The Greatest Chess Tournament of All Time

I haven’t played an actual game of chess in many years, but I used to love to play chess in high school, when I had a lot of time. I still follow chess, mostly via the excellent http://www.chessbase.com.

In June of 2017, an incredible chess tournament was held. The “Altibox Norway Chess Tournament” may well be the greatest chess tournament in history. The tournament had 10 players — and they were the top 10 ranked players in the world, by FIDE chess rating. The field included the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen (Norway, #1) and the previous two world champions, Vishy Anand (India, #7) and Vladimir Kramnik (Russia, #4). Also competing was the most recent championship challenger, Sergey Karjakin (Russia, #9).

The other six players were Wesley So (USA, #2), Fabiano Caruana (USA, #3), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France, #5), Hikaru Nakamura (USA, #6), Levon Aronian (Armenia, #8), and Anish Giri (Netherlands, #10).

In the history of chess, there’s only one or two other tournaments that might be considered as great or greater. The AVRO 1938 tournament had eight players, including four world champions, plus four other players. The eight players were widely acknowledged as the strongest in the world (there were no chess ratings in 1938). AVRO 1938 competitors were Alexander Alekhine (born in Russia, then champion), Jose Raul Capablanca (Cuba, former champion), Max Euwe (Netherlands, former champion), Mikhail Botvinnik (Soviet Union, future champion), Reuben Fine (USA), Samuel Reshevsky (USA), and Salo Flohr (Czechoslovakia). Keres and Fine tied for first place.

There have been many “great” chess tournaments, but “great” is subjective and hard to define. I don’t necessarily equate “greatest” with “strongest”. Some of the tournaments on my personal list of great tournaments includes Hastings 1895, St. Petersburg 1914, New York 1924, Santa Monica 1966, and Las Palmas 1996.

Anyway, the somewhat-of-a-surprise winner of Altibox 2017 was Levon Aronian, clear first with 6.0 (out of 9) points. Nakamura and Kramnik tied for 2nd and 3rd (5.0 points). Caruana, So, and Giri tied for 4th through 6th places (4.5 points). Vachier-Lagrave, Anand, and Carlsen tied for 7th through 9th (4.0 points). Karjakin finished 10th with 3.5 points.

The poor result of the current champion, Carlsen, was surprising and disappointing. There was immediate speculation that Carlsen has lost his burning desire to win. Well, only time will tell. I wish Carlsen had won, because having a world champion win a tournament adds to its “greatest”-ness in my opinion.

If two or more of the Altibox competitors eventually go on to win a world championship over the next 10 or so years, giving Altibox 2017 a total of five champions, then I’d rate Altibox as the greatest tournament ever. But until then, I’ll give the title to AVRO 1938.


Aronian and Carlsen:


Caruana and Kramnik:


Giri and Anand:


Nakamura and Vachier-Lagrave:


So and Karjakin:


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2 Responses to The Greatest Chess Tournament of All Time

  1. BoilingCoder says:

    Chess is a great game, Carlsen is from a new generation of Chess players. Who learned to play chess mainly from computer games (as we know that computer plays chess better then humans nowadays). This wasn’t always the case so in the time before that, people took training and learned from other grandmaster, or even bought tricks in certain areas from experts who solely play a certain opening. Its now common though that people train like Carlsen did, they will learn from computers, and someday one of those beat Carlsen.. (but we all loose from computers).

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