World Chess Championship History

The World Chess Championship is the tournament that determines the best player of the world of this sport.

Big names have achieved the highest world recognition and many other excellent players didn't get the title of best of the bests even though their excellence in this game. Through this article we will cover the history of the World Chess Championship from its origins until today.

First World Chess Champions

Since 18th century there are registries of great chess players that specially shined over their contemporary opponents, like Ruy Lopez, who deserves a special recognition for his playing quality and his success over the board.

Nevertheless, nobody until 1872 claimed the World Chess Champion Title.

Wilheim Steinitz, after overcame against Johannes Zukertort at that year's London tournament (the strongest that time) , claimed the World Chess title for him.

Anybody officially recognized his title but anybody discussed it either until the year 1883, when Johannes Zukertort won the same tournament of London ahead of Steinitz and proclaims himself as the new World Chess Champion.

After tough negotiations between both players, in 1886 took place the first officially recognized World Chess Championship. So in the year of 1886 Wilheim Steinitz was proclaimed as the first World Chess Champion.

The final result was 10 victories for Steinitz, 5 for Zukertort and 5 draws.

FIDE World Chess Champions

After the decease of the current World Chess Champion, Alexander Alekhine, in 1948, the FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) became responsible for the organization of the next championships.

In 1948 the FIDE organized, at The Hague and Moscow, its first World Chess Championship with the following participants: Mijail Botvinnik (URSS), Vasili Smyslov (URSS), Paul Keres (URSS), Max Euwe (Holanda) y Samuel Reshevsky (US)

The winner of that tournament, and therefore, the World Chess Champion was Mijail Botvinnik.


The PCA appearance and the posterior title reunification.

In 1993 Garry Kasparov, World Chess Champion of that time, and his challenger Nigel Short, reported irregularities at the FIDE and step aside and created the PCA (Professional Chess Association), under which developed their match.

The FIDE and the PCA developed their own Wolrd Chess Championships separately up to 2006, when took place a reunification match between Topalov and Kramnik. As a consequence of that match Vladimir Kramink became the new World Chess Champion.

Unofficial World Chess Champions before 1886

Each player of the following list is recognized as the world’s best chess player of his time. The period of time when each one is considerate as the World Chess Champion is indicated too.

Player Name Year Country Approx. Age
Franci de Castellví
Narcís Vinyoles
Bernat Fenollar
and Francesc Vicent
~1475 Spain ~37
Luis Ramirez de Lucena ~1490 Spain ~25
Pedro Damiano ~1520 Portugal ~40
Ruy López de Segura 1559-1575 Spain 19-35
El Morro ~1560-1575 Portugal  
Leonardo da Cutri
and Paolo Boi
1575 Kingdom of Naples
Kingdom of Sicily
Giulio Polerio ~1580 Kingdom of Naples ~32
Alessandro Salvio ~1600 Kingdom of Naples ~30
Gioachino Greco ~1620-1634 Kingdom of Naples ~20-34
Pietro Carrera ~1640 Kingdom of Sicily ~67
Alexander Cunningham of Block ~1700 Scotland ~45
Legall de Kermeur ~1730-1745 France ~28-43
François-Andr Danican Philidor 1745-1795 France 19-69
Johann Baptist Allgaier ~1795-~1815 Austrian Empire ~32-~52
Verdoni ~1795-~1804 Italy France  
Jacob Henry Sarrat ~1805-~1815 United Kingdom ~33-~43
Alexandre Deschapelles 1815-1821 France 35-41
Louis-Charles Mah de La Bourdonnais 1821-1840 France 26-45
Alexander McDonnell 1834 United Kingdom 36
Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant 1840-1843 France 40-43
Howard Staunton 1843-1851 England 33-41
Adolf Anderssen 1851-1858 Prussia 33-40
Paul Morphy 1858-1862 United States 21-25
Adolf Anderssen 1862-1866 Prussia 44-48
Wilhelm Steinitz 1866-1878 Austria-Hungary 30-42
Johannes Zukertort 1878-1886 Poland Germany 36-44

World Chess Champions between 1886 and 1993

Player Name Year Country Approx. Age
Wilhelm Steinitz 1886-1894 Austria-Hungary
United States
Emanuel Lasker 1894-1921 Germany 26-52
José Raúl Capablanca 1921-1927 Cuba 33-39
Alexander Alekhine 1927-1935
Russia Russian émigré
Max Euwe 1935-1937 Netherlands 34-36
Mikhail Botvinnik 1948-1957
Soviet Union (Russia) 37-46
Vasily Smyslov 1957-1958 Soviet Union (Russia) 36
Mikhail Tal 1960-1961 Soviet Union (Latvia) 24
Tigran Petrosian 1963-1969 Soviet Union (Armenia) 34-40
Boris Spassky 1969-1972 Soviet Union (Russia) 32-35
Robert J. Fischer 1972-1975 United States 29-32
Anatoly Karpov 1975-1985 Soviet Union (Russia) 24-34
Garry Kasparov 1985-1993 Soviet Union

FIDE World Chess Champions between 1993 and 2006

Player Name Year Country Approx. Age
Anatoly Karpov 1993-1999 Russia 42-48
Alexander Khalifman 1999-2000 Russia 33
Viswanathan Anand 2000-2002 India 31-33
Ruslan Ponomariov 2002-2004 Ukraine 19-21
Rustam Kasimdzhanov 2004-2005 Uzbekistan 25
Veselin Topalov 2005-2006 Bulgaria 30

PCA World Chess Champions between 1993 and 2006

Player Name Year Country Approx. Age
Garry Kasparov 1993-2000 Russia 30-37
Vladimir Kramnik 2000-2006 Russia 25-31

World Chess Champions from 2006 to present

Player Name Year Country Approx. Age
Vladimir Kramnik 2006-2007 Russia 31
Viswanathan Anand 2007-2013 India 38
Magnus Carlsen 2013-2023 Norway 22
Ding Liren 2023-Present China 30