C H E S S W O R L D
January - February 1964
by Frank Brady
The 10 Greatest Players of all Time
Bobby Fischer picks whom he considers to be the
ten greatest players of all time
and then explains the method of his madness.
Bobby Fischer came up with the idea of making
a list of his choices for the 10 greatest chess players of all time
and presented it to Frank Brady, editor/owner of the shortly-lived
magazine, Chessworld. The magazine folded after 3 issues
because of financial trouble, but some of the content of those 3
issues are quoted even today. Before founding Chessworld,
Brady, later the author of Bobby Fischer: Chess Prodigy, was
the editor of Chess Life and financial manager of USCF.
Fischer wrote the article with the help of Neil Hickey, the spouse of
(Hickey), the long-time U. S. Women's Champion. Ironically, Fischer
had this to say about
Lisa Lane when it was related to him the she
considered Fischer "probably the greatest chess player alive":
"That statement is accurate, but Lisa Lane really wouldn't be in a
position to know. They're all weak, all women. They're stupid compared
to men. They shouldn't play chess, you know. They're like beginners.
They lose every single game against a man. There isn't a woman player
in the world I can't give knight-odds to and still beat."
~ read excerpts from the 1962 Harper's interview by Ralph Ginsberg
1. PAUL MORPHY
Perhaps the most accurate player who
ever lived, he would beat anybody today in a set-match. He had
complete sight of the board and seldom blundered even though he
moved quite rapidly. I've played over hundreds of his games and am
continually surprised and entertained by his ingenuity.
His games are completely modern, but very few of them show
brilliancies. He understood all the positional concepts we now
hold so dear.
3. WILHELM STEINITZ
always sought completely original lines and didn't mind getting
into cramped quarters if he thought that his position was
4. SIEGBERT TARRASCH
Razor-sharp, he always followed his own rules. In spite of
devotion to his own supposedly scientific method, his play was
often witty and bright.
5. MIKHAIL TCHIGORIN
The first great Russian player and one of the last of the Romantic
School. At times he would continue playing a bad line even after
it was refuted.
Never a hero of mine. His style worked for him, but it could
scarcely work for anybody else. His conceptions were gigantic,
full of outrageous and unprecedented ideas. It's hard to find
mistakes in his games, but in a sense his whole method was a
7. JOSE CAPABLANCA
had the totally undeserved reputation of being the greatest living
endgame player. His trick was to keep his openings simple and then
play with such brilliance that it was decided in the middle game
before reaching the ending -- even though his opponent didn't
always know it. His almost complete lack of book knowledge forced
him to push harder to squeeze the utmost out of every position.
8. BORIS SPASSKY
can blunder away a piece, and you are never sure whether it's a
blunder or a fantastically deep sacrifice. He sits at the board
with the same dead expression whether he's mating or being mated.
9. MIKHAIL TAL
Even after losing four games in a row to him I still consider his
play unsound. He is always on the lookout for some spectacular
sacrifice, that one shot, that dramatic breakthrough to give him
10. SAMUEL RESHEVSKY
From 1946 to 1956 probably the best in the world, though his
opening knowledge was less than any other leading player. Like a
machine calculating every variation, he found moves over the board
by a process of elimination and often got into fantastic time
What else Fischer had to say about ...
"A popularly held theory about Paul Morphy
is that if he returned to the chess world today and played our best
contemporary players, he would come out the loser. Nothing is
further from the truth. In a set match, Morphy would beat anybody
"Perhaps the most accurate player who ever
lived, he would beat anybody today in a set-match. He had complete
sight of the board and seldom blundered even though he moved quite
rapidly. I've played over hundreds of his games and am continually
surprised and entertained by his ingenuity"
"Paul Morphy was a great chessplayer, a
genius... Morphy, I think everyone agrees, was probably the greatest
genius of them all..."
Yugoslavia press conference, 1992
"He is the so-called father of the modern
school of chess; before him, the King was considered a weak piece
and players set out to attack the King directly. Steinitz claimed
that the King was well able to take care of itself, and ought not to
be attacked until one had some other positional advantage. He
understood more about the use of squares than Morphy and contributed
a great deal more to chess theory."
"Capablanca was possibly the greatest
player in the entire history of chess."
"Staunton was the most profound opening
analyst of all time. He was more theorist than player, but
nonetheless he was the strongest player of his day. Playing over his
games, I discover that they are completely modern; where Morphy and
Steinitz rejected the fianchetto, Staunton embraced it. In addition,
he understood all of the positional concepts which modern players
hold so dear, and thus - with Steinitz - must be considered the
first modern player."
"Alekhine is a player I've never really
understood; yet, strangely, if you've seen one Alekhine game you've
seen them all. He always wanted a superior center; he maneuvered his
pieces towards the King's-side, and around the twenty-fifth move
began to mate his opponent"
"Never a hero of mine. His style worked for
him, but it could scarcely work for anybody else. His conceptions
were gigantic, full of outrageous and unprecedented ideas. It's hard
to find mistakes in his games, but in a sense his whole method was a