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.
At 13, chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen became the youngest grandmaster. His rating of 2,872 was the highest ever in history. He also recorded the longest unbeaten run in chess. Named one of Cosmopolitan’s “sexiest men of 2013,”he has also modeled for G-Star Raw, owns a chess-app company, and loves football.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bulgarian chess Grandmaster Veselin Topalov is a former world number 1 and a FIDE World Chess Champion. Starting to play chess at age 8, he became a prodigy soon after. He has been part of 9 Chess Olympiads and also bagged the Chess Oscar in 2005.
Wilhelm Steinitz was an Austrian-born American chess player. He is recognized as the first World Chess Champion, having reigned from 1886 to 1894. A multi-talented personality, Wilhelm Steinitz was also an influential chess theoretician and writer. Steinitz is also remembered for having a huge impact on the game and was a well-known player during his time.
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.
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.
Hailed as the Chess Queen of Africa, Phiona Mutesi rose from the Kampala slums to represent Uganda at the Women's Chess Olympiads. Her rags-to-riches story inspired a book and the 2016 Disney movie Queen of Katwe. A school drop-out, she was introduced to chess by a Christian sports mission.
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.
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.
Russian super grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi is known for winning titles such as the 2020/21 Candidates Tournament. He has a good record against world champions such as Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, and Garry Kasparov. He is also a professional player of the online strategy game Dota and plays on chess.com as lachesisq.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Born in Iran, chess Grandmaster Alireza Firouzja initially represented his country but later began representing France. In 2021, he became the only teenager ranked among the world’s top 15 chess players. A 2-time Iranian champion, he has been a chess prodigy and had started training in chess at age 8.
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.
Elite Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin was 5 years of age when he began playing chess and a little over 12 when he made history by becoming the world’s youngest grandmaster. His skills have also earned him the nickname Minister of Defense. He is best known for his defenses against Magnus Carlsen.
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.
Chinese-born Canadian chess sensation Qiyu Zhou grew up in countries such as France and Finland and began learning chess at age 3. She won the Finnish U-10 championship at 5 and won the World Youth Chess Championship at 14. Known for her Twitch livestreams as akaNemsko, she is also Canada’s first woman grandmaster.
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.
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.
Anna Muzychuk is a Ukrainian chess player who became only the fourth woman in the history of chess to achieve a FIDE rating of 2600 or more. Muzychuk, who attained the Grandmaster title in 2012, is a three-time fast chess world champion.