Monday, March 19, 2012

(Relatively) Strongest Player Poll Results

(Update 03.20.2012 - after I published this Fischer experienced a "surge" of 4 more votes to bring his total to 12, but that seems like a little ballot box stuffing after the fact. The text below remains the same.)

After 10 days of voting on the (relatively) strongest chess player, here are the results and some comments.

Thirty-one votes were cast (thank you to all who took the time) and The Winner is:

Garry Kasparov, with 14 votes (45%)

Garry Kasparov
I think it's certainly reasonable to choose Kasparov, especially based on the length of time he was at the very top. I left the exact criteria open ("How to rank degree of dominance and length of time at the top is left up to you!") but Kasparov sports the highest 5-year peak at Chessmetrics by more than 20 points and leads all the other time period "peaks" except the one-year, which is occupied by the second choice of our poll:

Bobby Fischer, with 7 votes (23%)

Robert J. Fischer
Fischer's results, from the second half of Santa Monica 1966 (when he came from the rear to almost catch Spassky for first place) on through the fabled demolition of Spassky for the championship at Reykjavik, Iceland in 1972 are fully the equal of Kapsarov's, but Fischer suffers a little from the fact that he didn't play as much chess during this period as Kasparov did consistently during his active career. However, Fischer's crushing of Taimanov, Larsen, Petrosian and Spassky on his path to the World Championship 1971-2 by a cumulative score of 31-10 represents arguably the most dominant run against really strong players in chess history. Not counting a forfeit, his score of (+24, -3, =14) in these matches still seems like a dream.

There was a three-way tie for 3rd place between Lasker, Capablanca and Morphy with 3 votes (10%). Morphy represents a special case in that he only played one tournament and a few serious matches in a period of less than two years, yet his dominance was so great that he received 3 votes in our poll.

Lasker played chess only periodically through his life, and he probably suffers from that fact, but he gets high marks for being at the very top for about 30 years. Check out his tournament record!

Emanuel Lasker
As ChessAdmin noted in the comments, "It's hard to top Capablanca's domination of his contemporaries, in my view." The view of Capa's relative strength certainly suffers from his inability to play much with the world's best from 1914-18, due to World War I. If he had had a chance to score a few results of the caliber of London 1922 (+11, =4 against most of the top GMs) during those years he might have finished right there with Kasparov and Fischer.
Jose R. Capablanca
Alekhine received just one vote, but his record after defeating Capablanca for the World Championship in 1927 was simply amazing. He didn't lose another tournament game for five years, and his result at Bled 1931 (+15, =11), 5.5 points clear of Bogoljubov and 6.5 ahead of the third place Nimzovich was an epic crush of historical proportions.

Alexander Alekhine
 Tal and Karpov got zero votes. Tal's three-year run to the World Championship 1957-60 was awesome but perhaps too short, and Karpov's results from 1977-82 were dominant, but perhaps not as overwhelming as some of the others. I'll just note that in their all their World Championship matches Kasparov only scored 21 wins to Karpov's 19 with 104 draws.

So, to go back to the top, was Kasparov really so dominant after all?

1 comment:

Tim Clark said...

I don't feel comfortable nominating the perennial favorite Kasparov in this sort of discussion as he couldn't even win a SINGLE game in the WC match vs. Vladimir Kramnik. Without books/theory to glean from I don't see anyone topping Lasker! Just my opinion of course and the question didn't stipulate that just wanted to add. Thanks for the write up of these great players.