World Chess Championship Facts

The first official title match was held back in 1886 in the United States between Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort.

The first five games were played in New York City, followed by the next four being played in St. Louis and the final eleven in New Orleans.

The winner was to be the first player to gain ten wins. Wilhelm Steinitz finally won the match 10–5, after winning his tenth game during the twentieth match and there were also five draws.

However in 1946 following the death of Alexander Alekhine, FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) the world chess association had the opportunity to bring the contest under their control.

They organised a tournament in 1948 featuring five of the world’s top players and it was won by the Soviet star Mikhail Botvinnik.

Following on from this, FIDE organised a title match every three years, with a series of qualifying tournaments and matches being used to determine who would become the official challenger.

A drawn match would favour the reigning champion, who would retain his title. A defeated champion was given the right to a return match one year later, but this was abandoned in 1963.

Players from the Soviet Union dominated the title matches from 1951-1972.

Spasskyand Fischer
Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer after Spassky won the first game of the 1972 World Chess Championship. Image Credit: AP Images.

America’s Bobby Fischer ended the long run of Soviet victories in 1972 when he beat Spassky, but then Fischer did not play again for 20 years.

Meanwhile Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov went on to dominate the title for the next 25 years.

In 1993, Garry Kasparov and his new challenger England’s Nigel Short, decided to break away from FIDE and played their match under the auspices of the Professional Chess Association.

FIDE held a rival match in the same year, which saw Karpov beat Jan Timman of the Netherlands.

The split in the chess world led to a confusing situation with two people claiming to be the reigning champion of the world.

Additional confusion was created by the astonishing return of Bobby Fischer in 1992, when he played a second match with Boris Spassky, 20 years after their epic 1972 clash.

Fischer also claimed to be world champion, as he had not been beaten since 1972, but nobody really took his claim seriously and Fischer never played chess again.

The split in the chess world was finally repaired in 2006 when Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Vladimir Kramnik played a unification match, which was won by Kramnik.

Viswanathan Anand then became the undisputed champion by winning a tournament for the title in 2007, followed by victories against Kramnik (2008) and Topalov (2010).

Since those messy times, title matches have been back on schedule.

The world chess champion for 2018 is Norwegian Magnus Carlsen who has retained the title since 2013.

Over a three week period Magnus Carlsen played against the American Fabiano Caruana and for 20 days the world’s two best grandmasters sat in a studio in central London.

Finally, after 15 games, 773 moves and 51 hours, Carlsen yet again beat Caruana.

Feature Image Credit: A clash of kings: Carlsen, right, has been defending his title from Caruana by EPA.