The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Russian Chess Players. The pantheon dataset contains 376 Chess Players, 62 of which were born in Russia. This makes Russia the birth place of the most number of Chess Players.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Russian Chess Players of all time. This list of famous Russian Chess Players is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Russian Chess Players.

Photo of Boris Spassky

1. Boris Spassky (1937 - )

With an HPI of 77.39, Boris Spassky is the most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 65 different languages on wikipedia.

Boris Vasilievich Spassky (Russian: Бори́с Васи́льевич Спа́сский, tr. Borís Vasíl'yevich Spásskiy; born January 30, 1937) is a Russian chess grandmaster who was the tenth World Chess Champion, holding the title from 1969 to 1972. Spassky played three world championship matches: he lost to Tigran Petrosian in 1966; defeated Petrosian in 1969 to become world champion; then lost to Bobby Fischer in a famous match in 1972. Spassky won the Soviet Chess Championship twice outright (1961, 1973), and twice lost in playoffs (1956, 1963), after tying for first place during the event proper. He was a World Chess Championship candidate on seven occasions (1956, 1965, 1968, 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1985). In addition to his candidates wins in 1965 and 1968, Spassky reached the semi-final stage in 1974 and the final stage in 1977. Spassky immigrated to France in 1976, becoming a French citizen in 1978. He continued to compete in tournaments but was no longer a major contender for the world title. Spassky lost an unofficial rematch against Fischer in 1992. In 2012, he left France and returned to Russia. As of 2022, Spassky is the oldest living former world champion.

Photo of Alexander Alekhine

2. Alexander Alekhine (1892 - 1946)

With an HPI of 77.15, Alexander Alekhine is the 2nd most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 66 different languages.

Alexander Alekhine (Russian: Алекса́ндр Алекса́ндрович Але́хин, Aleksándr Aleksándrovich Alékhin; pronounced [ɐlʲɪkˈsandr ɐlʲɪkˈsandrəvʲɪtɕ ɐˈlʲexʲɪn]; October 31 [O.S. October 19] 1892 – March 24, 1946) was a Russian and French chess player and the fourth World Chess Champion, a title he held for two reigns. By the age of 22, Alekhine was already among the strongest chess players in the world. During the 1920s, he won most of the tournaments in which he played. In 1921, Alekhine left Soviet Russia and emigrated to France, which he represented after 1925. In 1927, he became the fourth World Chess Champion by defeating José Raúl Capablanca. In the early 1930s, Alekhine dominated tournament play and won two top-class tournaments by large margins. He also played first board for France in five Chess Olympiads, winning individual prizes in each (four medals and a brilliancy prize). Alekhine offered Capablanca a rematch on the same demanding terms that Capablanca had set for him, and negotiations dragged on for years without making much progress. Meanwhile, Alekhine defended his title with ease against Efim Bogoljubov in 1929 and 1934. He was defeated by Max Euwe in 1935, but regained his crown in the 1937 rematch. His tournament record, however, was uneven, and rising young stars like Paul Keres, Reuben Fine, and Mikhail Botvinnik threatened his title. Negotiations for a title match with Keres or Botvinnik were halted by the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939. Negotiations with Botvinnik for a world title match were proceeding in 1946 when Alekhine died in Portugal, in unclear circumstances. Alekhine is the only World Chess Champion to have died while holding the title. Alekhine is known for his fierce and imaginative attacking style, combined with great positional and endgame skill. He is highly regarded as a chess writer and theoretician, having produced innovations in a wide range of chess openings and having given his name to Alekhine's Defence and several other opening variations. He also composed some endgame studies.

Photo of Mikhail Botvinnik

3. Mikhail Botvinnik (1911 - 1995)

With an HPI of 76.05, Mikhail Botvinnik is the 3rd most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 63 different languages.

Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik (August 17 [O.S. August 4] 1911 – May 5, 1995) was a Soviet and Russian chess grandmaster. The sixth World Chess Champion, he also worked as an electrical engineer and computer scientist and was a pioneer in computer chess. Botvinnik was the first world-class player to develop within the Soviet Union. He also played a major role in the organization of chess, making a significant contribution to the design of the World Chess Championship system after World War II and becoming a leading member of the coaching system that enabled the Soviet Union to dominate top-class chess during that time. His pupils include World Champions Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik.

Photo of Anatoly Karpov

4. Anatoly Karpov (1951 - )

With an HPI of 74.69, Anatoly Karpov is the 4th most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 72 different languages.

Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov (Russian: Анато́лий Евге́ньевич Ка́рпов, IPA: [ɐnɐˈtolʲɪj jɪvˈɡʲenʲjɪvʲɪtɕ ˈkarpəf]; born May 23, 1951) is a Russian and former Soviet chess grandmaster, former World Chess Champion, ⁣and politician. He was the 12th World Chess Champion from 1975 to 1985, a three-time FIDE World Champion (1993, 1996, 1998), twice World Chess champion as a member of the USSR team (1985, 1989), and a six-time winner of Chess Olympiads as a member of the USSR team (1972, 1974, 1980, 1982, 1986, 1988). The International Association of Chess Press awarded him nine Chess "Oscars" (1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1984). Karpov's tournament successes include over 160 first-place finishes. He had a peak Elo rating of 2780, and his 102 total months at world number one is the third-longest of all time, behind Magnus Carlsen and Garry Kasparov, since the inception of the FIDE ranking list in 1970. Karpov is also an elected Member of the Duma in Russia. Since 2006, he has chaired the Commission for Ecological Safety and Environmental Protection of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, and since 2007, he has been a member of the Public Council under the Ministry of Defence.

Photo of Viktor Korchnoi

5. Viktor Korchnoi (1931 - 2016)

With an HPI of 72.80, Viktor Korchnoi is the 5th most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 45 different languages.

Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi (Russian: Ви́ктор Льво́вич Корчно́й, IPA: [vʲiktər lʲvovʲɪtɕ kɐrtɕˈnoj]; 23 March 1931 – 6 June 2016) was a Soviet (before 1976) and Swiss (after 1980) chess grandmaster and writer. He is considered one of the strongest players never to have become World Chess Champion.Born in Leningrad, Soviet Union, Korchnoi defected to the Netherlands in 1976, and resided in Switzerland from 1978, becoming a Swiss citizen. Korchnoi played four matches, three of which were official, against GM Anatoly Karpov. In 1974, Korchnoi lost the Candidates final to Karpov. Karpov was declared World Champion in 1975 when GM Bobby Fischer declined to defend his title. Korchnoi then won two consecutive Candidates cycles to qualify for World Championship matches with Karpov in 1978 and 1981, but lost both. The two players also played a drawn training match of six games in 1971. Korchnoi was a candidate for the World Championship on ten occasions (1962, 1968, 1971, 1974, 1977, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1988 and 1991). He was also four times a USSR chess champion, five times a member of Soviet teams that won the European championship, and six times a member of Soviet teams that won the Chess Olympiad. He played competitive chess until old age. At age 75, he won the 2006 World Senior Chess Championship and became the oldest person ever to be ranked among the world's top 100 players.

Photo of Vasily Smyslov

6. Vasily Smyslov (1921 - 2010)

With an HPI of 72.66, Vasily Smyslov is the 6th most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Vasily Vasilyevich Smyslov (Russian: Васи́лий Васи́льевич Смысло́в, tr. Vasíliy Vasíl'yevich Smyslóv; 24 March 1921 – 27 March 2010) was a Soviet and Russian chess grandmaster, who was World Chess Champion from 1957 to 1958. He was a Candidate for the World Chess Championship on eight occasions (1948, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1959, 1965, 1983, and 1985). Smyslov twice tied for first place at the Soviet Championships (1949, 1955), and his total of 17 Chess Olympiad medals won is an all-time record. In five European Team Championships, Smyslov won ten gold medals. Smyslov remained active and successful in competitive chess well after the age of sixty. Despite failing eyesight, he remained active in the occasional composition of chess problems and studies until shortly before his death in 2010. Besides chess, he was an accomplished baritone singer.

Photo of Vera Menchik

7. Vera Menchik (1906 - 1944)

With an HPI of 68.89, Vera Menchik is the 7th most famous Russian Chess Player.  Her biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Vera Menchik (Russian: Вера Францевна Менчик, Vera Frantsevna Menchik; Czech: Věra Menčíková; 16 February 1906 – 26 June 1944) was a Russian-born British-Czechoslovak chess player who became the first women's world chess champion. She also competed in tournaments with some of the world's leading male chess masters, with occasional successes including two wins over future world champion Max Euwe.

Photo of Mikhail Chigorin

8. Mikhail Chigorin (1850 - 1908)

With an HPI of 68.14, Mikhail Chigorin is the 8th most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 37 different languages.

Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (also Tchigorin; Russian: Михаи́л Ива́нович Чиго́рин; 12 November [O.S. 31 October] 1850 – 25 January [O.S. 12 January] 1908) was a Russian chess player. He played two World Championship matches against Wilhelm Steinitz, losing both times. The last great player of the Romantic chess style, he also served as a major source of inspiration for the "Soviet chess school", which dominated the chess world in the middle and latter parts of the 20th century.

Photo of Savielly Tartakower

9. Savielly Tartakower (1887 - 1956)

With an HPI of 67.06, Savielly Tartakower is the 9th most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Savielly Tartakower (also known as Xavier or Ksawery Tartakower, less often Tartacover or Tartakover; 21 February 1887 – 4 February 1956) was a Polish and French chess player. He was awarded the title of International Grandmaster in its inaugural year, 1950. Tartakower was also a leading chess journalist and author of the 1920s and 1930s.

Photo of Andor Lilienthal

10. Andor Lilienthal (1911 - 2010)

With an HPI of 66.49, Andor Lilienthal is the 10th most famous Russian Chess Player.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Andor (André, Andre, Andrei) Arnoldovich Lilienthal (5 May 1911 – 8 May 2010) was a Hungarian and Soviet chess player. In his long career, he played against ten male and female world champions, beating Emanuel Lasker, José Raúl Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Max Euwe, Mikhail Botvinnik, Vasily Smyslov, and Vera Menchik.At the time of his death, he was the oldest living grandmaster (since surpassed by Yuri Averbakh), and the last surviving person from the original group of grandmasters awarded the title by FIDE in 1950.

Pantheon has 62 people classified as chess players born between 1799 and 1998. Of these 62, 43 (69.35%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living chess players include Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, and Yuri Averbakh. The most famous deceased chess players include Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Botvinnik, and Viktor Korchnoi. As of October 2020, 16 new chess players have been added to Pantheon including Igor Bondarevsky, Viacheslav Ragozin, and Leonid Shamkovich.

Living Chess Players

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Deceased Chess Players

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Newly Added Chess Players (2020)

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Which Chess Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 19 most globally memorable Chess Players since 1700.