THE WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP
Results, Crosstables, and Championship Games online, courtesy of the MyChess Viewer
How to Use This Page: Below are links leading to crosstables of each Championship match, Interzonal, and Candidates tournament. Pages on Championship matches have further links leading to the games, available for online viewing. Alternately, you can go down to Section 6, The World Championship Box Score, and click the link in the "Winning Score" column, to save a step and go directly to the games.
I. THE UNOFFICIAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
The first official match specifically designated as being for the World's Championship was held in 1886 between William Steinitz of the USA, and Johanes Zukertort of Poland. Steinitz had been the world's strongest active player for about 20 years, but no one dared to hold a championship match while Paul Morphy, an American who had dominated the world scene for a year and then retired, was still alive.
Upon the death of Morphy in 1884, Steinitz arranged a match with his strongest rival, with the stipulation that the winner should be considered World Champion. The "official" line of champions begins at that time. However, before 1886, there were several players generally regarded as the strongest players of their eras, whom many writers regard as "Unofficial World Champions". Here is one such possible list. Names and dates can be highly conjectural, so don't write to complain if you don't like the list. That's what "unofficial" means.
II. THE IMPERIAL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
With the Steinitz-Zukertort match of 1886, the line of "Official" World Champions begins. At this time, the title was more or less the personal property of the holder, who could more or less name whatever conditions he wished, against whatever opponent he liked.
III. THE FIDE UNDISPUTED WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
When World Champion Alexander Alekhine died in 1946, on the eve of a title defense against Mikhail Botvinnik, the World Chess Federation, founded in 1924, stepped in and administered the title themselves. Max Euwe, the only surviving former champion was their first World Champion, for a single day, before the Soviet delegation arrived and anulled the decision to crown him. A World Championship tournament was then held in 1948 to name a new champion.
After this began a series of 3-year World Championship Cycles. The world was divided up into various "zones", some consisting of one country, others of more. Each zone was alotted a certain number of championship contender spots, and held a zonal tournament to decide who would win them, and be sent to an "Interzonal" tournament of all such contenders in the first year of the cycle. In the second cycle year, the top qualifiers from the Interzonal tournament (or tournaments, in later years there was more than one Interzonal) played in a Candidates Series, which was sometimes a tournament, sometimes a series of matches, and on one occasion, both. The winner of the Candidates Series would challenge the World Champion to a match in the 3rd year of the cycle.
In Cycles 3-4, and 10-15, a defeated Champion had the right to challenge his conqueror to a re-match in the first year of the next cycle. In Cycles 1 and 2, a defeated champion had the right to play in a triangular match 3 years later against both the new champion, and the winner of the next Candidates cycle. This didn't happen, and there has never been a Triangular Match for the World Championship, however, the Women's World Championship was decided this way in 1956 in a "Triple Threat Match" between the champion, Elizabeth Bykova, the new challenger, Olga Rubtosva, and the defeated champion from the previous match, Ludmilla Rudenko.
IV. THE IMPERIAL CHAMPIONSHIP RETURNS
When Kasparov and Short played their 1993 World Championship Match outside of FIDE, the title returned to the Imperial Championship days. There were various briefly-lived organizations, such as the PCA, nominally in charge of determining a challenger, but largely, the champion could do as he pleased.
V. ROLL CALL OF OFFICIAL WORLD CHAMPIONS
As you can see, there are a few differences between this list and the ones you normally see published. Here are the controversial points:
VI. THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BOX SCORE
APPENDIX: THE FIDE CHAMPIONSHIP
When Kasparov (the World Champion) and Short (the official challenger) played their match outside of FIDE auspices in 1993, FIDE attempted to forfeit them both and hold its own rival championship without them. The situation was similar to the Fischer-Karpov non-match of 1975, with the difference that in this instance, the defending champion neither retired, nor resigned his title, and in this instance, the official challenger walked out also.
Concurrently with the Kasparov-Short match, FIDE held its own "World Championship" Match between Jan Timman, the loser of the previous Candidates Final, and Anatoly Karpov, the loser of one of the semi-final matches (Yusupov, the other semi-final loser was, unaccountably, left out). Known flippantly in some circles as The Battle of the Two Losers (a reference to the old French comic Asterix and the Goths, this match attracted little financial backing and little interest in the chess world. Most people regarded Kasparov (still unbeaten and still actively playing) as "the" champ. Nevertheless, the FIDE Championship continued to exist as a separate title.
After Cycle 17, FIDE abandoned its match based championship title entirely, and created a new, tournament-based Championship Title, built around the format of the 1997 Groningen Candidates, with the difference that future tournaments in the format would be used to crown a FIDE champion rather than name a challenger.
The result was something very similar to what had happened to the US title in 1936, with the difference that this time it was not done with the consent of the sitting title holder, Anatoly Karpov, who challenged FIDE in court.