Fischer read every chess book he could find in Russian and English (click here about Fischer's studying style) . He was perhaps the most avid student of chess of all time, and, Fischer had a reputation for being brutally honest...so when asked to make a list of the top players of all time, Fischer carefully sketched out a list in 1964, and then revised it in 1970. For your pleasure...here are those lists.

 

Fischer's Lists of Ten Best Chess Players of All Time

(Alphabetized)

1964
1970
*Alexander Alekhine
Jose Raul Capablanca
*Paul Morphy

Samuel Reshevsky
*Boris Spassky
Howard Staunton
Wilhelm Steinitz
Mikhail Tal
Seigbert Tarrasch
Mikhail Tchigorin
Mikhail Botvinnik
Jose Raul Capablanca
Svetozar Gligoric
Bent Larsen
*Paul Morphy
Tigran Petrosian
Samuel Reshevsky
*Boris Spassky
Wilhelm Steinitz
Mikhail Tal

*Academic Chess has chapters of the site devoted to these star players.

1. PAUL MORPHY

Perhaps the most accurate player who ever lived, he would beat anybody today in a set-match. He had complete sight of the board and seldom blundered even though he moved quite rapidly. I've played over hundreds of his games and am continually surprised and entertained by his ingenuity.


2. HOWARD STAUNTON
His games are completely modern, but very few of them show brilliancies. He understood all the positional concepts we now hold so dear.


3. WILHELM STEINITZ
He always sought completely original lines and didn't mind getting into cramped quarters if he thought that his position was essentially sound.


4. SIEGBERT TARRASCH
Razor-sharp, he always followed his own rules. In spite of devotion to his own supposedly scientific method, his play was often witty and bright.


5. MIKHAIL TCHIGORIN
The first great Russian player and one of the last of the Romantic School. At times he would continue playing a bad line even after it was refuted.


6. ALEXANDER ALEKHINE
Never a hero of mine. His style worked for him, but it could scarcely work for anybody else. His conceptions were gigantic, full of outrageous and unprecedented ideas. It's hard to find mistakes in his games, but in a sense his whole method was a mistake.


7. JOSE CAPABLANCA
He had the totally undeserved reputation of being the greatest living endgame player. His trick was to keep his openings simple and then play with such brilliance that it was decided in the middle game before reaching the ending -- even though his opponent didn't always know it. His almost complete lack of book knowledge forced him to push harder to squeeze the utmost out of every position.


8. BORIS SPASSKY
He can blunder away a piece, and you are never sure whether it's a blunder or a fantastically deep sacrifice. He sits at the board with the same dead expression whether he's mating or being mated.


9. MIKHAIL TAL
Even after losing four games in a row to him I still consider his play unsound. He is always on the lookout for some spectacular sacrifice, that one shot, that dramatic breakthrough to give him the win.


10. SAMUEL RESHEVSKY
From 1946 to 1956 probably the best in the world, though his opening knowledge was less than any other leading player. Like a machine calculating every variation, he found moves over the board by a process of elimination and often got into fantastic time pressure.



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