Talk:World Chess Championship

Latest comment: 12 days ago by Double sharp in topic World's best
WikiProject iconVital articles B‑class(Level 5)
WikiProject iconWorld Chess Championship has been listed as a level-5 vital article in Everyday life, Sports. If you can improve it, please do.
BThis article has been rated as B-class on Wikipedia's content assessment scale.
Former featured article candidateWorld Chess Championship is a former featured article candidate. Please view the links under Article milestones below to see why the nomination failed. For older candidates, please check the archive.
Article milestones
February 1, 2005Featured article candidateNot promoted

Mis-citing sources? Edit

The article says that the work on creating a format for WCh events "resulted in the 1889 tournament in New York to select a challenger for Steinitz, rather like the more recent Candidates Tournaments."

That is incorrect. The cited Ref. 23 should make that clear: Steinitz stepped down, as the winner of the tournament would become WCh, subject only to any challenges from the other top players in the tournament, or, if they refused, just possibly a challenge from Steinitz himself, under rule 10 of the tournament regulations, which could only be for a shared title (Rule 10: "If a non-contestant desires to challenge for the Fellow-championship, ...")

The long quotation from Steinitz that starts on p. 5 of the cited paper should make that clear, as Steinitz says "... the ultimate winner, provided that he fulfils all the conditions of the Committee shall have my most loyal support for his Champion title to which I shall lay no claim until perhaps, I may be able to recover it in another contest at a later period."Athulin (talk) 20:31, 27 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Added: And I see also that Ref. 23 is said to be based on Landsberger ... which is odd, as it is states explicitly that "The biographical material published by Kurt Landsberger shed no light on this particular question".

Athulin (talk) 20:39, 27 December 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I will look into this later. But for now, I have moved the section to the end, where it is more likely to be seen. Adpete (talk) 07:46, 5 January 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Leading players before the World Chess Championships Edit

Recent changes to this table have been done without regard for reliable sources. Zukertort was a naturalized citizen of the U.K. by 1883, so it is incorrect to use the flag of Congress Poland. There is no support in the article itself, or in the sources cited by the article, or in other Wikipedia articles, for the changes of dates in the table, or for the removal of uses of the circa template. There is no support in the article, or in the sources cited, or in other Wikipedia articles, for the inclusion of Verdoni, Sarratt, or St. Amant in the table. The former treatment of Zukertort and Steinitz, which was commented, has been deliberately replaced, including removal of the comment, without any attempt to get consensus.

While some useful corrections may have snuck in, I will revert the article to the status quo, in preparation for further discussion in this talk page. Bruce leverett (talk) 04:24, 3 June 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree that Saint-Amant should not be in there, despite the fact that the source ( includes him. Per Edochess (cited by Tim Harding and Edward Winter, so good enough for me), the aged Deschapelles was stronger than Saint-Amant in those few years (they played a handicap match in 1842, which Deschapelles won 3–2, so at least a direct comparison between those two then should be fair), so I took him out. BTW, Bledow and von der Lasa were also strong and active around then, so I don't think we really should be giving anyone for those few years. (At least with La Bourdonnais' time on top, even if Edochess suggests that Deschapelles was on his level all that while, he was almost always not actually playing chess.) von der Lasa in fact continued to be strong competition for Staunton, defeating him in 1844 and 1853. Double sharp (talk) 15:49, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Magnus is no longer the world chess champion Edit

He isn't defending the title. The article should be corrected. 2603:7000:E43F:9867:69B8:383E:CB3A:1047 (talk) 13:14, 21 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Announcing that you are not defending the title is not the same as resigning it. He remains the champion until the next one is confirmed.-- Pawnkingthree (talk) 13:35, 21 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
More precisely, I would say Carlsen is WC until he or FIDE says otherwise, which will probably not be until after the 2023 match.
This is a significant enough event that I gave it a new subsection. I have given the section the title "Carlsen steps down", which I am not sure I am happy with, so feel free to rename. Adpete (talk) 07:36, 23 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Chess24 calls him "World Chess Champion: 2013-2023", which I followed. As for the title, I'm not so sure about it either, but I suppose next year it will either become "Nepomniachtchi (2023–present)" or "Ding (2023–present)" anyway, so it'll solve itself then. Double sharp (talk) 10:01, 24 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It seems a little nerdy to use "2013-2023" rather than "2013-present". I looked at infoboxes in Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron, and saw the latter form. There's always WP:CRYSTALBALL to consider. Bruce leverett (talk) 14:52, 24 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In answer to Double Sharp, my thinking is more that this is a major shift in the World Championship, as happened in 1993. It is hard to get excited about a match to see who is the second best active player in the world, and I can easily imagine some sort of revamp of the whole WC format. Obviously that is all speculation, but I think a new section is still useful for any potential developments. Anyway, I support the rename of the Carlsen section to (2013-present) and just changed it. Adpete (talk) 01:32, 25 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't know about it being like 1993, as there is (at least currently) no rival cycle proclaiming Carlsen as champion. Moreover the logic behind the rival Classical cycle would not proclaim Carlsen as champion either; it's based on the "lineage" from Steinitz, accepting Alekhine's death and Fischer's forfeit as passing the lineage. I obviously don't speak for the chess world at large, but as a fan on the Classical-cycle side, I have no problem asserting that Carlsen refusing to defend means the lineage passes, and from that perspective there's no reason not to get excited about the Nepo–Ding match. Actually, considering that the FIDE regulations currently indeed would give a Nepo–Ding match and crown one of them as champion in 2023, this seems quite compatible with the FIDE position, which is funny given the history of the title split. :D
So far this seems more like 1975 to me, especially with likely the same objection that was used against world champion Karpov being natural to use against world champion Nepo or Ding ("Fischer/Carlsen is better!"). Which was equally a major thing in the WCC's history, but three years later we were back on schedule with Karpov–Korchnoi. I agree that some would not get excited because as long as Carlsen still plays it has nothing to do with finding out who's the best active player – but Kasparov made pretty much this exact point about 2012 Anand–Gelfand, and AFAIK nobody stopped recognising Anand as champion until he actually lost his first WCC match against Carlsen in 2013. So IMO: everything is speculation, and many things are possible, but the most reasonable thing to report is what FIDE says will be happening. I feel like that and that alone is enough of a step up from WP:CRYSTALBALL to include.
Having said all that, "2013–present" is also fine with me; after all, it's true. And like I said, we can update the section titles as time passes and we learn more. Double sharp (talk) 05:35, 25 July 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Time control? Edit

If I skimmed the article correctly, there's very little mention of the format of the championship match itself. I think the article would benefit from some additions to the "Format" section of the article: an explanation of the history of the time control of the championship match (including the current time control) and the number of games, and perhaps also some important details like tiebreaking. Macoroni (talk) 15:24, 20 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree, though this would require quite some work, especially for the pre-FIDE championships. Double sharp (talk) 22:33, 3 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The "time as champion" math in the tables doesn't add up Edit

The "time as champion" math in the tables (added in edits on May 6, 2023 by User: doesn't add up. Under the "Classical (PCA/Braingames) world champions (1993–2006)" heading, it has the row "Garry Kasparov | Russia | 1993–2000 | 4 years, 3 months and 21 days". 1993-2000 is definitely not 4 years. —Lowellian (reply) 09:32, 11 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

World's best Edit

The claim that there were matches between the "world's best" prior to the late 19th century cannot be supported. World travel before the emergence of railroad networks was arduous, dangerous, and time-consuming. Even communication was much slower, so that players in one country did not even know who were the best players in another, far-away, country. Of course, this didn't stop people from claiming that their favorite was the "World Champion", but no one before Steinitz actually claimed that title for themselves.

According to our sources, Steinitz claimed that the match of 1886 was a WC match, and then occasionally backdated his claim to 1866 or whatever. I personally think that he didn't dare claim to be WC while Morphy was alive. But that can't be verified from our sources, so we handle the question delicately later in the article. The "can of worms" has long been open, and we have tried to deal with it; if you want to modify this, be sure to read all the discussion in the article. Bruce leverett (talk) 15:18, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Bruce leverett: The lede is supposed to summarise the article. Historians accept that there were leading players before 1886, often retrospectively call them something like "unofficial World Champion", and often deem contests like London 1851 to be "unofficial World Championships" in hindsight. We talk about them at length in the article. I agree that the details are complicated and full of caveats (e.g. London 1851 did at least attempt to invite the "world's best", but many could not attend); if we go too far back, we can't even say that they were playing by our rules (Philidor certainly wasn't). But we are merely talking about a mention of the fact that events bringing together top-level players existed and are often retrospectively recognised as unofficial World Championships. Why can't the lede at least have a phrase saying that, if the article can have two entire subsections doing so?
And besides, in my latest attempt to add a mention about that, I wrote Although there were matches between the world's best before then [i.e. 1886]. Even if we accept this complaint about earlier events like the 1834 La Bourdonnais vs. McDonnell matches (which I originally added as the first thing often recognised as sort of like a World Championship in hindsight), does it really apply to the period just before Steinitz–Zukertort, where the intercontinental Paris 1878 and London 1883 tournaments could be held? Double sharp (talk) 15:33, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Double sharp: You are right that the body of the article is not as judicious as I claimed. The text "A series of players regarded as the strongest ... all widely regarded as the strongest of their time", in the subsection "Before 1851", makes the same mistake that I accused you of making, without citing a source. Later we claim that the 1851 tournament "establish[ed] Anderssen as the world's leading player", citing Horowitz. I do not have a copy of Horowitz and do not know if he made this exact claim, but Anderssen did not even regard himself as the world's leading player (he had lost matches to Von der Lasa).
So we are doing a fair amount of hand waving about "world's best", and this section should be written in a more sober style. Bruce leverett (talk) 17:15, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Bruce leverett: Horowitz wrote (p. 4): In consequence of his victory in the London tournament of 1851, Anderssen is regarded by some chess historians as the first world champion, although he himself never claimed the title. On p. 16 he writes After Morphy's retirement from the game, Anderssen was again quite naturally regarded as the strongest active player. This is part of a sixteen-page chapter in which Horowitz goes quickly through "chessplayers who have some claim to be called the best of their time" before Steinitz: he mentions Ruy López, di Bona, Greco, Philidor, Deschapelles, La Bourdonnais, Staunton, Anderssen, and Morphy. Double sharp (talk) 14:06, 8 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Let's have a look at the chess scene up until the mid-19th century. As Bruce mentioned travel was difficult and expensive. In different countries and regions they had different rules for en passant, promotion, and castling. Full games were rarely recorded. Greco's games, for example, were most likely compositions, none of Stamma's games are recorded including the match against Philidor (the only account we have of such a match is from Philidor himself). There were no chess clocks, no organized competition, and no distinction between formal and informal games. "Chess clubs" were adjuncts of gentlemen's clubs for the small minority who had the time for such things, or else were just informal meetings in European cafes. There were no formal national championships, not even formal club championships, players became "champions" or "masters" by acclaim. Maybe Deschapelles was just the best bully and self-publicist rather than the best player, who knows? Surviving examples of his play aren't very impressive. This is the backdrop against which many wikipedians seem to feel compelled to argue about who was or wasn't an "unofficial world champion". MaxBrowne2 (talk) 19:56, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
FWIW, Edward Winter quotes Howard Staunton as writing in 1847: The names of Philidor and La Bourdonnais are destined to an immortality as lasting as the game of Chess itself; and, if the fame of M. Des Chappelles should prove less enduring, it will not be from inferiority of genius, but the misfortune which has preserved for posterity so few of his remarkable achievements. Double sharp (talk) 16:19, 12 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • I'd be in favour of removing that section altogether, with maybe just a few notes about players like Philidor, La Bourdonnais, Morphy. Seriously, are we sourcing this to a self-published article at Only thing that site is good for is convenient links to playable games, and for directing us towards actual reliable sources. We shouldn't use the phrase "unofficial world champion" anywhere on wikipedia. If it ain't official then it ain't a world championship. MaxBrowne2 (talk) 20:35, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    I concur. Weak material with an unreliable source. It attempts to summarize a bit of pre-World Championship chess history, but that's not the topic of this article. History of chess is the place for that. oknazevad (talk) 23:23, 7 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

But more reliable sources do use the term "unofficial world champion", to describe Philidor, Anderssen, Staunton, and Morphy. I agree that most of the list as it stands is OR or based on an unreliable source (at least everything before Philidor doesn't really make much sense), but such a retrospective sense of world championhood exists. And while indeed RS would not always agree on all of them, at least Morphy would seem from memory to be uncontroversial.

I agree that this is a different kind of being a "world champion" than what was the case from Steinitz onwards, considering that it is retrospectively assigned by historians and did not reflect what the players would've been thinking then. After all, if Anderssen was the champion when Morphy arrived in Europe, then why did he spend all that time trying to get a match with Staunton? Moreover, it's kind of odd to say the least in the case of Staunton (well, he beat Saint-Amant only in the second 1843 match, and Saint-Amant couldn't win a handicap match against the aged Deschapelles just the previous year; Staunton lost to von der Lasa in 1844 and 1853; and if we are going to talk about being the best in the world, which can be assessed by analysing game scores, then Morphy was certainly playing in the early 1850s, though not yet in Europe.) But it is also a kind of being a "world champion" that is present in RS, that is of some interest because it's a natural question to ask how the current situation developed.

(As for Deschapelles: it's probably rather that nobody was actually that impressive back then by modern standards. GM Larry Kaufman writes in Chess Board Options that nobody before Morphy in 1855 played better than 2150 Elo. Probably Deschapelles and La Bourdonnais were club players by today's standard, but considering the situation when they were active, is that really so surprising?) Double sharp (talk) 03:20, 8 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

WP:RS constrains us to use only reliable sources, but it does not, conversely, allow us to copy uncritically from reliable sources. I agree with @MaxBrowne2 about not using "unofficial world champion"; as Walter Penn Shipley said, "championships are technicalities".
But this is a little off topic. In principle, I do not have a problem with having a short discussion of a few famous players from before Steinitz. For each one, there should be an excuse: Philidor amazed everyone with his blindfold play, and wrote a famous book; LaBourdonnais won a famous long series against MacDonnell; Staunton won a famous match from St. Amant; Anderssen won London 1851; Morphy played as Gulliver vs. the Lilliputians. I don't want to use the phrase "world champion" for any of these guys, nor the almost equally provocative phrase "best in the world". But their names always come up when this topic is discussed, so it makes sense for us to talk about them and describe their positions in the chess pantheon.
I don't want to touch a discussion of how strong the leading mid-19th-century players were. We can't really get into that without becoming a forum rather than an encyclopedia. There is no reliable source on retrospective playing strengths. Bruce leverett (talk) 04:33, 8 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We do have indications of such, from statistical analyses of results, and strong modern players using engines to analyse the games of the mid-19th-century players. That said, apart from Morphy being obviously head and shoulders over anyone else when he was playing, the results have too much uncertainty to say who was the best.
But with that said, we already say that Morphy "was widely hailed as the world champion", and cite Edward Winter's website for contemporary quotes saying just that. (Indeed, his website even gives a 1764 source saying that Philidor was "supposed to be the best Chess-player in the world" then.) Horowitz' book is literally titled From Morphy to Fischer. Based on both contemporary sources and widespread later retrospective evaluation, why couldn't the lede at least say that the notion of a world's best player existed before the first official WC? Double sharp (talk) 04:39, 8 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Winter's compendium is certainly a reliable source. But it doesn't say "widely", let alone "widely hailed" -- these were added by Wikipedia editors. It's not easy to keep our own prejudices from showing through. But that's the idea. Bruce leverett (talk) 14:20, 8 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I've tightened up the pre-1886 section with sources (mostly from Horowitz' book and H. J. R. Murray's history). I stopped at Philidor, partly because he's the first where there's any contemporary at all calling him the best in the world, partly because any earlier players come with caveats even from Horowitz (Ruy López and the Italians are mentioned as defeating each other by Horowitz; as for Greco, Horowitz notes that there is no record of his results against other experts of his day), and partly because Salvio and Greco record rule variations throughout Europe (so any idea of a "world champion" is suspect even if one forgets about travel difficulties; whose game would it be anyway?). Double sharp (talk) 15:23, 8 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Here's what the Oxford Companion to Chess has to say about the early players (no mention of leadingness for Boi and Greco):

  • López: "a leading player of his day"
  • di Bona: "one of the strongest players of his time"
  • Salvio: "one of the leading players and perhaps the best analyst of his time"
  • Legall: "champion player of the Café de la Régence and Philidor's teacher"
  • Philidor: "reputedly the best chessplayer of his time"
  • Deschapelles: "reputedly the strongest player between the death of Philidor and the time of Bourdonnais"
  • Bourdonnais: "the undisputed champion of France, then the home of the world's best players"
  • Staunton: "the world's leading player in the 1840s"
  • Anderssen: "winner of three great international tournaments"; "After the first he was regarded as the world's leading player"
  • Morphy: "the best player in the world" (for beating Löwenthal, Harrwitz, and Anderssen)

Double sharp (talk) 15:57, 8 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think mentioning popularly acclaimed champions like Philidor and Morphy in the preamble is the right approach. MaxBrowne2 (talk) 01:36, 9 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Your changes have much improved the pre-1886 section, particularly the judicious citation of reliable sources.
The claim that LaBourdonnais was well ahead of his contemporaries is supported by a citation of Edochess. I am not comfortable with this due to WP:CHESSRATING. However I do not have a problem with the claim itself; I noticed in reading about Morphy, that his contemporaries tended to compare him with LaBourdonnais, rather than with other players of the bygone era. Bruce leverett (talk) 01:46, 9 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, this is a stopgap till I find something better (as I did for the claim that Paulsen and Kolisch were playing on a similar level to Anderssen in the 1860s; the two are mentioned in Horowitz). Double sharp (talk) 03:43, 9 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, I guess this is better: I replaced it with a cite to the Oxford Companion, mentioning how La Bourdonnais defeated all the English players (and apart from Lewis, he gave them odds).
As for comparisons with La Bourdonnais: Kasparov's My Great Predecessors quotes Lasker retrospectively as saying "In Paul Morphy the spirit of La Bourdonnais had arisen anew, only more vigorous, firmer, prouder". However, since this is retrospective, it seems better to use what I found first: a contemporary (1859) comparison by Doazan, who knew Deschapelles, La Bourdonnais, and Morphy, and put them in the same class. In general, I have tried to focus on assessment by contemporaries to rewrite this with sources. (In a case like Deschapelles it would be difficult to assess him in hindsight anyway.)
A few other observations from Edochess, together with what I was able to find in RS:
  • Edochess suggests that Deschapelles was on a par with La Bourdonnais even after his retirement in 1821, at least when he showed up and played. Probably true, as in 1839 Walker mentions an 1836 encounter between them at the "Pawns Game", which Deschapelles won +2 −1 =1. But in general players are more willing to grant supremacy to the player who is actually playing actively, and Walker makes it clear that he thought the sceptre (such as it was) had been passed from Deschapelles to La Bourdonnais. So I have taken out this assessment, as it is of somewhat dubious relevance. (Edochess mostly can only assess Deschapelles after his "retirement", because there simply is hardly any data before it. Even Walker has to marshal his 1836 play as evidence for his quality before then.)
  • Edochess suggests that Bledow was on a par with Staunton in the 1840s. I cannot find any RS saying so (it's hard to compare them as the German players were only just starting to come on the scene). However, Murray does mention that Staunton was best in France and England, and that German players were starting to come on the scene; and the Oxford companion mentions that Bledow was probably the strongest of the German players then. I have mentioned him, but only in that capacity.
  • Edochess similarly thinks highly of von der Lasa in the early 1850s. Kasparov calls him "the German 'No.1'" (My Great Predecessors Vol. I, p. 21), and Walker thought in 1856 that von der Lasa and Anderssen were the two greatest players. I have quoted Walker.
  • Edochess suggests that Paulsen and Kolisch were playing roughly on even terms with Anderssen in the 1860s. Horowitz mentions their close match scores with Anderssen in this era, so I have used that to back up the statement instead. A surprising conclusion of Edochess is that Anderssen was never the world's best player, but since he is a traditional inclusion as one of the leading players in those pre-championship days, I don't reflect this. (I did, however, remove all the names from the header, including Anderssen indeed, but also including the much more dominant Morphy. If they're not official champions, and there were competing claims from Steinitz and Zukertort, then it seems fairest to just not name anybody.) Double sharp (talk) 12:30, 9 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As for ideas about a "sceptre of chess", I found this from The Athenæum in 1874: "...during the first forty years of the present century, the sceptre of chess was wielded by two Frenchmen, by Deschapelles, and, afterwards, by his pupil, La Bourdonnais". Double sharp (talk) 14:26, 9 September 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]