New in Chess Invincibility List

by Frederic Friedel
5/23/2017 – Who played the longest streak of games, in classical chess, without a single loss? Fischer? Kasparov? And how many games did the record holder survive? Well, we all know that José Raúl Capablanca did not suffer a single loss for eight years, from 1916 - 1924. But has his record been broken? The magazine New in Chess, which we greatly admire, produced a list in their 2017/2 issue. It was modified in 2017/3. Do our readers have further changes?

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Recently (in edition 2017/2, p. 14) the magazine New in Chess carried an infographic page:

The page listed the "streaks of invincibility" achieved by different chess players in history. That is the number of classical games played without a loss. The list was led by Mihail Tal with 95 games in the period between October 1973 and October 1974. "It is a bit remarkable," NiC writes, "as Tal had a highly risky style of play and often took chances."

In second place is: Mikhail Tal! The Latvian GM played 86 games between July 1972 and April 1973 without losing any of them. It took him to the world's number two in the July 1973 rankings. Here are the invincibility records listed by New in Chess in their 2017/2 issue:

Mihail Tal 95 games Oct. 1973 - Oct. 1974
Mihail Tal 86 games July 1972 - April 1973
Milan Drasko 84 games Oct. 2006 - Sept. 2007
Vladimir Kramnik 82 games Jan. 1999 - July 2000
Wang Yue 82 games March 2008 - Dec. 2008
José Raúl Capablanca 63 games 1916 - 1924
Wesley So 56 games July 2016 - present
Magnus Carlsen 42 games Nov. 2015 - April 2016

Note that Capablanca set his record when he did not lose a single game in eight years of play. Also: Wesley So continued his streak after the publication of NiC 2017/2 and extended it to 67 games.

On April 21 in the first round of the Gashimov Memorial, Wesley lost (with the white pieces) to Shak Mamedyarov. GM Aleksander Lenderman annotated that historical game in our ChessBase report.

The above is a very interesting list of records, but it did not go unchallenged. In the readers' section of the next NiC issue two well-known GMs staked their claims: Bogdan Lalic, who lives in Sutton, UK, informed the editors that from June 5 2006 until March 3 2007 he had played 110 games without defeat. He mentions that in that period he had a huge amout of draws (66) and improved his rating from 2480 to 2519. He had a second unbeaten run of 101 games in 2008. Lalic also mentions Ulf Andersson with a run of 100 games without a loss.

A second person to write in was Sergey Tiviakov, who lives in Groningen, Netherlands. Sergey, who often writes for us, claims to be the official world record holder with 110 games in the period 2004-2005. In eleven months he survived encounters amongst other with Aronian, Radjabov, Ivanchuk and Carlsen without defeat. He had previously had multiple streaks of 50-60 games, but after crossing the 100-game mark he says "it became difficult for me to sleep since I started to believe in my invincibility."

Source: New in Chess Magazine

So the record would appear to be Tiviakov/Lalic, Tal, Tal, Drasko, Kramnik, Yue, Capablanca, So, Vachier-Lagrave (also 67 games), Carlsen. But that will not probably not be the final tally. Armed with the latest Mega 2017 our readers are invited to so some research. Can you find new heroes of invincibility?

While he is not losing games Sergey Tiviakov tends to produce some very instructive FritzTrainer DVDs. These can be purchased in the New in Chess store or directly from ChessBase.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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drcloak drcloak 5/25/2017 01:15
@danilo botoy

There is a mafia in chess, its called FIDE. Instead of using open handed brute force strong-arm tactics like a traditional mafia, they specialize in closed door scheming/plotting with an emphasis on financial profit; fair play be damned. You should read "The KGB Plays Chess" by Viktor Korchnoi...
danilo botoy danilo botoy 5/24/2017 10:43
I still believe Wesley So's records is incredible 67 streaks from the big events such as 2016 olympiad, sinquefield 2016, tata steel and US open, just imagine the world witness this event only lost to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in Shamkir 2017.
What if fan's of Mamedyarov giving him a pressure automatically, psychologically
you lost even before the start of the game. I am just hoping there is no "mafia" in chess.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 5/24/2017 09:16
Another interesting statistic would be: longest winning streaks.
Mark S Mark S 5/24/2017 06:27
@mellekvese you are funny but I guess only FIDE rated games were being counted by NIC for the unbeaten streak. If my probability assumption is correct, the longest winning streak would go to Tal too. But maybe Fischer would be inside top 10 in the longest winning streak.
Rama Rama 5/24/2017 03:56
Too bad that Fischer decided to retire from competitive chess in 1972 since Tal was showing such superlative results from then. It would have been nice to see Tal play Fischer in that form.
TMMM TMMM 5/24/2017 01:00
Where's Giri on the list? Isn't he on a 100+ drawing streak?
chesswalrus chesswalrus 5/24/2017 12:23
Please correct the second to last paragraph. As your article itself stated, Wesley ran his streak to 67, so he should be listed ahead of the immortal Capablanca. Gotta stick up for our hometown hero!
mellekvese mellekvese 5/23/2017 10:50
OK, I play only against my always drunk grandfather, but haven't lost in 352 games. Give me some credit.
Offramp Offramp 5/23/2017 09:32
Alexander Zelner went over 100 games without defeat.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 5/23/2017 08:09
It would be interesting to know, for each streak, the win/draw proportion.
drcloak drcloak 5/23/2017 02:28
@Ty Riprock

NIC has always been politically biased in favor of the Russians and other European countries. It is fortunate we have people like you, who see through their fog of deception.
Ty Riprock Ty Riprock 5/23/2017 12:17
Tal had adopted a more balanced & mature style by the time of his undefeated streaks. He no longer engaged in speculative sacrifices or played for complications at any cost, as he often did as a young star. He also deserves much more credit than he gets for his endgame play.

The NIC article claims Kramnik was the only challenger to win the title match undefeated, but Capablanca did this as well. Lasker did resign the match early, but he was behind 4-0 in wins & had no chance of recovery. He had actually offered earlier to simply resign the title to Capa, acknowledging the Cuban's superiority at that time. Capa wanted to win the title, and Lasker was in one of his lean periods after WWI and needed the money. But he suffered greatly in the Caribbean heat, having never played in such a climate before, so quickly realized his belief had been well-founded that he had no practical chance against "The Chess Machine."
goeland goeland 5/23/2017 10:40
@snosko : yes, you are right but thats the digital bet for all industries : piracy risk but enlarging the customer base. Personaly, I stopped buying any paperbook (no more space on the shelves) but buy almost everything which is electronic. Also, if you go for an ipad/iphone format like NIC magazine (and not for the chessbase format), the piracy risk becomes very limited.
snosko snosko 5/23/2017 10:17
@goeland last question: Piracy?
goeland goeland 5/23/2017 09:18
Great article. Amazing to see that Tal with his risky style is on top. New in chess is really a great magazine but why they don't sell their opening yearbook (forgot the name) in an eletronic format is beyong my understanding. They do it for the magazine, not for the yearbook. I would subscribe on the spot. Informant who was the leader did the same mistake a few years ago, by missing the digital format (trying to impose their own standard) and now, they are fully digital but became an underdog.