Today in Mexico City Vishwanath Anand drew his final game, giving him an unassailable lead in the World Chess Championship Tournament. Ray Keene offers this overview.-Ed
THE WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONS
Controversy has surrrounded the World Chess Championship ever since the term began to be employed. Usually we read that 1886 was the start of the official title, but although the contract for the Steinitz v Zukertort match of that year declared it was for the World's Championship, it by no means claimed to be the first such contest. Indeed, reliable and authoritative sources, both contemporary and recent, have annointed Labourdonnais, Staunton, Anderssen and Morphy as genuine champions, while Steinitz himself was to claim that his reign began in 1866 not 1886!
In modern times there has also been confusion concerning the relationship between offical champions, such as Karpov, and, for example, a champion deposed by officialdom, in the shape of FIDE, the World Chess Federation. Thus,after defaulting to Karpov, Bobby Fischer, continued to claim the title and , despite a double decade gap in his playing record, regarded his 1992 rematch v Spassky as a legitimate title defence.
More plausibly, Kasparov broke away from FIDE in 1993 to contest matches against Short, Anand and Kramnik, outwith the ambit of FIDE's control. Since Kasparov remained both active and dominant, the rival FIDE champions, including Khalifman, Ponomariev and Anand himself, were widely regarded as paper tigers by the public at large as far as the genuine world title was concerned.
Now , however, with Kasparov's retirement from active chess, the smoke has cleared. The 2006 match between Kramnik and the Bulgarian grandmaster Topalov, once more unified the fractured titles, and this resolution has been endorsed by all parties to the 2007 world championship tournament, which forms the topic of this book.
The list which follows, giving dates and countries of origin for the champions, is in my view the fairest summary of who deserved to be recognised as World Chess Champion, and -by omission- who did not.
I believe that Vishy Anand himself would now agree that to win in open competition against the world's elite represents a far greater and more convincing accolade and proof of his powers, than his victory in the FIDE knockout version of a few years back. The chess world has long believed that Anand had the Crown Imperial within his grasp. Now, by his convincing victory in Mexico City, he has proved it.
Champion : Country of origin : Reign as Champion
Labourdonnais France 1834-1840
Staunton England 1843-1851
Anderssen Germany 1851-1858 1862-1866
Morphy USA 1858-1862
Steinitz Austria 1866-1994
Lasker Germany 1894-1921
Capablanca Cuba 1921-1927
Alekhine Russia 1927-1935 1937-1946
Euwe Holland 1935-1937
Botvinnik USSR 1948-1957 1958-1960 1961-1963
Smyslov USSR 1957-1958
Tal USSR 1960-1961
Petrosian USSR 1963-1969
Spassky USSR 1969-1972
Fischer USA 1972-1975
Karpov USSR 1975-1985
Kasparov USSR / Russia 1985-2000
Kramnik Russia 2000-2007
Anand India 2007-????