Best chess players
by Bill Wall
Who are the best chess players in the world? There have been about 100 chess players in the world that have been rated 2700 or greater and 9 of them have been rated over 2800 (only 4 players are rated over 2800 as of July 2015).
In 1950, the first FIDE Grandmaster list included these 27 players: Bernstein, Boleslavsky, Bondarevsky, Botvinnik, Bronstein, Duras, Euwe, Fine, Flohr, Gruenfeld, Keres, Kostic, Kotov, Levenfish, Lilienthal, Matoczy, Mieses, Najdorf, Ragozin, Reshevsky, Rubinstein, Saemisch, Smyslov, Stahlberg, Szabo, Tartakower, and Vidmar.
Before there was an official FIDE rating list, the unofficial rating list by Arpad Elo showed that the top chess players in the world with the highest ratings were: Jose Capablanca (2725), Emanuel Lasker (2720), Mikhail Botvinnik (2720), Mikhail Tal (2700), Alexander Alekhine (2690), Paul Morphy (2690), and Vasily Smyslov (2690).
In 1969, Arpad Elo listed the first unofficial rating list. The top players on his list were: Fischer, Spassky, Korchnoi, Botvinnik, Petrosian, Larsen, Smyslov, Portisch, Geller, Polugaevaky, Stein, Keres, and Tal.
FIDE published it first official chess rating list in 1970. The top five players were Bobby Fischer (2720), Boris Spassky (2670), Viktor Korchnoi (2670), Efim Geller (2660), and Paul Keres (2650).
In 1971, the top three players were still Fischer (2760), Spassky (2690), and Korchnoi (2670). Bent Larsen also tied with Korchnoi (2670), followed by Petrosian (2640).
In 1972, Fischer topped the ratings (2785), followed by Spassky (2660), Petrosian (2645), Polugaevsky (2645), and Korchnoi (2640).
In 1973, Fischer remained in top with a 2780 rating (he lost 5 rating points after the Fischer-Spassky world championship match). Karpov and Tal were the 2nd and 3rd ranked with 2660, followed by Spassky at 2655 and Portisch at 2650.
In 1974, Fischer was inactive (and would remain inactive until 1992, but not for a FIDE rating). The top player was Karpov (2700), followed by Korchnoi (2670), Spassky (2650), and Portisch (2645).
In 1975, Karpov was rated 2705, followed by Korchni at 2655, Petrosian and Polugaevasky at 2645.
In 1976, after Karpov played Korchnoi, Karpov’s rating was 2695, followed by Korchnoi at 2670. Petrosian and Polugaevsky were rated at 2635, followed by Spassky at 2630.
In 1977, Karpov was rated 2690. Korchnoi and Petrosian were rated at 2645. Mecking came next at 2635, followed by Portisch at 2625.
In 1978, Karpov was rated 2725, followed by Korchnoi at 2665. Mecking, Potisch, and Spassky were rated 2630.
In 1979, after the world championship match between Karpov and Korchnoi, Karpov was rated 2705. Korchnoi was rated at 2695. Spassky and Poritsch were rated 2640, followed by Polugaevsky at 2625.
In 1980, Karpov was rated 2725. Tal came 2nd with 2705, followed by Korchnoi at 2695. Portisch was rated 655. Polugaevasky was rated 2635.
In 1981, Karpov was rated 2690. Korchnoi and Portisch were reated 2650. Huebner and Spassky were rated 2635.
In January 1982, Karpov was rated 2700, followed by Jan Timman at 2655. Korchnoi was rated 2645. Kasparov was 4th with 2640, followed by Portisch at 2630. By July 1982, Kasparov was 2nd with 2675, followed by Korchnoi at 2635, Huebner at 2630, and Portisch at 2625.
In 1983, Karpov was rated 2710, followed by Kasparov at 2690. Ljubojevic was rated 2645, followed by Ulf Andersson at 2640 and Huebner at 2625.
In 1984, Kasparov led the list with a 2710 rating, followed by Karpov at 2700. Korcnoi and Ljubojevic were rated 2635, followed by Andersson at 2630.
In January 1985, Kasparov was rated 2715, followed by Karpov at 2705. Timman was rated 2650, followed by Vaganian at 2640 and Belieavsky at 2635. By July 1985, Karpov moved up with a 2720 rating, followed by Kaspaorv at 2700, Beliavsky and Timman were at 2640, followed by Korchnoi at 2630.
In 1986, Kasparov was rated 2740, followed by Karpov at 2705. Yusupov was 3rd with 2660, followed by Korchnoi at 2650, Timman at 2645, and Huebner at 2620.
In 1987, Kasparov topped the list with 2740. Karpov was rated at 2710. Yusopov and Sokolov were rated 2645, followed by Korchnoi at 2630.
In 1988, Kasparov was at 2760 and Karpov was at 2725. Timman was rated 2675. Short and Beliavsky were at 2665. Korchnoi was rated 2640.
In 1989, Kasparov was rated 2775, followed by Karpov at 2755. Ivanchuk and Short were rated 2660, followed by Korchnoi at 2655.
In 1990, Kasparov was at 2800, followed by Karpov at 2730. Gelfand and Ivanchuk were rated 2680, followed by Timman at 2660.
In 1991, Kasparov was rated 2800 at the beginning of the year. Ivanchuk was rated 2735, followed by Karpov at 2730. Bareev was rated 2680, followed by Salov at 2665.
In 1992, Kasparov was rated 2790. Karpov was rated at 2725. Ivanchuk was rated at 2720. Shirov was rated 2710, followed by Anand at 2690.
In 1993, Kasparov was rated 2815, followed by Karpov at 2760. Anand moved up to 2725, followed by Ivanchuk and Kramnik at 2710. Gelfand was rated 2690.
In 1994, Kasparov remained at 2815, followed by Karpov at 2780. Shirov was rated at 2740, followed by Kramnik at 2725 and Anand at 2720. Ivanchuk was at 2710.
In 1995, Kasparov was rated at 2805 at the beginning of the year. Karpov was at 2775. Ivanchuk was at 2740, followed by Kamsky at 2735 and Kramnik at 2730.
In January 1996, Kasparov and Kramnik were both rated 2775, followed by Karpov at 2770. Ivanchuk and Kamsky were rated 2735. By July 1996, Kasparov moved up to 2785, followed by Karpov at 2775, Kramnik at 2765, Topalov at 2750, and Kamsky at 2745.
In 1997, Kasparov was at 2820. Kramnik was next at 2770, followed by Anand at 2765, Karpov at 2760, Topalov at 2745, and Ivanchuk at 2740.
In 1998, Kasparov was at 2825. Anand was at 2795, followed by Kramnik at 2790. Ivanchuk and Topalov were rated at 2740, followed by Karpov at 2725.
In 1999, Kasparov’s rating went up to 2851 (the highest ever). Anand was 2781, followed by Kramnik at 2760. Shirov and Morozevich were rated 2726.
In 2000 the FIDE ratings came out three times a year. Kasparov was rated 2851 in January 2000, followed by Anand at 2774 and Kramnik at 2770. Morozevich was rated 2756, followed by Adams at 2755 and Shirov at 2751. Leko was rated 2748.
In 2001, the FIDE ratings came out 4 times a year. Kasparov’s highest rating during that year was 2849. Kramnik maxed out at 2809. Anand was rated 2794. Adams was at 2750. Morozevich was rated at 2749. Leko was rated 2745.
In 2002, Kasparov was 2838 throughout the year. Kramnik peaked at 2809. Anand was 2757, followed by Adams at 2752. Topalov’s rating was 2745. Morozevich was at 2742.
In 2003, Kasparov was rated 2847 at the beginning of the year. Kramnik was rated 2807, followed by Anand at 2774 and Leko at 2746. Adams was at 2745. Topalov was at 2743. Bareev was at 2739 and Shirov was at 2737.
In 2004, Kasparov topped the list at 2831. Anand was 2nd at 2782. Kramnik was 2777, followed by Morozevich at 2758. Topalov’s rating was 2757. Svidler was rated 2747, followed by Leko at 2741 and Shirov at 2736.
In 2005, Kasparov was at 2812, followed by Anand and Topalov at 2788. Leko was rated 2763, Kramnik at 2754, and Ivanchuk at 2752.
In 2006, Kasparov was no longer active, having retired. Kasparov was ranked #1 in the world 54 times, or 255 months. Topalov was rated the highest at 2813. Anand was 2803, followed by Svidler at 2675. Aronian was rated 2756. Leko was at 2751. Ivanchuk was rated 2748. Morozevich’s rating was 2747. Kramnik’s rating was 2743.
In 2007, Anand’s rating was 2801, followed by Ivanchuk at 2787. Topalov was rated at 2783. Kramnik was rated at 2785. Morozevich was at 2762, then Aronian at 2759, then Leko at 2755, and Mamedyarov at 2754.
In 2008, Anand’s rating was 2803, followed by Kramnik at 2799. Topalov was rated 2791. Morozevich was rated at 2788 and Ivanchuk and Magnus Carlsen were rated at 2786. Anand fell to 2783. Svidler was rated at 2763.
In 2009, Topalov topped the list with 2813. Carlsen was at 2801. Anand was rated at 2791. Aronnian was rated 2786. Ivanchuk was rated 2779. Kramnik was rated 2772. Morozevich was rated at 2771. Yakovenko was rated 2760, followed by Radjabov at 2756.
In 2010, Carlsen was number 1 ranked at 2826, followed by Topalov at 2805. Anand was at 2800. Kramnik was at 2790. Aronian was rated 2783.
In 2011, Anand was 2817. Carlsen was 2815. Aronian was rated at 2808. Kramnik was 2785. Ivanchuk was 2779. Karjakin was rated 2776.
In November 2012, the highest rated player was Magnus Carlsen at 2848. For 2012, Aronian was rated at 2821, Kramnik at 2795, Radjabov at 2793, Caruana and Nakamura at 2786, Anand and Karjakin at 2780.
In January 2013, the top 10 players were Carlsen at 2861, Kramnik at 2810, Aronian at 2802, Radjabov at2793, Carauna at 2781, Karjakin at 2780, Anand at 2772, Topalov at 2771, Nakamura at 2769, and Mamedyarov at 2766.
In January 2014, the top 10 players were Carlsen at 2872, Aronian at 2812, Nakamura at 2789, Kramnik at 2787, Topalov at 2785, Caruana at 2782, Grischuk at 2777, Gelfand at 2777, Anand at 2773, and Karjakin at 2759.
If we look at the top rated players that have ever been rated with an Elo rating, then the top players are: Magnus Carlsen (2882), Garry Kasparov (2851), Fabiano Caruana (2844), Levon Aronian (2830), Vishy Anand (2817), Veselin Topalov (2816), Hikaru Nakamura (2814), Vladimir Kramnik (2811), Alexander Grischuk (2810), Anish Giri (2797), Teimour Radjabov (2793), Alexander Morozevich (2788), Sergey Karjakin (2788), Wesley So (2788), Vassily Ivanchuk (2787), Bobby Fischer (2785),Anatoly Karpov (2780), and Boris Gelfand (2777).
In 2000, the average rating of the top 10 players was 2751. In 2015, the average top 10 players was 2795, a 44-point increase in the last 14 years. In 2000, the average rating of the top 100 players was 2644. In 2015m the average top 100 players was 2705, a 61-point increase. The difference is most likely due to rating inflation.
In 1978, Arpad Elo listed the top players ever as: Capablanca, Botvinnik, Lasker, Tal, Alekhine, Morphy, Smyslov, Petrosian, Reshevsky, Spassky, Bronstein, Keres, Korchnoi, Fine, Geller, Boleslavsky, Euwe, Steinitz, Rubinstein, Najdorf, Pillsbury, Portisch, Timman, Flohr, Gligoric, Kholmov, Kotov, Larsen, Maroczy, Stein, Averbakh, Nimzovich, Andersson, Bogoljubov, Furman, Ljubojevic, Szabo, Tarrasch, Mecking, Polugaevsky, Anderssen, Chigorin, Schlechter, Taimanov, Vidmar, von der Lasa, Zukertort
In 1989, mathematician Dr. Nathan Divinsky and grandmaster Raymond Keene, in their book Warriors of the Mind, attempted to establish a rating system comparing the strength of players active in different eras to determine the strongest player of all time. Their top 10 list included: Kasparov (3096), Karpov (2876), Fischer (2690), Botvinnik (2616), Capablanca (2552), Lasker (2550), Korchnoi (2535), Spassky (2480), Smyslov (2413), and Petrosian (2363).
In 1994, the Professional Chess Association (PCA) listed the current 50 best players as: Kasparov, Karpov, Kamsky, Anand, Ivanchuk, Salov, Piket, Shirov, Kramnik, Gelfand, Yusupov, Lautier, Sokolov, Ehlvest, J Polgar, Timman, Short, Akopian, Vaganian, Korchnoi, Adams, Bareev, Tiviakov, Nikolic, Huebner, Georgiev, Dreev, Topalov, Hodgson, Epishin, Kaidanov, Beliavsky, Gulko, Nunn, Hansen, Speelman, Dolmatov, Dautov, Malaniuk, Azmaiparashvili, Vladimirov, Nenashev, Illescas, Magerramov, Khalifman, Romanishin, Gurevich, Oll, Fischer, Andersson
In 2002, the Professional Chess Association (PCA) listed the current 50 best players as: Kasparov, Kramnik, Topalov, Ponomariov, Anand, Bareev, Leko, Adams, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Grischuk, Khalifman, Shirov, Morozevich, Svidler, Azmaiparashvili, Malakhov, Zvjaginsev, J Polgar, Karpov, Bacrot, Dreev, Short, Lautier, Krasenkov, Smirin, Sutovsky, Van Wely, Sakaev, Ye Jiangchuan, Akopian, Sokolov, Nikolic, Vallejo Pons, Vaganian, Lputian, Radjabov, Rublevsky, Tkachiev, Graf-Nenashev, Goldin, Kasimdzhanov, Georgiev, Volkov, Lutz, Almasi, Macieja, Piket, Pigusov, Tiviakov
In 2004, another rating system, the Edo Historical Chess Ratings system, was created by Rod Edwards. This was an attempt to retroactively rate chess players over time. It uses an iterative method (Bradley-Terry). It top peak Edo ratings were: Steinitz (2803), Morphy (2796), Lasker (2752), Kolisch (2710), Tarrasch (2699), Zukertort (2678), von der Lasa (2676), Anderssen (2673), Neumann (2671), and Maroczy (2665). According to Edwards, historically, the top 19th century chess players were Morphy (2802), Steinitz (2798), Lasker (2753), Kolisch (2709), Tarrasch (2685), Paulsen (2677), Neumann (2676), Zukertort (2675), von der Lasa (2659), and Pillsbury. By 1914, the top 10 players were: Lasker (2750), Capablanca (2736), Alekhine (2653), Rubinstein (2610), Marshall (2606), Nimzowitsch (2589), Teichmann (2582), Vidmar (2579), Tarrasch (2574), and Bernstein (2571). The top 50 list from 1809 to 1902 included:: Morphy, Steinitz, Em Lasker, Kolisch, Tarrasch, Paulsen, Neumann, Zukertort, vond der Lasa, Pillsbury, Anderssen, Chigorin, Winawer, Suhle, Staunton, Blackburne, Maroczy, Dubois, Bauer, de Vere, Makovetz, Lipshutz, Gunsberg, Weiss, Janowski, Mackenzie, Schlecther, Mason, Harrwitz, Charousek, von Bardeleben, de Labourdonnais, Buckle, Burn, Englisch, Rosenthal, Petrov, B Lasker, Potter, Moehle, Atkins, Goetz, Lipke, Schwarz, Alapin, Bird, Riemann, Hirschfeld, Lange (source: http://www.edochess.ca/)
Statistician Jeff Sonas developed a rating system called “Chessmetrics,” which was updated until 2005. He claims that it takes into account rating inflation, as well as frequency of play. His top 1-year peak list is: Fischer (2881), Kasparov (2879), Botvinnik (2871), Capablanca (2866), Lasker (2863), and Alekhine (2851). For a 10-year peak, his list is the following: Kasparov (2863), Lasker (2847), Karpov (2821), Capablanca (2813), Fischer (2810), and Botvinnik (2810). For a 20-year peak, the top players were: Kasparov (2856), Karpov (2818), Lasker (2809), Alekhine (2781), Korchnoi (2766), Smyslov (2759), Keres (2755), Petrosian (2754), Botvinnik (2748), and Spassky (2747). If we did it by age, such as peak rating at age 30, the list would be: Kasparov (2884), Fischer (2858), Lasker (2829), Karpov (2816), and Anand (2814). In 2005, his ranking of the highest rated players in the world were: Fischer (2895), Kasparov (2886), Botvinnik (2885), Lasker (2878), Capablanca (2877), Alekhine (2860), Karpov (2848), Anand (2833), Kramnik (2826), and Steinitz (2826). The top 50 list of all time included: Kasparov, Lasker, Capablanca, Botvinnik, Fischer, Karpov, Alekhine, Anand, Kramnik, Pillsbury, Ivanchuk, Korchnoi, Steinitz, Smyslov, Tarrasch, Maroczy, Petrosian, Rubinstein, Tal, Reshevsky, Keres, Najdorf, Nimzovich, Spassky, Zukertort, Bronstein, Chigorin, Marshall, Kamsky, Leko, Gelfand, Salov, Bogoljubow, Beliavsky, Shirov, Geller, Timman, Adams, Fine, Janowsky, Polugaevsky, Topalov, Schlechter, Portisch, Stein, Euwe, Flohr, Morozevich, Larsen, Bareev (source: http://www.chessmetrics.com/cm/)
In 2007, Majej Guid and Ivan Bratko used a computer-based method of analyzing chess abilities. They used Rybka 2 and compared the average number of errors in the player’s game. The best player ever with the least number of errors was Bobby Fischer. The other players, in order of least errors, were: Kramnik, Kasparov, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Karpov, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Euwe, Spassky, Alekhine, Anand, Lasker, Morphy, and Steinitz. Another criterion was the average difference between moves played and best evaluated moves by computer analysis. The world champions with the least number of errors were, in order: Capablanca, Kramnik, Karpov, Kasparov, Spassky, Petrosian, Lasker, Fischer, Alekhine, Smyslov, Tal, Botvinnik, Euwe, and Steinitz. (source: http://en.chessbase.com/news/2006/world_champions2006.pdf)
Another computer study in 2009 by Julian Alejandro of Argentina, using Rybka 3 and using 3 minutes per moves, came up with a list of fewest errors in their chess games. The man with the fewest errors, according to the computer analysis was Bobby Fischer, followed by Kramnik, Svidler, Topalov, Karjakin, Tal, Anand, Kasparov, Morphy, Leko, Shirov, Ivanchuk, Lasker, Euwe, Beliavsky, Khalifman, Matulovic, Uhlmann, Pillsbury, Karpov, Alekhine, Ponomariov, Aronian, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Capablanca, Ivkov, Kasimdzhanov, Spassky, Geller, Petrosian, Rubinstein, Kolisch, Steinitz, Korchnoi, Eichborn, Stean, Zukertort, Anderssen, Greco, La Bourdonnais, Staunton, and Philidor. (source: http://www.chess.com/forum/view/chess-players/greatest-player-according-rybka-3-3-min-quad)
Another study, using Rybka 3, looked at the average expected error by thinking time. The players with the least number of errors, in order, were: Deep Blue, Kramnik, Karpov, Fischer, Capablanca, Fine, Anand, Kasparov, Korchnoi, Smyslov, Botvinnik, Spassky, Petrosian, Keres, Nimzowitsch, Alekhine, Tal, Marshall, Tarrasch, Rubinstein, and Maroczy. (source: http://www.scribd.com/doc/132380754/Chess-Player-Analysis-by-Rybka-3-14ply)
Charles Sullivan at TrueChess.com compared chess champions based on best year. His ranking was: Fischer, Anand, Smyslov, Kramnik, Spassky, Botvinnik, Euwe, Capablanca, Petrosian, Kasparov, Karpov, Tal, Alekhine, Lasker, Morphy, and Steinitz. The ranking based on the best 10-year period is: Fischer, Capablanca, Kasparov, Kramnik, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Karpov, Lasker, Spassky, Petrosian, Alekhine, Anand, Tal, Ewue, and Steinitz.
Stefan Fischl was done some chess statistics and listed the top Elo performance from 2000 to 2008 as Kasparov (2812), Anand (2780), Kramnik (2773), Topalov (2770), Leko (2742), Ivanchuk (2737), Morozevich (2737), and Svidler (2726). His top players for the last 12 months (09/2007 to 08/2008) include Anand (2808), Morozevich (2786), Carlsen (2785), Topalov (2783), Kramnik (2774), and Ivanchuk (2764). Stefan Fischl’s historic players’ statistics for 1851 to 1890 include Steinitz, Anderssen, Morphy, Mackenzie, Winawer, Zukertort, Paulsen, Englisch, Blackburne, and E. Williams as the top players. (source: http://members.aon.at/sfischl/stat.html)
Roman Krumsieck's top 50 list included: Eichborn, Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik, Ivanchuk, Karpov, Topalov, Svidler, Ponomariov, Leko, Shirov, Morozevich, Aronian, Grischuk, Adams, Kamsky, Milov, Bareev, Gelfand, Fischer, Radjabov, J Polgar, Salov, Bacrot, Kasimdzhanov, Mamedyarov, Short, Akopian, Sasikiran, Dreev, Smirin, M Gurevich, Malakhov, Van Wely, Sokolov, Khalifman, Azmaiparashvili, Georgiev, Rublevsky, Korchnoi, Nikolic, McShane, Piket, Yusupov, Beliavsky, Lautier, Nisipeanu, Nakamura, Naiditsch, and Timman.
My own list of best players (Bill Wall – 2015) would be, in order: Fischer, Carlsen, Kasparov, Anand, Alekhine, Kramnik, Steinitz, Lasker, Tal, Capablanca, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Petrosian, Spassky, Karpov, Euwe, Morphy, Keres, Tarrasch, Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch, Fine, and Maroczy.
The first United States Chess Federation (USCF) National Rating List was published in Chess Life magazine on November 20, 1950. The first list had nine classifications and rated 2,306 players. The first list had Reuben Fine rated as an active Grandmaster with a rating of 2817. Sam Reshevsky was rated as an inactive Grandmaster with a rating of 2770. Players listed as inactive had not competed in any rated tournaments since January 1, 1947. The active Senior Masters were A. Kevitz (2610), Arthur Dake (2598), Arnold Denker (2575), Isaac Kashdan (2574), and I.A. Horowitz (2558). The inactive Senior Masters included A. Simonson (2596), Fred Reinfeld (2593), A. Kupchik (2538), D. Polland (2521), and G. Treysman (2521). There were 26 active masters. Those over 2400 included larry Evans (2484), Herb Seidman (2451), Max Pavey (2442), G. Shainswit (2442), Albert Pinkus (2422). They were followed by Arthur Bisguier (2394), George Kramer (2394), Herman Steiner (2394), Donald Byrne (2392), and Weaver Adams (2383). There were 10 inactive masters.
A USCF rating list was published in December, 1962. The top players included Fischer (2687), Benko (2608), Reshevsky (2597), Evans (2568), Lombardy (2565), Robert Byrne (2529), Bisguier (2503), Donald Byrne (2503), Rossolimo (2485), and Steinmeyer (2463).
In 1964, Bobby Fischer listed the top 10 chess players in the world (excluding himself) as follows: Morphy, Staunton, Steinitz, Tarrasch, Chigorin, Alekhine, Capablanca, Spassky, Tal, and Reshevsky. In 1970, he revised as list to as follows: Morphy, Steinitz, Capablanca, Botvinnik, Petrosian, Tal, Spassky, Reshevsky, Gligoric, and Larsen.
In 1976, chess author Irving Chernev listed the world’s greatest chess players as follows: Capablanca, Alekhine, Lasker, Fischer, Botvinnik, Petrosian, Tal, Smyslov, Spassky, Bronstein, Rubinstein, and Nimzowitsch.
In 1978, Arpad Elo listed his top players over the best five-year span of their career. The top players were Capablanca (2725), Botvinnik and Lasker (2720), Tal (2700), and Alekhine, Morphy, and Smyslov (2690).
In 2000, Anand listed his to 10 as follows: Fischer, Morphy, Lasker, Capablanca, Steinitz, Tal, Korchnoi, Keres, Karpov, and Kasparov.
In 2001, Chess Informant readers listed the best chess players ever as follows: Fischer, Kasparov, Alekhine, Capablanca, Botvinnik, Karpov, Tal, Lasker, Anand, and Korchnoi.
In 2004, listed the greatest opening players of all time. There were: Fischer, Rubinstein, Steinitz, and Kasparov. The greatest middle0game players of all time were: Alekhine, Botvinnik, Fischer, and Kasparov. The best attacking players of all time were: Kasparov, Tal, Fischer, Alekhine, Morphy, Anderssen, Nezhmeddinov, and Spassky. (source: http://www.ajschess.com/lifemasteraj/gp_10-best1.html)
In 2007, the top 50 chess players in the world were: Anand, Topalov, Kramnik, Ivnchuk, Morozevich, Mamedyarov, Leko, Aronian, Radjabov, Jakovenko, Shirov, Svidler, Gelfand, Grischuk, Adams, Kamsky, Carlsen, Akopian, J Polgar, Ponomariov, Eljanov, Wang, Bacrot, Alekseev, Bu, Nisipeanu, Kasimdzhanov, Short, Almasi, Volokitin, Ni, Dominguez-Peres, Rublevsky, Van Wely, Karjakin, Malakhov, Sasikiran, Milov, Miroshnichenko, Landa, Movsesian, Sargissian, Vallejo Pons, Sokolov, Harikrishna, Georgiev, Inarkiev, Krasenkow, Socko, Volkov.
In 2009, listverse listed its 10 chess players in history. They were, in order: Kasparov, Karpov, Lasker, Steinitz, Capablanca, Fischer, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Morphy, and Deep Blue. (source: http://listverse.com/2009/09/06/top-10-greatest-chess-players-in-history/)
Dr. David N. Snyder listed the top 10 players of all time as follows: Capablanca, Lasker, Judit Polgar, Fischer, Anand, Kasparov, Ruy Lopez, Sa’id bin Jubair, Morphy, and Steinitz. (source: http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Top_10_Chess_players_of_all_time)
Enkivillage lists its 10 best chess players of all time as: Lasker, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Karpov, Kasparov, Capablanca, Fischer, Steinitz, Morphy, and Petrosian (source: http://www.enkivillage.com/best-chess-players.html)
Elist lists its top 10 best chess players in history as follows: Kasparov, Karpov, Lasker, Capablanca, Fischer, Steinitz, Alekhine, Morphy, Botvinnik, and Anand. (source: http://www.elist10.com/top-10-best-chess-players-history/)
Roman Krumsieck gave a list of players and their highest rating in each player’s career. The top players are: Kasparov (2833), Anand (2827), Kramnik (2789), Topalov (2788), Shirov (2760), Ivanchuk (2759), Ponomariov (2759), Fischer (2755), Karpov (2755), Aronian (2753), Adams (2750), Leko (2750), Morozevich (2746), Svidler (2743), Gelfand (2731). (source: http://roman.krumsieck.com/bestever.htm)
Andy Soltis, in his book The Book of Chess Lists, listed the best endgame players of all time. This included: Rubinstein, Capablanca, Smyslov, Fischer, Maroczy, Reshevsky, Lasker, Reti, Fine, Averbakh, Petrosian, and Benko.
In 2011, the top players were: Magnus Carlsen (2834.8), Aronian (2808.8), Kramnik (2800.6), Anand (2798.6), Radjabov (2773.2), Topalov (2769.7), Karjakin (2768.7), Ivanchuk (2765.6), Morozevich (2762.9), and Grischuk (2760.9).
As of July 2015, the top 10 players in the world in standard play are: Carlsen (2853), Anand (2816), Topalov (2816), Nakamura (2814), Caruana (2797), Giri (2791), Kramnik (2783), So (2780), Grischuk (2771), and Aronian (2765).
As of July 2015, the top US players are: Nakamura (2883), Caruana (2876), So (2840), Robson (2777), Kamksy (2755), Onischuk (2742), Shankland (2739), Lenderman (2731), Zherebukh (2724), Akobian (2716), and Naroditsky (2708).
The top chess computers are: Stockfish (3168), Komodo (3151), Houdini (3145), Vitruvius (3098), Bouquet (3077), and Rybka (3072).
If we look at the total reign of world champions in years, the list is as follows: Lasker (27), Alekhine (17), Karpov (16), Kasparov (15), Botvinnik (13), Anand (8), Steinitz (8), Kramnik (7), Petrosian (6), Capablanca (6), Fischer (3), Spassky (3), Carlsen (2), Euwe (2), Ponomariov (2), Smyslov (1), Tal (1), Khalifman (1), Kasimdzhanov (1), Topalov (1).
According to Edward Simia, the top players to never have been world champion would be: Korchnoi, Keres, Bronstein, Tarrasch, Reshevsky, Chigorin, Pillsbury, Maroczy, Rubinstein, and Najdorf. (source: http://chess.about.com/od/famouschessplayers/tp/Top-Ten-Chess-Players-Who-Never-Won-A-World-Championship.htm)
Over the years, Kasparov has been ranked #1 in the world on the official FIDE rating list 23 times. He was the world chess champion at age 22. He was world chess champion for 15 years. He was the highest rated player in the world almost continuously for 21 years, from 1984 until his retirement in 2005. He held the all time record rating of 2851 for over 10 years until Magnus Carlsen broke his record in 2014. He placed first or equal first in 15 tournaments from 1981 to 1990. He won the Chess Oscar, given to the best player in a year, a record 11 times.
For many, Bobby Fischer is considered the greatest chess player of all time. He won the US championship ever time he played, a record 8 times, winning each by at least a point. In 1956, he won the US Junior championship, scoring 8.5 out of 10, to become the youngest-ever Junior Champion at age 13. He was a grandmaster at the age of 15. He was the youngest Candidate for the World Championship at 15, a record that is yet to be broken and is probably never going to be broken. At the age of 20, he won the 1963-64 US championship with a perfect 11-0 score, the only perfect score in the history of the tournament. He won by a margin of 2.5 points to the 2nd place finisher. In US championship play, he won 61 games, drew 26, and lost 3. He won the 1970 Interzonal by a record 3.5-point margin. He won 20 consecutive games, including a 6-0 sweep of candidate Mark Taimanov (#5 in the world) and 6-0 sweep of candidate Bent Larsen (#4 in the world). Fischer, as number one rated in the world, separated himself from #2 in the world by a larger rating margin than anyone in chess history. In 1972, his 2785 Elo rating was 125 points than the #2 player, world champions Boris Spassky, rated at 2660. Fischer was ranked 54 total months as number one in the world, and by that time, he had retired from chess.
For others, Magnus Carlsen is the best chess player who ever lived. He is the current world chess champion. In 2013, at the age of 22, he defeated Vishy Anand to become the world chess champion. He is currently the world chess champion in three categories: classical play, world rapid chess champion, and world blitz chess champion. He was a grandmaster at the age of 13. In 2006, at the age of 15, he attained a rating of 2625, which made Carlsen the youngest person to surpass 2600 Elo at the time. In 2007, at the age of 16, Carlsen attained a rating of 2710, which made hime the youngest person to surpass 2700 at the time. In 2008, at the age of 18, his rating was 2801, making him the youngest player ever to break 2800. The youngest before him was Kramnik at the age of 25. In 2009, he had a performance rating of 3002 in Nanjing, the highest ever. In 2010, at the age of 19, he became the youngest player in history to rank as world no. 1. In May 2014, Carlsen’s peak rating was 2882, the highest in history. He has won the Chess Oscar 5 times as best player of the year. In June, 2015, he suffered a setback when he took 7th-8th place at an international tournament in Norway.