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.