Chess is one of the world's most popular board games. Played between two individuals, the rules of chess as it is played today evolved in southern Europe during the late 15th century. Though the rules and movement of the pieces are not difficult to learn, the strategic skills required to become a champion player elude the majority of players.
Though played competitively for more than two centuries, the first World Chess Championship was not held until 1886. This was two years after one of the most famous chess players in the world, Paul Morphy, was found dead in his bathtub at the age of 47. Hailed throughout the civilized world as the unofficial world champion in 1859, he became the champion player of New Orleans at age nine. He retired from public play in 1860 because he had defeated any serious opposition to his world-wide standing. A brilliant man, his playing style involved supreme intuitive thinking and unrivaled skill at open games. Morphy was considered by American World Champion Bobby Fischer to be the most skilled chess player of modern times.
Another top ranked chess player is the youngest individual ever to become a World Champion, Garry Kasparov. He was ranked first in the world at nearly every point between 1986 and 2005, when he decided to retire from the world of professional chess. This man holds the highest rating of all time at 2851. In addition, he maintains the world record for the greatest number of consecutive victories in professional tournaments, and for the number of Chess Oscars he has accumulated. One other thing for which Kasparov will always remain known is being the first World Champion to lose against a computer opponent. By 1997, artificial intelligence technology had indeed advanced to the point at which the computer nicknamed Deep Blue was able to defeat the human giant. The computer's manufacturer, IBM, was accused of cheating by means of human interference during the match, and declined a rematch with Kasparov.
Many years before Kasparov's rise to renown, Jose Raul Capablanca became the World Chess Champion and reigned from 1921 to 1927. According to the Elo statistical rating method, this player achieved a rating that was higher than any other individual who ever played by the time. Arpad Elo's book was published in 1978. The rating he assigned to Capablanca was 2725. It should be noted, however, that 23 other people have received a rating higher than this since "The Rating of Chessplayers, Past and Present," went to press. Capablanca was beaten in 1927 by Alexander Alekhine, who refused a rematch, and prevented Capablanca from playing in tournaments in which he participated.
These are only a few of the colorful, unique men who have been able to lay claim to the title of World Chess Champion during the last 150 years. Varying methods have been used to rate games and the strength and skill of players both living and long since dead. These famous individuals will forever be remembered as some of the world's most famous players of chess.