The world chess championship is the most coveted title in the game of chess. It is the pinnacle and apex of the game of kings. Very few chess players throughout history have been able to call themselves world chess champions.
This is because achieving the title requires immense talent and skill. The history of the world chess championship is a very interesting one, there have been many celebrations and controversies since the world chess championship was introduced in 1886.
Although the qualification requirements and prizes have changed since then, the prestige and acclaim accorded to the winner of the world chess championship have remained monumental.
This article will focus on the world chess championship and all it entails.
Disputed World Chess Champions
Before the year 1886, the chess world had players who were regarded as the strongest players of the era, these players are regarded as unofficial world champions.
The unofficial world champions are:
Rodrigo “Ruy” Lopez de Segura
He was a Spanish priest who was one of the best chess players of the 16th century. He invented the very popular Ruy Lopez Opening.
Giovanni Leonardo di Bona
Di Bona was a lawyer from Naples, he was also one of the top chess players in the 16th century.
Like Ruy Lopez, Paolo Boi was also a strong player during the 16th century.
Salvio’s contributions to chess cannot be overemphasized, he was a very strong player during his time, and he also created the Salvio Gambit variation of the king’s gambit.
Any experienced chess player will be familiar with the Greco Mate, it was a mating pattern created by Gioachino Greco.
Legall de Kermuer
Legall de Kermuer was another excellent chess player of the old days. He created the famous Legal Mate trap.
Francois-Andre Danican Philidor
Philidor’s contributions to chess are still in use to this day, he was a student of Legall de Kermuer. He also created the Philidor opening for black, which is still popular to this day.
Descapelles was a soldier who became a world champion. Despite losing his hand in the war, he was still a very skilled chess player.
Louis-Charles Mahe de La Bourdonnais
La Bourdonnais’ became a world champion after turning to chess as he lost a lot of money from bad investments. He went on to become a world champion.
Howard Staunton was one of the strongest players of this era. Most of the pieces used in chess today are based on his design.
Adolf Anderssen was a mathematician who was a very skilled chess player. He has an opening named after him called the Anderssen opening that begins with 1.a3.
Morphy is widely regarded as one of the best chess players to ever exist. He introduced the principle of rapid development as a way to gain an edge over opponents.
Before he became the first official world champion, Steinitz was also an unofficial world champion
Zukertort was the last unofficial world champion.
Undisputed World Chess Champions
The Undisputed world chess champions were the winners of the world chess championship title after 1886. They include:
Steinitz was the first official world chess champion; he defeated Johannes Zukertort in 1886 to win the title.
Lasker was the longest-reigning champion in chess history. He won the title from Steinitz and held it till 1921. The prize money then was 400 British pounds a side.
Jose Raul Capablanca
Capablanca was a Cuban chess prodigy and one of the best endgame players ever. He defeated Lasker in 1921 to win the title. The prize fund was 25,000 dollars.
Alekhine is the only world champion to die while holding the title. He won it in an upset over Capablanca in 1927, the prize fund of the match was 10,000 dollars.
To date, Max Euwe is the only Dutch player to have won the world chess championship. He won it in 1935 by defeating Alekhine, with the prize fund being 10,000 dollars, although Alekhine would later win it back.
Botvinnik was the first great Soviet player and also a world chess champion. He won the title in 1948 and won a prize of 5000 dollars.
Smyslov was a very solid player who was extremely hard to beat, he won the title in 1957 by defeating Mikhail Botvinnik. Botvinnik would later defeat Smyslov to regain the title.
Tal is considered by many the greatest attacking player to have ever lived. He won the title in 1960 by defeating Mikhail Botvinnik, only to lose it in the next world chess championship match against Botvinnik.
Petrosian was known for his excellent defensive skills. He was the player who ended Botvinnik’s championship reign for good in 1963.
Boris Spassky was a brilliant chess prodigy who could play any position and win. He defeated Petrosian in 1969 and received 1400 dollars.
Bobby Fischer is one of the all-time chess greats. He won the world chess championship title in 1972 by defeating Boris Spassky. It was in this match that the prize money for chess games would significantly start to increase as the prize fund for the Fischer Spassky game was 250,000 dollars
Karpov is known to be one of the great positional players in chess history. He won the title without playing a match after Bobby Fischer forfeited it in 1975.
Garry Kasparov is the only player after Emmanuel Lasker to have 6 world chess championship wins. He won the title in 1985, and the prize fund was 75,000 rubles.
Vladimir Kramnik won the world chess championship title in 2000 by upsetting Kasparov. The prize fund was 2 million dollars.
Anand was the first Indian world chess champion, he won the title in the year 2007. His triumph prompted a chess growth in India which has seen the rise of some of the best prodigies in the world today.
Known as the Mozart of chess, Magnus Carlsen is regarded by many as the greatest chess player ever.
He won the title in 2013 from Anand (the prize fund of the match was 2.5 million dollars) and defended it against Anand in 2014, (the prize fund of the match was 1 million euros) Sergey Karjakin in 2016, (the prize fund was 1 million euros) Fabiano Caruana in 2018 (the prize fund was 1 million euros) and Ian Nepomniachtchi in 2021 (the prize fund in the match was 2 million euros)
Former And Modern Qualification Requirements
The requirement for challenging the world chess championship is winning a tournament known as the candidates’ tournament.
The candidates tournament is a chess tournament that is organized by the world chess governing body, FIDE, since the year 1950, to determine who will lay a challenge to the world chess championship.
The winner of the candidates tournament earns the right to compete for the world chess championship.
Former Qualification Requirements
The first Candidates tournament cycle began in 1948. The tournaments were organized in a round-robin format. This continued until 1965. From 1965 onwards, the candidates tournament was played as knockout matches that spread over several months
During its 1993 to 2006 split from FIDE, the Classical World Championship also held three Candidates Tournaments (in 1994–1995, 1998, and 2002) under a different sponsor and a different format each time.
Modern Qualification Requirements
After the reunification of titles in 2006, FIDE tried different Candidates formats in 2007, 2009, and 2011, before it finally settled on an 8-player, double round-robin Candidates tournament which continued from 2013 till date.
Over the years, the world chess championship has had many controversies. Controversies in a world chess championship are almost unavoidable due to the prize at stake for both parties participating in the world chess championship. We will now examine some of the world chess championship controversies that occurred throughout chess history.
Fischer Gives Up Title
Robert James Fischer popularly known as Bobby Fischer was the 11th world chess champion. He lost the title in 1975, as he refused to defend his title when an agreement could not be reached with FIDE over the match conditions.
The reason for Fischer giving up the world chess championship title was that he felt the rules FIDE proposed did not align with his interest and as such he refused to defend his title.
Kasparov breaks up FIDE
A huge controversy that rocked the chess world was that of former world chess champion Garry Kasparov against FIDE in 1993.
Kasparov wanted a bigger say in the workings of the chess governing body. He also felt the players weren’t well represented by the body, rather FIDE focused on money and the welfare of sponsors.
Because of this, Kasparov formed his association, the Grandmaster Association. This would begin a turn of events that would eventually result in him being kicked out of FIDE in 1993.
The trouble that eventually led to Kasparov leaving FIDE started when the Grandmaster Association decided to organize some “World Cup Tournaments” between the world’s best players. FIDE opposed this and it took Bessel Kok, a Dutch business’ intervention before peace could be brokered between the two parties.
This peace did not last for long as Kasparov’s body went ahead with the tournament, Nigel Short, the British grandmaster would emerge as the contender for the world chess championship. FIDE’s terms would prove unsuitable for both the then world champion (Kasparov) and the challenger (Short).
Kasparov and Short would then decide to play a world chess championship match on their own terms, leading to their eventual expulsion from FIDE.
Abandoned Match Between Kasparov And Karpov
Karpov and Kasparov’s epic 1984-1985 battle caused much controversy as it ended without a clear winner. The match in itself was without fireworks. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was when the officials were told that Karpov, who was the Soviet favorite in the match, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Karpov was reported to have lost 8kg in the match. Kasparov was furious at this turn of events and the match was called off.
The latest controversy concerning the world chess championship title was the declaration by the world chess championship holder, Magnus Carlsen that he would not be defending his world chess championship title in the upcoming world chess championship. Magnus’ reason for refusing to defend was that he was unmotivated to do so.
He announced his intention on his podcast, The Magnus Effect. His exact words were: “The conclusion is very simple that I am not motivated to play another match..”
This turn of events meant we would have a vacant title with the top two finalists of the candidates tournament slugging it out for the world chess championship.
Ian Nepomniachtchi v Ding Liren 2023
After Magnus Carlsen refused to defend the world chess championship in the next world chess championship match, it was decided that the top two finalists in the candidates tournament (Ian Nepominiachtchi and Ding Liren) were going to face off in 2023 to determine who the next holder of the world chess championship was going to be.
Ian Nepominiachtchi: Fondly referred to as “Nepo ” by the chess world, Ian Nepominiachtchi is a 32-year-old Russian grandmaster who has a peak rating of 2793 elo. He currently ranks 3rd on the world chess rankings.
Ding Liren: Ding is a 30-year-old Chinese grandmaster who has a peak rating of 2811. He currently ranks 2nd on the world chess rankings.
The 2023 World Chess Championship will place from 7 April to 30 April 2023
The World Chess Championship is the most prized possession in chess. It is also the hardest to attain, due to the conditions and qualifications required to get it. This is why there are very few players throughout history who have had the privilege of being called “World Chess Champions”.