Friday 16 May 2008

The Golden Dozen

When I first was getting serious about chess, I used to hang out at the Woden Library in Canberra, looking through their chess section. One of the titles that stood out was The Golden Dozen by Irving Chernev. Why this stood out wasn't the quality of the book but what I thought was the difficulty/audacity of compiling and publishing such a list.
The book was published in 1976 (although the last game in it was played in 1971), and the top 12 players (according to Chernev) were

  1. Capablanca
  2. Alekhine
  3. Lasker
  4. Fischer
  5. Botvinnik
  6. Petrosian
  7. Tal
  8. Smyslov
  9. Spassky
  10. Bronstein
  11. Rubenstein
  12. Nimzovitch

An interesting list, and one I think that some people have objected to over the years. I recall the suggestion that Chernev's hero worship of Capablanca resulted in his No 1 ranking, and almost as a flow on effect, Alekhine at No. 2.
Of course a modern list would have to include Kasparov in the top 2 or 3, and Fischer's legend has grown since the original publication of the book. In fact most people I've discussed this topic with seem to think a top 4 of Alekhine, Capablanca, Fischer, Kasparov (although not in that order) seems to pick itself, with various choices for player 5. Karpov is often overlooked in this debate, while positional players all seem to plump for Botvinnik. However I'm inclined to give Chernev his due in one regard, and make Lasker my choice for no 5 in the list of "5 Greatest Chess Players".
Without running a full blown poll, feel free to add your own lists in the comment section.


Shaun Press said...

To get the ball rolling my top 5 (in order) are
1. Fischer
2. Kasparov
3. Alekhine
4. Capablanca
5. Lasker

Anonymous said...

My top 5:

1. Kasparov
2. Alekhine
3. Karpov
4. Botvinnik
5. Lasker

I don't have Fischer on my list, because longevity is an important factor. Only in 1970 to 1972 was Fischer clearly no 1 in the world.

His results in the sixties were not good enough. Compare with Kasparov, who basically won every tournament in a span of twenty years.

TrueFiendish said...

Morphy doesn't even rate a mention? True, his play in closed positions was not too strong, but he was essentially self-taught and only Capa could claim to match his tactical vision and natural ability.