Tigran Petrosian

Petrosian finally ended Botvinnik's long reign at the top of world chess in 1963, and Botvinnik didn't seek a re-match.

Petrosian's mature style was often hard to like -- slow and safety-first -- but easy to admire -- very effective and often subtle.

He was known for a 'boa-constrictor' approach, taking control of a game slowly, and waiting for small mistakes. You wouldn't have thought that could work against top grandmasters, but it did.

Vasily Smyslov

Smyslov played four times for the World Championship: he came second to Botvinnik in the 1948 tournament (following Alekhin's death), and then he played Botvinnik three times, drawing in 1954 (so Botvinnik kept the title), winning in 1957, but losing again in 1958.

Smyslov was a fine singer and musician, and his games are known for their sense of art and harmony. He was not known for great research and analysis, more insight and intuition -- he played all openings with seemingly equal ease, especially the flexible hypermodern openings like the Reti.

Mikhail Botvinnik

Mikhail Botvinnik was the first of many Soviet chess World Champions, winning a tournament in 1948 after Alekhin died, and holding on though a couple of interruptions until 1963. He was known for a very sound, logical style of play, and thoroughly researched all the opening systems he played.

Here he is in action with an IQP position against one of the giants of the day:

Max Euwe

Max Euwe held the title of Champion briefly, beating then losing to Alekhin in 1935 and 1937. He remained active in chess organisation, being Prsident of FIDE for many years, and died a much-respected figure. He was a schoolteacher during his best chess years, the last amateur to hold the title.

Euwe's style was very logical, as fits a maths teacher, and he excelled in analysis, but his faith in his logical conclusions led him to take on very sharp and unbalanced positions, if he believed he was right.

Alexander Alekhin

Alexander Alexandrovitch Alekhin wrestled the crown from Capablanca with and never allowed him a rematch. He did play matches with Bogolyubow and even lost one to Euwe before getting back the worls title.

Alekhin's moves were always trying to get the most out of a position. It wasn't his style to look for 'natural' or 'elegant' moves -- he looked for ones that were forceful, accurate, dynamic -- the moves you had to play right now because you wouldn't get another chance.

Jose Raul Capablanca

Capablanca had a gift for chess that may never be seen again. He was able to play beautiful positional games, spiced with deadly tactics, and all at breathtaking speed, at least in his early years. He could see at a glance what other masters struggled with.

I have included a couple of his elegant combinations, and two smooth endgames in the style for which he was best known. Both endgames have a crisp tactic, but the tactics are there to win positional goals, not material.

Click [...] to see list of games

Emanuel Lasker

Steinitz could do everything well, and Lasker beat Steinitz.  So what was Lasker doing?

We are used to seeing the many photos of Lasker taken when he was an old man, but we must notice that Lasker was a young man when he beat Steinitz in 1894.  So age may have had something to do with it.

But there are a couple of other things: 

1. He won five games in a row in the middle of the match, in part because he steered for positions that he thought Steinitz didn't handle so well -- queenless middlegames (where the Queens have been swapped and not much else).

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