Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kramnik the Best of All Time?

At Susan Polgar's chess forums, a poster asked if Kramnik could be called the "best ever":

He has a positive score vs kasparov, anand, ivanchuk, topalov, svidler...Has won
long matches vs kasparov, topalov (3-2) and i think he will have no difficulties
to beat anand too.Has won a number of big tourneys, although he is only 32.His
understanding of the positional factors and his endgame technique are really
outstanding, not only nowadays but in the whole history of chess.Somebody can
argue that players like kasparov or fischer had higher %, and this is partially
true but, that is caused mostly by kramnik's lack of ferocious wish to win.In
terms of pure chess talent, beauty of play, harmony of ideas i think kramnik is
really beyond all other champions of all ages; and i have studied about 6000
games in my life so i have "seen" all the bigs in action...Waiting for opinions!
I found the question interesting, and looked into a few GM's overall records. This was my response, and I am interested in your thoughts on the question as well:

Kramnik has a lot of work to do if he is to be considered as the best ever, as he has an overall win percentage that is lower than just comparing to Fischer and Kasparov.

Robert James Fischer Win percentage (72.6%)*
Garry Kasparov Win
percentage (69.4%)*
Jose Raul Capablanca Win percentage (72.1%)*
Alexander Alekhine Win
percentage (72.9%)*

Vladimir Kramnik's (63.0%) needs a fair amount of improvement. But as you said, the man is still young. He is also playing in the forefront of an accelerated technological generation that is producing chess tools never before available.

Over time he could rise to the level you currently hold him at, but he still has a fair amount to prove. Plus as time rolls on he will be facing younger and stronger players raised and immersed in technology and the benefits that has to improving their chess skills. Time will tell, and I will be very interested to see how things shape up over the next few decades.


UnorthodoxPlayer said...

Kramnik has been one of my favorite players since i started playing so i suppose im a bit bias but i think you cant just compare winning percentages between chess players to find out who is better. It takes more than just who can squeeze out a win to determine who is better than who. For this to be accurate you would have to find out who won more drawn games who won off of blunders and percantages of losing games too as well as the percentage of losing games among each generations peers not to mention whether this data was taken in the years where each player was in there prime of play along with if there opponents were also in there prime of play. Karpov is also a very good player and should be in the consideration for the best but the data would not be accurate if it was taken from his games of as of late. If i was going to be completely honest i would have to say the title of best chess player would go to Kasparov based on his overral dominance and insight but the fact that Kasparov has a losing record to Kramnik "atleast in match play" it can be assessed that there is more to chess than sheer dominance doesnt determine who is best overall.

Christian said...

I agree with what unorthdoxoplayer said. I also find the concept of the "best chessplayer of all time" somewhat shallow. Much more interesting and instructive are more specific questions, such as who's the best attacking player/ defender/ tactician/ strategist/ endgame player/ opening theorist in chess? The answers to these questions actually tell you something about that player, especially as to what to look for in their games.

For all I know, Kramnik would rank pretty high up in the defender/ strategist / endgame player categories, but I doubt he'd be considered the best tactician or attacking player in the history of chess. Incidentally, that's why I think his win percentages are so good -- it's tough to win against an expert defender.

Christian said...

Err... I mean that's why I think he's got a positive score against so many other super GMs.

UnorthodoxPlayer said...

After reading over my post i have decided it would be a bit rude of me to leave out Fischer. Fischer was without doubt the best player of his time and the most dominating of his peers but to call him "the best" either would be a misinformed statement he was the best with what he had and will probally always be the best chess player for the amount of resources they had but the fact is the "price of living" so to speak has gone up tremendously in chess now and as it would be unfair to compare a player with superior resources to a player without it is unfair to compare them between time periods. In my opinion chess has gotten to a point where you will be hardpressed to find that dominating chess like that of before because chess altogether has been improving over the years. So in the years to come when chess gets closer and closer to perfect (though i know perfection will never be reached) even though they might not stand out as much as the chess players of the past doesnt mean that they werent as good.

Soutenus said...

I am sure you heard -- Bobby Fischer died. I found your blog while looking for more information. Causes unknown as yet.