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Although players such as Philidor and Morphy clearly were stronger players than their contemporaries, it was not until 1886 that a match was held specifically to decide who could legitimately claim the title of world chess champion. The players were Wilhelm Steinitz, from Prague (now the capital of the Czech Republic), and Johann Zukertort, from Poland. Each had achieved great successes in previous tournaments and matches. Steinitz defeated Zukertort in a match in 1872, but when Zukertort won the great London tournament of 1883 ahead of Steinitz, another match was arranged in 1886. Steinitz won it decisively with 10 wins, 5 losses, and 5 draws, and he became the first official world chess champion.

In 1894 Steinitz lost the title to 25-year-old German player Emanuel Lasker, who subsequently held the title for a record 27 years. Lasker was deposed as champion in 1921 by Cuban player José Raúl Capablanca, who was replaced as champion in 1927 by Russian-born Alexander Alekhine of France. Alekhine lost the championship to Dutch player Machgielis (Max) Euwe in 1935, but regained it in a rematch two years later. When Alekhine died in 1946 he still held the title, so the World Chess Federation (FIDE, the Fédération Internationale des Échecs) set out to find a new champion. FIDE had been founded in 1924, but not until Alekhine’s death in 1946 was the organization able to take control of the world championship. In 1948 FIDE organized a special competition among the world’s five best players. Mikhail Botvinnik of the USSR won the title.

Since 1948 FIDE championship matches have been held every few years. Botvinnik reigned as world champion for almost 15 years, losing his title briefly to two Soviet players—in 1957-1958 to Vassily Smyslov and in 1960-1961 to then 22-year-old Mikhail Tal. Botvinnik lost to Soviet Tigran Petrosian in 1963, and subsequently announced his retirement from championship play. Boris Spassky defeated Petrosian for the world championship in 1969, but in 1972 Spassky lost to Bobby Fischer, who became the first American world champion and the first non-Soviet to win a world championship under the rules adopted after 1945.

Recent world champions Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov have met in five title matches. The first match (1984-1985) was halted by Florencio Campomanes, the president of FIDE, after it had lasted for six months without producing a winner. Campomanes said he was trying to protect the health of the players, who appeared exhausted. But Kasparov believed that Campomanes wanted to save the title for his friend Karpov. In their next match in 1985, Kasparov won the title from Karpov and then successfully defended it three times. In 1993 Kasparov and his official challenger, Nigel Short of England, rejected FIDE’s proposed arrangements for their world championship and set up a rival organization, the Professional Chess Association, hoping to gain commercial sponsorship and television coverage on a much larger scale than FIDE was able to accomplish. After he defeated Short under the auspices of the Professional Chess Association, Kasparov claimed the title of world champion. But Karpov, who remained loyal to FIDE, also claimed the title after winning a FIDE-sanctioned match against Jan Timman of the Netherlands.

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1334

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