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  • The Unofficial World Championship
  • The Imperial Championship
  • The FIDE World Championship
  • The Imperial Championship Returns
  • Roll Call of Official World Champions
  • The World Championship Box Score
  • Appendix: The FIDE Championship

  • How to Use This Page:  Below are links leading to crosstables of each Championship match, Interzonal, and Candidates tournament. Pages on Championship matches have further links leading to the games, available for online viewing. Alternately, you can go down to Section 6, The World Championship Box Score, and click the link in the "Winning Score" column, to save a step and go directly to the games.


    The first official match specifically designated as being for the World's Championship was held in 1886 between William Steinitz of the USA, and Johanes Zukertort of Poland. Steinitz had been the world's strongest active player for about 20 years, but no one dared to hold a championship match while Paul Morphy, an American who had dominated the world scene for a year and then retired, was still alive.

    Upon the death of Morphy in 1884, Steinitz arranged a match with his strongest rival, with the stipulation that the winner should be considered World Champion. The "official" line of champions begins at that time. However, before 1886, there were several players generally regarded as the strongest players of their eras, whom many writers regard as "Unofficial World Champions". Here is one such possible list. Names and dates can be highly conjectural, so don't write to complain if you don't like the list. That's what "unofficial" means.

    Years Player Country Notes
    1560-1575 Ruy Lopez Spain -
    1575-1587 Leonardo da Cutri Italy -
    1575-1598 Paolo Boi Italy -
    1598-1621 Alessandro Salvio Italy -
    1621-1634 Gioacchino Greco Italy -
    1634-1640 Alessandro Salvio Italy -
    1730-1745 Legall de Kermeur France -
    1745-1795 Francois Philidor France -
    1798-1824 Alexander Deschapelles France -
    1824-1840 Louis de la Bourdonnais France -
    1840-1843 Pierre Saint Amant France -
    1843-1851 Howard Staunton England -
    1851-1858 Adolph Anderssen Germany -
    1858-1859 Paul Morphy USA -
    1859-1866 Adolph Anderssen Germany -
    1866-1886 Wilhelm Steinitz Austria/Hungary -
    1883-1886 Johannes Zukertort Poland Claimed championship after smashing victory in London 1883 tournament. 1886 match finally settled the question between him and Steinitz.
    1946-1948 Max Euwe The Netherlands FIDE Champion for a day until decision officially anulled by Soviet delegation.


    With the Steinitz-Zukertort match of 1886, the line of "Official" World Champions begins. At this time, the title was more or less the personal property of the holder, who could more or less name whatever conditions he wished, against whatever opponent he liked.

    1886 Steinitz-Zukertort World Championship Match

    1889 Steinitz-Tchigorin World Championship Match

    1890-1 Steinitz-Gunsberg World Championship Match

    1892 Steinitz-Tchigorin World Championship Match

    1894 Lasker-Steinitz World Championship Match

    1896/7 Lasker-Steinitz World Championship Match

    1907 Lasker-Marshall World Championship Match

    1908 Lasker-Tarrasch World Championship Match

    1909 Lasker-Janowski Exhibition Matches

    1910 Lasker-Schlechter World Championship Match

    1910 Lasker-Janowski World Championship Match

    1916 Lasker-Tarrasch Exhibition Match

    1921 Capablanca-Lasker World Championship Match

    1927 Alekhine-Capablanca World Championship Match

    1929 Alekhine-Bogoljubow World Championship Match

    1934 Alekhine-Bogoljubow World Championship Match

    1935 Euwe-Alekhine World Championship Match

    1937 Alekhine-Euwe World Championship Match


    When World Champion Alexander Alekhine died in 1946, on the eve of a title defense against Mikhail Botvinnik, the World Chess Federation, founded in 1924, stepped in and administered the title themselves. Max Euwe, the only surviving former champion was their first World Champion, for a single day, before the Soviet delegation arrived and anulled the decision to crown him. A World Championship tournament was then held in 1948 to name a new champion.

    After this began a series of 3-year World Championship Cycles. The world was divided up into various "zones", some consisting of one country, others of more. Each zone was alotted a certain number of championship contender spots, and held a zonal tournament to decide who would win them, and be sent to an "Interzonal" tournament of all such contenders in the first year of the cycle. In the second cycle year, the top qualifiers from the Interzonal tournament (or tournaments, in later years there was more than one Interzonal) played in a Candidates Series, which was sometimes a tournament, sometimes a series of matches, and on one occasion, both. The winner of the Candidates Series would challenge the World Champion to a match in the 3rd year of the cycle.

    In Cycles 3-4, and 10-15, a defeated Champion had the right to challenge his conqueror to a re-match in the first year of the next cycle. In Cycles 1 and 2, a defeated champion had the right to play in a triangular match 3 years later against both the new champion, and the winner of the next Candidates cycle. This didn't happen, and there has never been a Triangular Match for the World Championship, however, the Women's World Championship was decided this way in 1956 in a "Triple Threat Match" between the champion, Elizabeth Bykova, the new challenger, Olga Rubtosva, and the defeated champion from the previous match, Ludmilla Rudenko.

    1948 The Hague/Moscow World Championship Tournament

    CYCLE 1: 1948-1951
    1948 Saltsjobaden Interzonal
    1950 Budapest Candidates Tournament
    1951 Botvinnik-Bronstein World Championship Match

    CYCLE 2: 1952-1954
    1952 Stockholm Interzonal
    1953 Neuhausen/Zurich Candidates Tournament
    1954 Botvinnik-Smyslov World Championship Match

    CYCLE 3: 1955-1957
    1955 Gothenburg Interzonal
    1956 Amsterdam Candidates
    1957 Smyslov-Botvinnik World Championship Match
    1958 Botvinnik-Smyslov Re-match

    CYCLE 4: 1958-1960
    1958 Portoroz Interzonal
    1959 Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade Candidates Tournament
    1960 Tal-Botvinnik World Championship Match
    1961 Botvinnik-Tal Re-match

    CYCLE 5: 1961-1963
    1962 Stockholm Interzonal
    1962 Curacao Candidates Tournament
    1963 Petrosian-Botvinnik World Championship Match

    CYCLE 6: 1964-1966
    1964 Amsterdam Interzonal
    1965 Candidates Matches
    1966 Petrosian-Spassky World Championship Match

    CYCLE 7: 1967-1969
    1967 Sousse Interzonal
    1968 Candidates Matches
    1969 Spassky-Petrosian World Championship Match

    CYCLE 8: 1970-1972
    1970 Palma de Mallorca Interzonal
    1971 Candidates Matches
    1972 Fischer-Spassky World Championship Match

    CYCLE 9: 1973-1975
    1973 Leningrad Interzonal
    1973 Petropolis Interzonal
    1974 Candidates Matches
    1975 Karpov-Fischer World Championship Match

    CYCLE 10: 1976-1978
    1976 Manila Interzonal
    1976 Biel Interzonal
    1977 Candidates Matches
    1978 Karpov-Korchnoi World Championship Match

    CYCLE 11: 1979-1981
    1979 Riga Interzonal
    1979 Rio de Janeiro Interzonal
    1980 Candidates Matches
    1981 Karpov-Korchnoi World Championship Match

    CYCLE 12: 1982-1984
    1982 Las Palmas Interzonal
    1982 Toluca Interzonal
    1982 Moscow Interzonal
    1983 Candidates Matches
    1984/5 Karpov-Kasparov World Championship Match
    1985 Kasparov-Karpov World Championship Match
    1986 Kasparov-Karpov Re-match

    CYCLE 13: 1985-1987
    1985 Gammarth Interzonal
    1985 Mendetaxco Interzonal
    1985 Biel Interzonal
    1985 Montpellier Candidates Tournament
    1986-7 Candidates Matches
    1987 Kasparov-Karpov World Championship Match

    CYCLE 14: 1988-1990
    1987 Subotica Interzonal
    1987 Szirak Interzonal
    1987 Zagreb Interzonal
    1988-1990 Candidates Matches
    1990 Kasparov-Karpov World Championship Match

    CYCLE 15: 1991-1993
    1990 Manila Interzonal
    1991-2 Candidates Matches
    1993 Kasparov-Short World Championship Match
    Played outside the auspices of FIDE,
    thus removing the title from their jurisdiction


    When Kasparov and Short played their 1993 World Championship Match outside of FIDE, the title returned to the Imperial Championship days. There were various briefly-lived organizations, such as the PCA, nominally in charge of determining a challenger, but largely, the champion could do as he pleased.

    1993 Groningen PCA "Interzonal"
    1994 PCA Candidates
    1995 Kasparov-Anand World Championship Match

    2000 Kramnik-Kasparov World Championship Match

    2002 Dortmund Qualifiers
    2004 Kramnik-Leko World Championship Match


    # Years Player Country Notes
    1 1886-1894 William Steinitz USA -
    2 1894-1920 Emanuel Lasker Germany (Resigned Title in 1920, played 1921 match as the Challenger)
    3 1920-1927 Jose Capablanca Cuba -
    4 1927-1935 Alexander Alekhine France -
    5 1935-1937 Max Euwe The Netherlands -
    - 1937-1946 Alexander Alekhine France (2nd time)
    - 1946 Max Euwe The Netherlands (2nd time, champion for a day)
    6 1948-1957 Mikhail Botvinnik USSR -
    7 1957-1958 Vassily Smyslov USSR -
    - 1958-1960 Mikhail Botvinnik USSR (2nd time)
    8 1960-1961 Mikhail Tal USSR -
    - 1961-1963 Mikhail Botvinnik USSR (3rd time)
    9 1963-1969 Tigran Petrosian USSR -
    10 1969-1972 Boris Spassky USSR -
    11 1972-1974 Bobby Fischer USA (Resigned title 6/27/1974; new champion crowned April 3, 1975)
    12 1975-1985 Anatoly Karpov USSR -
    13 1985-2000 Garry Kasparov USSR/Russia (Undisputed World Champion until 1993, when World Title and FIDE title split)
    14 2000-2007 Vladimir Kramnik Russia Undisputed World Champion from 2006 when title re-unified, until 2007
    15 2007- Viswanathan Anand India

    As you can see, there are a few differences between this list and the ones you normally see published. Here are the controversial points:

  • Most sources do not recognize (or remember) Lasker's resignation of the title in 1920, and so consider him to have reigned until 1921.
  • Most sources do not recognize (or remember) Euwe's one day title reign in 1946.
  • Most sources do not recognize (or remember) that Fischer resigned the World Title in 1974, and so consider him to have reigned until 1975.
  • And finally, most people do not remember that William Steinitz was the first American World Champion, and so give that honor to Fischer. This may be due to Steinitz's nickname, "The Austrian Morphy", which has helped to obscure the fact that Steinitz had acquired US citizenship before winning the title in 1886, and held it throughout his entire World Championship reign.


    Year Winner Loser Winning Score Location Notes
    1886 Steinitz Zukertort +10-5=5 USA -
    1889 Steinitz Tchigorin +10-6=1 Cuba -
    1890/1 Steinitz Gunsberg +6-4=9 USA -
    1892 Steinitz Tchigorin +10-8=5 Cuba -
    1894 Lasker Steinitz +10-5=4 USA, Canada -
    1896/7 Lasker Steinitz +10-2=5 Russia -
    1907 Lasker Marshall +8-0=7 USA -
    1908 Lasker Tarrasch +8-3=5 Germany -
    1909 Lasker Janowski +2-2=0
    France Exhibition Matches
    1910 Lasker Schlechter +1-1=8 Austria/Hungary, Germany -
    1910 Lasker Janowski +8-0=3 Germany -
    1916 Lasker Tarrasch +5-0=1 Germany Exhibition Match
    1921 Capablanca Lasker +4-0=10 Cuba -
    1927 Alekhine Capablanca +6-3=25 Argentina -
    1929 Alekhine Bogoljubow +11-5=9 Germany, The Netherlands -
    1934 Alekhine Bogoljubow +8-3=15 Germany -
    1935 Euwe Alekhine +9-8=13 The Netherlands -
    1937 Alekhine Euwe +10-4=11 The Netherlands -
    1948 Botvinnik Smyslov
    +10-2=8 Netherlands, USSR 5 man Quintuple Round Robin Tournament
    1951 Botvinnik Bronstein +5-5=14 USSR -
    1954 Botvinnik Smyslov +7-7=10 USSR -
    1957 Smyslov Botvinnik +6-3=13 USSR -
    1958 Botvinnik Smyslov +7-5=11 USSR -
    1960 Tal Botvinnik +6-2=13 USSR -
    1961 Botvinnik Tal +10-5=6 USSR -
    1963 Petrosian Botvinnik +5-2=15 USSR -
    1966 Petrosian Spassky +4-3=17 USSR -
    1969 Spassky Petrosian +6-4=13 USSR -
    1972 Fischer Spassky +7-3=11 Iceland One of Spassky's wins was a Forfeit.
    1975 Karpov Fischer Forfeit The Philippines -
    1978 Karpov Korchnoi +6-5=21 The Philippines -
    1981 Karpov Korchnoi +6-2=10 Italy -
    1984/5 Karpov Kasparov +5-3=40 USSR -
    1985 Kasparov Karpov +5-3=16 USSR -
    1986 Kasparov Karpov +5-4=15 UK, USSR -
    1987 Kasparov Karpov +4-4=16 Spain -
    1990 Kasparov Karpov +4-3=17 USA, France -
    1993 Kasparov Short +6-1=13 UK -
    1995 Kasparov Anand +4-1=13 USA -
    2000 Kramnik Kasparov +2-0=13 UK -
    2004 Kramnik Leko +2-2=10 Switzerland -
    2006 Kramnik Topalov +3-2=6 Kalmykia One of Topalov's wins was a forfeit. Kramnik won the Rapids Playoff +2-1=1
    2007 Anand [Others] +4-0=10 Mexico 8-man Double Round Robin tournament
    2008 Anand Kramnik +3-1=5 Germany -
    2010 Anand Topalov +3-2=7 Bulgaria -
    2012 Anand Gelfand +1-1=10 Russia Anand won the Rapids Playoff +1-0=3
    2013 Carlsen Anand +3-0=7 India -
    2014 Carlsen Anand +3-1=7 Russia -
    2016 Carlsen Karjakin +1-1=10 USA Carlsen won the Rapids Playoff +2-0=2
    2018 Carlsen Caruana +0-0=12 UK Carlsen won the Rapids Playoff +3-0=0


    When Kasparov (the World Champion) and Short (the official challenger) played their match outside of FIDE auspices in 1993, FIDE attempted to forfeit them both and hold its own rival championship without them. The situation was similar to the Fischer-Karpov non-match of 1975, with the difference that in this instance, the defending champion neither retired, nor resigned his title, and in this instance, the official challenger walked out also.

    Concurrently with the Kasparov-Short match, FIDE held its own "World Championship" Match between Jan Timman, the loser of the previous Candidates Final, and Anatoly Karpov, the loser of one of the semi-final matches (Yusupov, the other semi-final loser was, unaccountably, left out). Known flippantly in some circles as The Battle of the Two Losers (a reference to the old French comic Asterix and the Goths, this match attracted little financial backing and little interest in the chess world. Most people regarded Kasparov (still unbeaten and still actively playing) as "the" champ. Nevertheless, the FIDE Championship continued to exist as a separate title.

    1993 Karpov-Timman FIDE Championship Match

    CYCLE 16: 1994-1996
    1993 Biel Interzonal
    1994-5 Candidates Matches
    1996 Karpov-Kamsky FIDE Championship Match

    CYCLE 17: 1997-1998
    1997 Groningen Candidates Tournament
    1998 Karpov-Anand FIDE Championship Match

    After Cycle 17, FIDE abandoned its match based championship title entirely, and created a new, tournament-based Championship Title, built around the format of the 1997 Groningen Candidates, with the difference that future tournaments in the format would be used to crown a FIDE champion rather than name a challenger.

    The result was something very similar to what had happened to the US title in 1936, with the difference that this time it was not done with the consent of the sitting title holder, Anatoly Karpov, who challenged FIDE in court.

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