Monday, February 12, 2007

The R-Factor

In a previous post (January 20th, 2007) I discussed the theme of "The Greatest Player", and claimed that one of the major factors that must be taken into consideration is a player's relative strength compared to his contemporaries - the R-factor. I believe this should be one of the easier lists to agree on. A very relevant source is the Chessmetrics site. Among other statistics, they provide lists of the best "peak years". After having set up my own preliminary list, I compared it with Chessmetric's list of "Peak Average Ratings: 3 year peak range", added a couple of names that obviously belonged in the top and did some other rather minor adjustments.

In the list below I have tried to take into account peak strength as well as the time span at the very top. I admit my methods have been far from scientific, but for now this is my suggested top-10 list of "Relative strength compared to contemporary competitors":

1 Garry Kasparov
2 Emanuel Lasker
3 Bobby Fischer
4 José Capablanca
5 Anatoly Karpov
6 Paul Morphy
7 Alexander Alekhine
8 Mikhail Botvinnik
9 Wilhelm Steinitz
10 Mikhail Tal

These just missed my top 10 - mainly because it's not clear at what time they would have a claim to being the clearly strongest player on earth:

11 Tigran Petrosian
12 Viswanathan Anand
13 Vladimir Kramnik
14 Vassily Smyslov
15 Akiba Rubinstein

Compared to Chessmetrics, the most obvious difference is that Morphy made it to a 6th place in my list, while ending on a modest 66th in the "3-year peak range". I must admit there is some doubt about his world dominance at his time. But I still cannot see who of his contemporaries that could have given him a good match when he was at his peak around 1860.

My next entry on this subject will probably be on the "A-factor" - a list of the objectively strongest players based solely on the quality of their moves. I will not go into details yet, but suspect that most of the players on that list will have been active during the last decade or so.

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