Chess ratings measure players’ skill levels and future performances against other contenders. The higher the rating (Elo), the stronger the player is at chess. On that note, you might wonder: who is the highest-rated player ever?
Magnus Carlsen is the highest-rated chess player with an Elo of 2882, while Topalov, Nakamura, and Liren are tied for tenth place with an Elo of 2816.
Continue reading to learn about the top 10 highest chess ratings of all time and the players holding those titles.
1. Magnus Carlsen (FIDE Peak Elo 2882)
It comes as no surprise that Magnus Carlsen is the highest-rated chess player in history. After all, he’s a five-time world chess champion, holding the title since 2013.
The Norwegian chess player achieved his peak Elo rating in 2014 after beating GM Nakamura at the Vugar Gashimov Memorial.
What separates Magnus Carlsen from other GMs is his impeccable intuition and deep understanding of the game. He’s known to use various openings and avoid theory to make it harder for his opponents not to use their computer preparation.
What’s more, Carlsen has a knack for endgames, squeezing water from stones and turning various lost positions into wins.
2. Garry Kasparov (FIDE Peak Elo 2851)
Taking second place is Garry Kasparov, who is arguably one of the greatest—if not the greatest—chess players of all time. The six-time chess world champion held the highest Elo rating of 2851 until he was surpassed by Carlsen.
Not only that, but the highest-ranked Soviet-born player held the number-one position for almost 20 years!
All that success is thanks to Kasparov’s formidable style. He’s a genius positional player, exploiting the weaknesses of his opponents gradually. Yet Kasparov was capable of playing aggressive openings, winning games in just 12 moves!
3. Fabiano Caruana (FIDE Peak Elo 2844)
Earning his GM title at only 14 years and 11 months, it’s no surprise that Fabiano Caruana went on to become the third-highest player in history. During the second Sinquefield Cup, the Italian-American super GM achieved his peak Elo of 2844 in 2014, jumping by 43 points.
With his universal playing style, switching from attack to defense with ease, and his hard work in opening preparations, Caruana achieved a 7/7 score after round seven.
Fabiano had a performance rating of 3098, winning the tournament against elite chess players, including Carlsen, who had a 2877 rating at the time.
4. Levon Aronian (FIDE Peak Elo 2830)
With a peak Elo of 2830, Levon Aronian became the fourth highest-rated player in history. Levon first reached the 2800s in 2010, achieving a rating of 2801 and becoming the sixth chess player to do so.
The former Rapid and Blitz champion then went on to increase his rating, peaking at number two in 2014.
All those impressive achievements are thanks to Levon’s tactical and aggressive playing style. Combined with his trademark piece sacrifice, Levon creates creative traps. Even the world’s number one couldn’t evade Aronian’s tactics during a brilliant game at the Altibox Norway Chess Tournament in 2017.
5. Wesley So (FIDE Peak Elo 2822)
Only two points behind Aronian’s peak, Wesley So, a three-time US and Philippine Chess Champion, is the fifth highest-rated chess player.
So is a gifted tactical player, sacrificing valuable pieces like the queen to gain an attacking advantage.
Such a playing style helped him win numerous titles, including the 2019 World Fischer Random Championship, where he defeated Carlsen by 10 points.
What’s more impressive is that So couldn’t afford proper coaching in his youth. Instead, he relied on his talent and his preparation when competing.
6. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (FIDE Peak Elo 2820)
Reaching a peak Elo of 2820, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov takes sixth place in the list of the highest chess ratings of all time.
The Azerbaijani chess grandmaster won numerous titles, including the World Junior Championship twice, in 2003 and 2005, as well as the World Rapid Championship in 2013.
Mamedyarov’s playing style is characterized by being highly aggressive and tactical, creating creative plays through his unorthodox openings and material sacrifices.
7. Maxime Vachier Lagrave (FIDE Peak Elo 2819)
Maxime Vachier Lagrave, also known as MVL, is a French grandmaster, earning the title at just 14. With a peak Elo of 2819 in 2016, MVL is the highest-ranked French player and the seventh-highest-rated chess player of all time.
Astounding attacks are what best describe Maxime’s style of play. That especially shows in his choice of only playing complex, aggressive openings like the Najdorf and Grunfeld with black.
8. Viswanathan Anand (FIDE Peak Elo 2817)
A former five-time world chess champion, Viswanathan Anand is one of the few players to break the 2800 ranking barrier.
The super GM reached his peak Elo rating of 2817 in the 2011 Tata Steel Chess Tournament, falling only behind Hikaru Nakamura by half a point.
During the former, Anand scored an impressive performance rating of 2844, helping him achieve the eighth-highest Elo rating ever.
9. Vladimir Kramnik (FIDE Peak Elo 2817)
Sharing the eighth place on the highest chess rating list with Anand is Vladimir Kramnik. The former is a Russian chess grandmaster who was the Classical World Champion from 2000 to 2006.
Kramnik won his first Classical World Championship after defeating Kasparov and then went on to defend his title twice.
Despite losing his title to Anand in 2007, Vladimir Kramnik continued to compete at a high level, reaching his peak rating of 2817 in 2016.
10. Veselin Topalov (FIDE Peak Elo 2816)
Veselin Topalov is a Bulgarian chess grandmaster and the 2005 FIDE World Chess Champion. Topalov was also the former number-one chess player.
Despite losing his title and not playing in the World Championship since 2010, the Bulgarian chess player continued to increase his rating. Topalov achieved his peak Elo of 2816 in 2015, making him the tenth highest-rated player of all time.
11. Hikaru Nakamura (FIDE Peak Elo 2816)
Sharing the joint-tenth place on the highest-rated player list is Hikaru Nakamura, who reached his peak Elo of 2816 in 2015, three months after Topalov.
Early in his career, Nakamura’s playing style was “do or die,” playing highly aggressive games. He then developed to become a universal player, building resilience and managing to draw and even win tricky positions.
The Japanese-American grandmaster helped popularize chess thanks to his Twitch streams.
Despite claiming to be “a steamer first, a chess player second,” Hikaru is still strong in the competitive world. That showed in his impressive performances during the 2022 World Fischer Random Chess Championship and the 2023 American Cup, both of which he won.
12. Ding Liren (FIDE Peak Elo 2816)
Ding Liren is the final player on FIDE’s top 10 highest chess ratings of all time, sharing a joint-tenth place with Topalov and Nakamura. The former is also the highest-rated Chinese chess player and the current world number three.
Thanks to his unpredictable style, Ding achieved his highest ranking of 2816 in 2018. His great defensive skills, positional plays, and excellent calculation have landed him the opportunity to become one of the challengers in the 2023 World Chess Championship.
As you can see, the top 10 highest chess ratings of all time feature some of the greatest players.
From the endgame genius Magnus Carlsen with a 2882 Elo to the aggressive and resilient Nakamura achieving 2816, the top chess players have left their mark on the game.
These players have set the bar high for upcoming young talents. And we can wait and see who will join and, perhaps, surpass their rankings in the future!