World Records in Chess

The Biggest Chess Piece in the World, Outside the World Chess Hall of Fame in Saint Louis

What was the shortest game of chess ever played? Who was the highest rated chess player ever? Take a closer look at some of the most interesting chess world records.

The Biggest Chess Piece in the World, Outside the World Chess Hall of Fame in Saint Louis

World Records in Chess

There are a number of world records that have been set in the world of chess. Unsurprisingly for a cerebral game like chess, almost everything is quantified and calculated, which makes setting world records quite a straightforward thing to do. Everything from latest first capture to largest tie for first place can become a record in chess, but we’re going to take a look at only the most interesting of chess world records.

Longest Game

The longest recorded game of chess ever played was between Ivan Nikolic and Goran Arsovic. It took place in 1989, at a tournament in Belgrade. The match lasted for 20 hours and 15 minutes, after 269 moves had been played. It ended in a draw.

There was a change in rules that preceded this match, which is what allowed it to go on so long. FIDE had modified the normal fifty-move rule, which allows a player to claim a draw if there has been no capture made by either player in the last fifty moves, into a new 100 move rule. The original rule was designed to prevent one player from drawing out a game he has no chance of winning, which seems to be pretty much what happened in the Nikolic-Arsovic match. The modification was quickly rescinded after this game, and the fifty-move rule is in place for tournament play today.

Shortest Game

Whereas the Nikolic-Arsovic match would have had spectators falling asleep in their seats, the shortest game of chess ever played would barely give the players themselves time to sit down and get comfortable!

It’s a known fact that the fewest moves required to secure checkmate is two, which is a situation known as Fool’s mate. It’s not often seen in competitive play, but happens occasionally in amateur play. A game between L. Darling and R. Wood was published in Northwest Chess magazine in 1983 that went like this: 1. g4 e6 2. f4?? Qh4#.

There are also situations when a player can lose without having played any moves at all, which is more often the case in the highest levels of competitive chess. This is often done in protest, such as in the case of the 1970 game between Bobby Fischer and Oscar Panno, when Panno refused to play in protest of the way the game had been rescheduled to accommodate Fischer.

There are also a few new rules FIDE has instituted which can result in a player instantly losing a match, without needing to make any moves or even be present at the venue! A player who is late to the start of a round automatically loses their game, which happened to Hou Yifan when she was 5 seconds late to a round of the 2009 Chinese Chess Championship. Also, if a player’s cell phone makes any noise at all within the tournament hall, they immediately lose their game, as in the case of Aleksander Delchev who lost his game before he could make a move due to an unsilenced cell phone.

Fewest Moves Played in a Tournament

The 2017 Capablanca Memorial Tournament LogoA bit of an unusual record, this questionable honor belongs to Pete Szekely. In the 2003 Capablanca Memorial Tournament, he drew all 13 of his games in just 130 moves. We’re not sure if it was his moves that got him this result, or his incredible powers of persuasion!

Highest Rating

The highest rated player ever in the game of chess is currently Magnus Carlsen, who has a rating of 2882. Now, due to an artifact in the ELO rating system, the ratings of players in constantly being inflated over time, so it’s uncertain whether he is actually the best player of all time, or just the most recent excellent player who is benefiting from a somewhat flawed rating system. We may never know, because there is not really a reliable way to compare chess masters of different eras to one another. The ELO rating system works best to compare contemporary players, or players who have had matches against other common players.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen

Youngest Grandmaster

The youngest grandmaster title is one that is constantly changing hands as young players excel at the game faster and faster. It is one of the most prized world records in chess, but also one of the most fleeting, since there is always new talent coming up behind you. It seems that no one can hold on to this record for more than a few years at best!

Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, and Judit Polgar are all former holders of this world record, but the current youngest grandmaster is Sergey Karjakin. He is a Ukrainian chess player who qualified for the grandmaster title at 12 years, 7 months, 0 days old. He has impressively managed to hold onto that title since 2002, but it’s only a matter of time before someone else takes it!

Sergey Karjakin

Sergey Karjakin, then and now

Oldest Grandmaster

On the other end of the spectrum, the oldest grandmaster title doesn’t seem to be so highly coveted. This record is given not based on how long you live after being awarded the title of grandmaster, but rather how old you are when you first receive it.

Many players have been honorary grandmaster status based on their past achievements. If you count it that way, the oldest chess grandmaster would be Enrico Paoli, who was 88 years old when he was awarded the title in 1996.

In terms of chess players who won their title through competitive play, the oldest grandmaster would be Yuri Shabanov, who won the 2003 World Senior Championship, earning himself the title at the age of 66.

Most Consecutive Games Without a Loss

This is a bit of an overlooked record, but quite an amazing one when you think about it. In the world of competitive chess, it’s completely normal to win a few games, draw a few more, and lose a few before you win any again. It’s all just part of the process. That’s why Mikhail Tal’s string of 95 consecutive tournament games without a loss is so amazing.

Tal’s spree consisted of 46 wins and 49 draws, but he never once lost a game for almost an entire year from October 23, 1973 to October 16, 1974. That’s amazing!

Mikhail Tal

Mikhail Tal

The Biggest Chess Piece Ever Created

Giant chess sets are an increasingly popular choice of entertainment for backyard parties, public parks, shopping malls, beaches, and even weddings. Usually, the pieces in a giant chess set are anywhere from 8 to 72 inches tall. While a 6 foot tall chess piece might seem enormous, it’s utterly dwarfed by the biggest chess piece ever created, which stands a full 20 feet tall! Just the base of it is 9 feet, 2 inches across.

The largest chess piece ever created, stands proudly outside the entrance of the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri

The largest chess piece ever created, stands proudly outside the entrance of the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri

Of course, it is a King piece, and it stands proudly outside the entrance of the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri. The enormous piece is actually a scale replica of the black Staunton King piece that was used in the inaugural Sinquefield Cup, a Saint Louis tradition.

Youngest Player to Beat a Grandmaster

As we’ve mentioned before, kids these days are getting involved with the game of chess at earlier and earlier ages. Which is great for their brain’s development, but could cause quite a blow to the egos of the grandmasters they defeat!

The youngest person ever to defeat a grandmaster in a game of chess was Awonder Liang, who was 9 years, 3 months, and 20 days old when he bested famed player Larry Kaufman in the Washington International Tournament.

Awonder Liang

Awonder Liang

There are a lot of impressive world records in the world of chess – some that will leave you baffled and scratching your head wondering, “how did they DO that?” That’s the beauty of such a complicated game – there are always records to be broken!

The World’s Largest Chess Pawn Garden

Todd Bardwick, of the Denver Chess Academy, has yet another feather to add to his cap. He is the proud owner of the world’s largest chess pawn garden! It is a raised bed garden in the shape of- you guessed it – a pawn piece. The shape is laid out by over 500 23.75 pound blocks. That gives it a total weight of about 12,000 pounds. Filled out with dirt, plants, and the crushed granite drainage base, it weighs over 20 tons! It is 26 feet tall from top to bottom, and the base of the pawn stretches 13 and a half feet across.

The World’s Largest Chess Pawn Garden

The World’s Largest Chess Pawn Garden


One comment

  1. Bobby Fishers world record of 19(21?) wins in a row…no draws. Beating the World GMs not just a GM of a country.
    Magnus Carlsen now has the longest winning streak of 110 games?? he beat Ta’sl and Liren’s records.

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