch (2662)  -  The German Doctor, chess master, and teacher. At one time, he may have been the strongest player in the world. (Many books say he was one of the world's best 4-5 players for nearly 25 years.) He had already won many strong events, two of his best (more recent) results were Vienna, 1898; and Monte Carlo, 1903. (He won clear first at both events.) 

  5. Frank J. Marshall (2637)  -  The strongest player from the United States (since Pillsbury's decline), and the winner of Cambridge Springs, 1904. He was also one of those players who may not play well in matches, but excelled in tournament play. 

  6. Aaron Nimzowitsch (2620)  -  One of the founders of the Hyper-Modern movement, and already one of the ten best players in the world. (But he would not reach his greatest strength until maybe the late 1920's.)  A dangerous player from Latvia ... he had already shown his mettle in tournament and match play. 

  7. Carl Schlechter (2618)  -  The strong player from Vienna, he had the reputation of being nearly impossible to defeat. (His nickname was, "The drawing Master.") He had won Munich, 1900; Vienna, 1905; and Vienna, 1908. He also had contested a (short) World Championship Match in 1910 against Lasker. 

  8. Alexander A. Alekhine (2593)  -  {Based on some recent results, I would have rated this player a little higher. But I have not yet gone back and re-calculated all of his tournaments prior to this date, so I will have to use the rating give by Sonas.} A future world champion, and the winner of many, many tournaments. He had already shown himself to be one of the strongest players in all of Russia at that time, but here he would only finish third.  (Really not a bad result!)  

  9. Ossip S. Bernstein (2585)  -  A Ukrainian Jew, this globe-trotter later settled in France. For nearly 50 years, this great player was solidly in the 'Top 30' players in the world. His best more recent result was a tie for first with Rubinstein at Ostende, 1907. (An interesting side note is that the tournament committee of San Sebastian, 1911 were going to disallow Capablanca's entry. Bernstein spoke up and vouched for Capa as being a strong and worthy player. Capa rewarded him by winning first place, and beating Bernstein in their individual game ... and this encounter would later go onto win the FIRST Brilliancy Prize for that event!) 

  10. David M. Janowski (2540)  -  This Polish-born player later settled in Paris in approximately 1890. He came in second behind Lasker in London, 1899. He won Monte Carlo, 1901. (Clear first, +10, =3, -2.) In the years, 1901 to 1907, he played in many strong events, usually placing well, (second through fifth) in the cross-table. He also came in tied for second with Lasker at Cambridge Springs, 1904. (In 1905, Jeff Sonas says he was the number three player in the world!!) But his best playing days may have already been behind him. (He did not make the finals here.) 

  11. Joeseph H. Blackburne (2485)  -  For many, many years, the best player that Great Britain ever produced. {His nickname was 'The Black Death!'} (In 1881, Jeff Sonas ranks him as # 2 in the whole world!!) Winner ... and strong finisher in MANY International events. (He also won many small matches.) He tied for first in a strong event in Weisbaden, 1890. In Berlin, 1881, he simply buried the rest of the field. (3 points ahead of Zukertort, and nearly 10 points ahead of 5th place!!) He also won Belfast, In Manchester in 1890, he came in second after Tarrasch. (Who dominated this event.) He also won Belfast, 1892. (Tied for first with Mason.) He was probably invited as the strongest representative of England ... but unfortunately his best days were probably in the past. (He did defeat Nimzovich.) 

  12. Isidor A. Gunsberg (2450)  -  Born in Budapest, he later moved (permanently) to England. (In 1891 he was rated nearly 2650 and ranked number three in the world!) He won the Hamburg (GER) International Tournament of 1885 ahead of all the best players in the world. In 1887 he tied for first place (with Burn) in the London International tournament. He tied a match in 1889 with Tchigorin - who was then probably at the height of his powers. He subsequently challenged Steinitz for the World Championship (1890-91) and lost a very close match. He also organized Ostende, 1906 which virtually launched the careers of both Rubinstein and Bernstein. His better playing days were also behind him, here he was clearly outmatched ... ... ...  he was unable to win a single game. 


This was an extremely strong tournament ... these guys were the legends of chess. Every player here had been a top player in his day and won several international tournaments. With the exception of R. Spielmann,  EVERY PLAYER OF THE  'TOP TEN'  (in the rating list)  WAS  PRESENT!!!!!!  Using only the ratings of the Top Ten players, this was a Category 17 or 18 event. (Using a more favorable system, that could easily be changed to a Category 18-20!!)  {Using the actual ratings of all the players present drops this down to only a Category 12 - 13 event.}  A re-computed average rating of the five players in the finals was nearly 2725. 

  --->  Making this a "Super-20" or "Super 21" (or better!!) event by Sonas's standards.   


  Some of the more interesting facts about this event are:     

  •  -  Lasker  scored six wins and two draws in the finals ... a  3000+  PR (performance rating) by modern standards!! 

  •  -  This tournament produced ...   THE  FIVE  ORIGINAL  GRAND-MASTERS!!! 
    Capablanca, Lasker, Tarrasch, Alekhine, and Marshall.) 

  •  -  I have studied all of the games of this event. Nearly every contest ... is both memorable and great. 

  •  -  In terms of quality and the quantity of contestants, this event is easily one of the best and strongest tournaments prior to 1950. 
        Only  Hastings, 1895;  and  Nottingham, 1936;  compare favorably to this incredibly great and historic tournament. 

  Page last up-dated:  Tuesday; May 02nd, 2006.     Last edit/save on: 02/26/2015


  Copyright (c) LM A.J. Goldsby I 

  Copyright (c) A.J. Goldsby,  1985-2014. 

  Copyright A.J. Goldsby, 2015.  All rights reserved. 

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