There are no kings of the chess world anymore, lamented Boris Spassky, “only prime ministers and presidents.
“Everything is decided by ratings, and the title of world champion doesn’t have the significance it used to,” said Spassky, the 10th world champion.
There was more evidence to support Spassky’s claim on Jan. 1, when the new international rating list showed that the top-rated player in the world was Magnus Carlsen of Norway — who has never come close to qualifying for the world championship.
The disconnect between the official — and unofficial — “best player in the world” first became noticeable in the 1960s when Bobby Fischer shot to the top of rating list but boycotted the championship until he beat Spassky in 1972.
In recent years, it’s been regarded as normal for two “prime ministers” — ranked somewhere from No. 2 to No. 8 — to play a championship match.
The last time that the world’s highest-rated player won a world championship match was back in 1995, when Garry Kasparov trounced Viswanathan Anand at the top of the World Trade Center.