Unofficial World Chess Champions

by Shimil Varghese
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)

Anderssen - Morphy

Anderssen - Morphy

The first official world chess championship was in 1886 in which Wilhelm Steinitz defeated Johannes Zukertort. But, before 1886 there were some of the most famous champions of their time in the world. A championship that resembled a world championship was conducted in 1834 in which La Bourdonnais played against McDonnell. The championship had six matches of 85 games total.
In 1843, Howard Staunton played and won against a Frenchman, Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint-Amant. This made him the world’s popular player of that time. In 1845, Howard Staunton was quoted as the ‘England’s Chess Champion’ and the ‘Chess Champion of the World’ in The Times. This was the first use of the term ‘Chess Championship’ as per the records.

Ludwig Bledow wrote a proposal to der Lasa for a contest for the recognition of the World’s best chess player in 1846. Because of the death of Bledow in 1846, the proposed battle did not take place. The international tournament in London in 1851 was described as world championship by a member of Calcutta chess club in 1850, in ‘Chess Player's Chronicle’ of Alexander Kennedy and the Liberty Weekly in 1851. But there is no documentary evidence to prove that the play was to select a world champion.

Adolf Anderssen won a chess tournament in 1893 which made him the first modern chess player of the world. He was considered as the leading chess player in the world. Paul Morphy in 1858, had defeated Adolf Anderssen and this victory awarded him as the world chess champion at that time. He then played with many popular players across the world and was hailed by the Harper's Weekly as the World champion in 1858. Many considered him as the best player for many years.

Anderssen was defeated in a match against Steinitz in 1866 which was referred as the official world championship for the first time. The tournament was declared as the first official world championship only after the death of Morphy in 1884.

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