You may have come to us looking for a chess set, but you'll walk (well, click) away with a little bit of chess master knowledge! Ladies and gentlemen, let us present a rundown of the best of the best Chess Grandmasters in the world in 2012 - three of whom are the only people on Earth with a rating above 2800! These mini-biographies of chess all-stars will bring you up to date on the world of professional chess and maybe even inspire you test your mettle in the world of competitive chess.
10. Vugar Gashimov
Making his first appearance on the top 10 FIDE players is Azerbaijan's own Vugar Gashimov, one of the youngest grand masters in the world at just 25 years of age. Since becoming a grand master, he's won the Cappelle-la-Grande Open twice and tied for first prize at the Francisco Vallejo Pons. With his professional career just getting started, expect to see this young player continue to rise in the ranks! Gashimov is currently the 2nd highest-ranked player in Azerbaijan, 9th in Europe, and 10th in the world with a rating of 2761.
9. Alexander Morozevich
Another grand master breaking into this year's top ten is Alexander Morozevich, a Russian chess superstar with an Elo rating of 2763. Morozevich has been one of the best chess players in the world for almost a decade, peaking in 2008 with a rating of 2788. Most famous for his unusual openings and complicated positions, Morozevich is a versatile player and an unpredictable opponent whose style of play leaves no room for draws. As a risk-taker who puts on a spectacle match after match, Morozevich is a fan favorite and it's good to see him back in the top ten.
8. Vassily Ivanchuk
Rising up a spot on this year's list from 9th place is Vassily Ivanchuk, from Ukraine, with an Elo rating of 2766. Ivanchuk's first claim to fame was the defeat of World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov in the 1991 Linares tournament. Ivanchuk is also famous for his speed; formidable at fast chess, he won the Blitz Chess Tournament in 2007-2008 and the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Chess Championship in 1992 and 2010. However, when it comes to traditional chess, Ivanchuk is an erratic figure who dropped to 30th in FIDE Elo rating in 2009 and then skyrocketed back to 8th in the world in 2010. Still, Ivanchuk's game has improved, and although it is doubtful he will reach the coveted number-one spot in traditional chess, his spot at #8 is well-deserved.
7. Sergey Karjakin
Everyone had their eye on Ukrainian (now, Russian citizen) Sergey Karjakin last year, who burst into the top ten for the first time ever with a ranking of 5th. Karjakin was looked upon as a wunderkind, renowned for being the record-holder for both youngest International Master (11 years and 11 months) and youngest Grandmaster (12 years and seven months). One year later, 22-year-old Karjakin is still on the top ten list and regarded no longer as just a child prodigy, but a serious contender. Has he slipped? Yes, he's down a couple notches this year and his Elo of 2769 isn't near its July peak, but he's still the 2nd best player in Russia with time on his side. Karjakin is also one of the only grand masters to be married to a women's FIDE grand master.
6. Veselin Topalov
There was some worry and a lot of uncertainty about Veselin Topalov last year, who fell from 2nd place down to 6th, but the man has held firm at this position. The Bulgarian hero was down, but it appears he was far from out. And who could count him out? Topalov is synonymous with the FIDE rankings list, holding the number-one position for a total of 27 months in his career, the fourth all-time record behind only Kasparov, Karpov, and Bobby Fischer. Of all the players on this list, it is Topalov whose number least reflects his level of talent and formidability. He's been number-one before, and he could very well climb back to first place again.
5. Teimour Radjabov
Teimour Radjabov earned the title of Grandmaster in 2001 at the age of 14, making him the 2nd youngest in history. This year he became the greatest player in Azerbaijan, lead the Azerbaijani team to earn silver medals at the European Team Chess Championship in Porto Carras, and achieved his peak Elo rating of 2781 in November. Renowned for his speed, and a trend-setter responsible for the revival of the King's Indian Defense, Radjabov has entered the top ten in a big way and it's likely he's here to stay. His style of play regularly garners comparison to world champion Garry Kasparov. Of all the players on this year's top ten, Radjabov is the one to get most excited about.
4. Viswanathan Anand
Last year we saw Viswanathan Anand jump from 4th to 2nd, and now it appears that India's finest chess player is back at 4th once again. After winning the World Chess Championship in 2007, Anand has defended it against former world champion Vladimir Kramnik in 2008 and against challenger Veselin Topalov in the 2010 championship. He'll be under attack yet again at this year's World Chess Championship, this time by a challenge from Boris Gelfand. Known for being one of the game's most versatile players, Anand has defended his title in a variety of formats including Blitz, Rapid, Tournament, Match, and Knockout. Basically, it doesn't look like the man who began his career with television contests and lessons from mom isn't going to give up his title anytime soon. Anand is also one of only six players in the world to break the 2800 mark on the FIDE rating list and has been praised by ex-World Champion Vlad Tkachiev as being "a colossal talent, one of the greatest in the whole history of chess."
3. Vladimir Kramnik
Behold the greatest chess Grandmaster in all of Russia, Vladimir Kramnik. Student of the Mikhail Botvinnik chess school and hand-picked by Garry Kasparov to be a part of the Russian team in the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila (a tournament he won gold in at 16, before he had even earned GM), Kramnik it seems has always been destined for chess greatness. Kramnik was Classical World Chess Champion from 2000-2006, and the undisputed World Chess Champion from 2006-2007. He has also won the two strongest tournaments in chess history: the 2009 Mikhail Tal Memorial and the 2010 Grand Slam Masters Final. He is, without a doubt, one of the most feared competitors in all of professional chess, and he's still rising. Last year he was ranked 4th in the world and his current FIDE rating is only a mere 7 points away from his career peak in 2002.
2. Levon Aronian
No Grandmaster is as hot as Levon Aronian right now, who has risen steadily through the ranks from 5th, to 3rd, and now 2nd place in the world. He's the reigning World Blitz Chess Champion and his career peak rating of 2808 (only the 6th player to ever cross the 2800 mark) was in May and he's only 3 points shy of matching that feat right now. Aronian is not only the greatest chess player in Armenia, but his talent is so widely celebrated that he was declared the best sportsman of Armenia is 2005 and was awarded the title of "Honoured Master of Sport of the Republic of Armenia" in 2009. This past year, Aronian lead the Armenian team to gold medals in the World Team Chess Championship. For many, it isn't a matter of "if" Levon Aronian will be the number one ranked player in the world, but when.
1. Magnus Carlsen
Back again at #1 is Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, the youngest #1 ranked player of all time who first earned the title 3 years ago at the age of 19 and has yet to let go. The most incredible thing about Carlsen isn't his age, but his positional style of play similar to the likes of Karpov and Smyslov and, of course his rating - it's his peak! As of this writing, Carlsen has scored a 2835 rating, the highest of his career and the 2nd highest anyone has scored since Garry Kasparov, who is Carlsen's coach. Expect to see another stellar year from Carlsen, who is unlikely to fall from grace.