Famous 20th Century Chess Players

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century Chess Players

 1 
Bobby Fischer
(Chess Grandmaster)

Bobby Fischer
11
Birthdate: March 9, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer began as a chess prodigy in his teens and went on to become the youngest "grandmaster," at 15. His participation in a politically controversial match in Yugoslavia led to the revocation of his U.S. passport and his arrest. He spent the final years of his life in Iceland.

 2 
Garry Kasparov
(Chess Player)

Garry Kasparov
10
Birthdate: April 13, 1963
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Baku, Azerbaijan

Garry Kasparov is a Russian chess player. A grandmaster, Kasparov is a former World Chess Champion who was ranked No. 1 for 255 months during his career that spanned 21 years. After his retirement, Garry Kasparov focused on writing and politics; he founded a social movement called the United Civil Front, which is part of an opposition coalition in Moscow.

 3 
Viswanathan Anand
(Chess Player)

Viswanathan Anand
5
Birthdate: December 11, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Madras, Tamil Nadu, India

Viswanathan Anand is an Indian chess player and former world champion. The first grandmaster from India, Anand is also one of the few chess players to have gone past an Elo rating of 2800, only the fourth player in history to do so. Renowned for his quick moves, Anand is widely regarded as the greatest rapid player of our time.

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 4 
Anatoly Karpov
(Chess player)

Anatoly Karpov
6
Birthdate: May 23, 1951
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Zlatoust, Russia

Russian chess grandmaster, Anatoly Karpov, was the official world champion from 1975 to 1985, before finally being defeated by Garry Kasparov. With over 160 first-place finishes, Karpov is widely considered one of the greatest players in history. Since his retirement, he has involved himself in several humanitarian causes. He has an extensive stamp collection.

 5 
Judit Polgár
(Chess player)

Judit Polgár
8
Birthdate: July 23, 1976
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Budapest, Hungary

 6 
Boris Spassky
(Chess Grandmaster)

Boris Spassky
6
Birthdate: January 30, 1937
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Boris Spassky is a Russian chess player who held the World Chess Championship title from 1969 to 1972. He was part of the famous World Chess Championship match in 1972 where he lost his championship title to Bobby Fischer of the United States. In Bobby Fischer's 2014 biopic Pawn Sacrifice, Boris Spassky is portrayed by American actor Isaac Liev Schreiber.

 7 
Mikhail Tal
(Chess Player)

Mikhail Tal
6
Birthdate: November 9, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Died: June 28, 1992

Mikhail Tal was a Soviet Latvian chess player. Widely regarded as one of the best attacking players and a creative genius, Tal was renowned for his unpredictability and improvisation. He was also known as the magician from Riga for his daring, combinatorial playing style. Since 2006, the Mikhail Tal Memorial has been annually held in Moscow to honor Tal's memory.

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 8 
Samuel Reshevsky
(Chess Player)

Samuel Reshevsky
6
Birthdate: November 26, 1911
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ozorków, Poland
Died: April 4, 1992

 9 
Alexander Alekhine
(Chess player)

Alexander Alekhine
8
Birthdate: October 31, 1892
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia
Died: March 24, 1946

Alexander Alekhine was a French and Russian chess player renowned for his imaginative and fierce attacking style. He also possessed great positional and endgame skill, which he used effectively to reign as the World Chess Champion from 1927 to 1935 and then from 1937 to 1946. Also a theoretician, Alexander Alekhine innovated several opening variations, including the Alekhine's Defence.

 10 
Tigran Petrosian
(Chess player, Writer)

Tigran Petrosian
3
Birthdate: June 17, 1929
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tbilisi, Georgia
Died: August 13, 1984

 11 
Mikhail Botvinnik
(Word Chess Champion Known for His Contribution to the Design of the World Chess Championship System)

Mikhail Botvinnik
4
Birthdate: August 17, 1911
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Repino, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: May 5, 1995

Soviet chess player Mikhail Botvinnik was a three-time World Champion. At 14, he defeated the reigning world champion José Raúl Capablanca in an exhibition match. He was also a skilled computer engineer. He adopted a scientific approach to chess and penned several books on chess, too.

 12 
Veselin Topalov
(Chess Player)

Veselin Topalov
3
Birthdate: March 15, 1975
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Ruse, Bulgaria

 13 
Levon Aronian
(Chess Player)

Levon Aronian
4
Birthdate: October 6, 1982
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Yerevan, Armenia

 14 
Emanuel Lasker
(Chess player)

Emanuel Lasker
4
Birthdate: December 24, 1868
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Barlinek, Poland
Died: January 11, 1941

 15 
Alexander Grischuk
(Chess Player)

Alexander Grischuk
3
Birthdate: October 31, 1983
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Moscow, Russia

Russian super grandmaster Alexander Grischuk is also a three-time World Blitz winner and one of two people to have earned multiple blitz world titles. He has also won four World Team Chess Championship gold medals, including an individual medal, and two Olympiad gold medals. He is married to grandmaster Kateryna Lagno.

 16 
Marcel Duchamp
(Artist Known for His Revolutionary Developments in the 'Plastic Arts' In the Early 20th Century)

Marcel Duchamp
3
Birthdate: July 28, 1887
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Blainville-Crevon, France
Died: October 2, 1968
French-American painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp is remembered for his association with movements such as Cubism and Dadaism. A significant figure in conceptual art, he was against art that was meant to just cater to the eyes. He was also a skilled chess player and carved his own chess set.

 17 
Vasily Smyslov
(Chess grandmaster)

Vasily Smyslov
3
Birthdate: March 24, 1921
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moscow, Soviet Union
Died: March 27, 2010

While he created a record with his 17 Chess Olympiad medals, Russian grandmaster Vasily Smyslov has also been a World Chess Champion. He had begun playing chess at age 6, inspired by his chess player father. Initially an opera singer, he stepped into professional chess after being rejected in an audition.

 18 
Joshua Waitzkin
(One of the Most Accomplished and Dominant Youth Chess Champions of All Time)

Joshua Waitzkin
6
Birthdate: December 4, 1976
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Apart from being an International Master in chess, Joshua Waitzkin has also won several medals in the martial art Taiji and is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. His life inspired the book Searching for Bobby Fischer and the movie of the same name. He has also penned two books.

 19 
Hou Yifan
(Chess player)

Hou Yifan
4
Birthdate: February 27, 1994
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Xinghua, China

Hou Yifan is a Chinese chess player who won two gold medals at the 2010 Asian Games. Hou, who achieved the grandmaster title in 2008, is the second-highest-rated female chess player ever. Hou is also the youngest ever player to win the Women's World Chess Championship title. She is also regarded as the greatest female chess player of her generation.

 20 
Boris Gelfand
(Chess player)

Boris Gelfand
3
Birthdate: June 24, 1968
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Minsk, Belarus

Legendary Soviet chess player Boris Gelfand is known for being part of the world’s top 20 players for most of his life. His accomplishments include two Belarusian national titles and a Chess World Cup. An author, too, he has co-written books such as Positional Decision Making in Chess.

 21 
Max Euwe
(Chess player, Mathematician)

Max Euwe
3
Birthdate: May 20, 1901
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died: November 26, 1981

Max Euwe scripted history when he became the first chess Grandmaster from the Netherlands. A PhD in math, he also taught both math and computer programming, apart from publishing a mathematical analysis of chess. A chess world champion, he also served as the president of FIDE.

 22 
Paul Keres
(Chess grandmaster)

Paul Keres
3
Birthdate: January 7, 1916
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Narva, Estonia
Died: June 5, 1975

 23 

José Raúl Capablanca
4
Birthdate: November 19, 1888
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Havana, Cuba
Died: March 8, 1942

 24 
Aron Nimzowitsch
(Chess player)

Aron Nimzowitsch
3
Birthdate: November 7, 1886
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia
Died: March 16, 1935

Latvian-born Aron Nimzowitsch escaped to Berlin and then to Copenhagen to avoid being drafted into the army during the Russian Revolution. He is best known for his cult classic book My System, which promotes the Hypermodern school of chess. In spite of repeated attempts, he failed to secure a world title.

 25 
Vladimir Kramnik
(Chess Player)

Vladimir Kramnik
4
Birthdate: June 25, 1975
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tuapse, Russia

Vladimir Kramnik is a Russian chess player who was honored with the prestigious Grandmaster title in 1992. From 2000 to 2006, Kramnik held the Classical World Chess Championship title. From 2006 to 2007, he held the undisputed World Chess Championship title. He has also won three individual medals and three team gold medals at Chess Olympiads.

 26 
Ding Liren
(Chess player)

Ding Liren
3
Birthdate: October 24, 1992
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wenzhou, China

At 16, Ding Liren became the youngest Chinese Chess Champion. He was also the first player to reach the World Cup finals twice back-to-back. The Chinese chess grandmaster is also a law school graduate. He remains the highest-rated chess player from his country and has won the Chinese Championship thrice.

 27 
Viktor Korchnoi
(Chess Player)

Viktor Korchnoi
5
Birthdate: March 23, 1931
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Died: June 6, 2016

Viktor Korchnoi was a writer and chess grandmaster. He is widely regarded as one of the best players never to have achieved the World Chess Championship title. He played chess until old age and became the oldest player to be ranked in the top 100 players list when he won the World Senior Chess Championship in 2006 at age 75.

 28 
Bent Larsen
(Chess player)

Bent Larsen
3
Birthdate: March 4, 1935
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Thisted, Denmark
Died: September 9, 2010

 29 
Nona Gaprindashvili
(Chess player)

Nona Gaprindashvili
3
Birthdate: May 3, 1941
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Zugdidi, Georgia

 30 
László Polgár
(Chess player, Writer)

László Polgár
2
Birthdate: May 11, 1946
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Gyöngyös, Hungary

 31 
Lyudmila Rudenko
(Chess player)

Lyudmila Rudenko
4
Birthdate: July 27, 1904
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Lubny, Ukraine
Died: February 28, 1986

Ukrainian chess player Lyudmila Rudenko made history by becoming the second world women’s chess champion. Though she had begun playing chess as a child, she took it up seriously while on an economic planning meeting in Moscow. She also evacuated countless children during the Siege of Leningrad.

 32 
Siegbert Tarrasch
(Chess player)

Siegbert Tarrasch
3
Birthdate: March 5, 1862
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: February 17, 1934

 33 
Richard Farleigh
(Chancellor of London South Bank University since 2012)

Richard Farleigh
3
Birthdate: November 9, 1960
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Kyabram, Australia

Richard Farleigh is an Australian reality television personality and private investor. Apart from investing in major companies like Wolfson Microelectronics and Evolution Group, Farleigh is also credited with setting up an advisory firm called H2O Markets which he launched in 2010. A former chess player, Richard Farleigh has represented Bermuda and Monaco in the 31st and 34th Chess Olympiad respectively.

 34 
Yasser Seirawan
(Chess player)

Yasser Seirawan
3
Birthdate: March 24, 1960
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Damascus, Syria

 35 
Peter Svidler
(Chess player)

Peter Svidler
3
Birthdate: June 17, 1976
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia

Russian grandmaster Peter Svidler had started playing chess at age 6. Initially mentored by Andrey Lukin, he later grew up to win the Russian Chess Championship eight times. However, in spite of competing in three World Championship tournaments, he never won the world title. He now appears as a chess commentator.

 36 
Daniel Naroditsky
(Chess player, Non-fiction writer)

Daniel Naroditsky
2
Birthdate: November 9, 1995
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Mateo, California, United States

 37 
Ossip Bernstein
(Chess Player)

Ossip Bernstein
2
Birthdate: September 20, 1882
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Zhytomyr, Ukraine
Died: November 30, 1962

 38 
Alexandra Kosteniuk
(Chess Player)

Alexandra Kosteniuk
3
Birthdate: April 23, 1984
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Perm, Russia

Alexandra Kosteniuk earned the grandmaster title at 20, thus becoming the 10th woman to achieve the feat. She has won several contests, such as the Russian and European women’s championship. She has also appeared in a film and promotes chess through streams and as a chess ambassador.

 39 
Max Pomeranc
(Actor, Chess player)

Max Pomeranc
2
Birthdate: March 21, 1984
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

 40 
Demis Hassabis
(Engineer, Chess player)

Demis Hassabis
4
Birthdate: July 27, 1976
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: London

Demis Hassabis is a British neuroscientist, artificial intelligence (AI) researcher, entrepreneur, and video game designer. He is credited with co-founding DeepMind for which he is currently serving as the chief executive officer. Over the years, he has won several prestigious awards, such as the Mullard Award. In 2017, he was named among the 100 most influential people in Time 100.

 41 
Bruce Pandolfini
(Chess Player)

Bruce Pandolfini
2
Birthdate: September 17, 1947
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Lakewood, New Jersey, United States

 42 
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
(Businessperson, Politician, Journalist, Chess official, Chess player)

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
3
Birthdate: April 5, 1962
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Elista

Russian businessman Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, an ethnic Kalymk, has served as the President of Kalmykia, apart from presiding over the chess governing body FIDE. He also established the publishing house Novy Vzglyad. He once stated that he was briefly abducted by aliens in a spaceship and then returned back to Earth.

 43 
Miyoko Watai
(Chess player and widow of former world chess champion Bobby Fischer)

Miyoko Watai
3
Birthdate: January 8, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Tokyo, Japan

 44 
Arpad Elo
(Chess player)

Arpad Elo
3
Birthdate: August 25, 1903
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Egyházaskesző, Hungary
Died: November 5, 1992

 45 
Maurice Ashley
(The First African-American to Earn a 'Grandmaster' Title)

Maurice Ashley
4
Birthdate: March 6, 1966
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saint Andrew, Jamaica

Maurice Ashley is a Jamaican-American author, chess player, and commentator. In 1999, Ashley became the first black person to achieve the prestigious Grandmaster title after defeating Adrian Negulescu. In 2016, Maurice Ashley was made an inductee of the US Chess Hall of Fame.

 46 
Alexei Shirov
(Chess player)

Alexei Shirov
3
Birthdate: July 4, 1972
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Riga, Latvia

 47 
Pia Cramling
(Chess player)

Pia Cramling
3
Birthdate: April 23, 1963
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden

 48 
Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
(Chess player, Writer)

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
2
Birthdate: April 19, 1909
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cork, Ireland
Died: February 15, 1974

 49 
Noam Elkies
(Mathematician, Chess composer, University teacher, Chess player)

Noam Elkies
3
Birthdate: August 25, 1966
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City

 50 
Gata Kamsky
(Chess player)

Gata Kamsky
3
Birthdate: June 2, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Novokuznetsk, Russia