Bobby Fischer (1943 – 2008)
American Bobby Fischer might or might not have been the best chess player of all time, but he’s definitely one of the most unusual and mysterious. He was known as a child prodigy of chess and became the eleventh World Chess Champion in 1972. He then became argumentative with the World Chess Federation and went into reclusion, not professionally playing another match until 1992. During the last years of his life he moved around the globe frequently and was known to speak badly of his native country and to make anti-Semitic remarks. Eventually his U.S. passport was revoked, but Iceland gave him citizenship. He died in that country in 2008.
Garry Kasparov (1963 – )
Russian Kasparov is another chess champion considered by many to be one of the greatest players of all time, if not thebest player of all time. In 1985, he became the youngest ever World Chess Champion, and then held onto the title until 1993. In 1993 he did not lose the championship, but entered a disagreement with the World Chess Federation; Kasparov then created is own chess organization, the Professional Chess Association, and was champion of that group until losing in 2000. He holds the world record as the ranking No. 1 world chess champion. On five occasions he has faced off with against a super computer, with mixed results. Kasparov officially retired from chess in 2005. He is the author of numerous books on chess, and has entered the world of politics in his homeland of Russia.
Veselin Topalov (1975 – )
This Bulgarian chess master was world champion in 2005, lost it in 2006, and is now in line to play for the World Chess Championship in 2009. One of the most famous matches Topalov has been involved in was a 2006 game against Vladimir Kramnik, a Russian. Accusations were made that Kramnik was cheating during the match, possibly by taking multiple bathroom breaks to use a computer for help in the game. The match was delayed while multiple rulings and appeals were handed down by chess officialdom, but eventually the game continued and Kramnik won.
Anatoly Karpov (1951 – )
Another Russian, Karpov was world champion from 1975 to 1985 then was World Chess Federation world champion from 1993 to 1999. He has not officially retired from chess, but since the mid-1990s has been more involved in Russian politics. He is famous for an ongoing rivalry with fellow Russian Kasparov and for a proposed match with Bobby Fischer that never occurred.
Viswanathan Anand (1969 – )
Anand, an Indian, is the current World Chess Federation world champion and has been since 2007. He was also champion from 2000 to 2002. He holds the world record for being the first world champion to have won a title in three different formats of the game. Later this year, 2009, he faces a tough opponent in Veselin Topalov for the world championship title.