Good Day to All! Ma-ayong adlaw sa tanan. And my thanks to CG.com for this excellent website. Salamat CG.com. Opinions:
1. The true Chess World Champions are the holders of the Traditional Title that originated with Steinitz & passed on in faithful succession to Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, and Anand. The sacredness of this Title is what makes it so valuable. And how does one become the true Chess World Champion? In general, by beating the previous Titleholder one on one in a Match! Matches are preferred over Tournaments because of the Tradition of the WC Succession & because the chance for pre-arranging a Tournament result is more likely. The only exceptions to this rule:
A. In case where the Candidates and World Champion participate in an event that all the participants agree to be a World Championship event because of extraordinary circumstances. Thus, the 1948 World Championship Tournament was justifiable because of the death of the Title holder Alekhine. Likewise, the 2007 WC Tournament was justifiable under the extraordinary circumstances of the Chessworld trying to heal its internal rift over the 1993 Kasparov Schism. Anand himself became the true World Champion in this 2007 Tournament & not in 2000 when he won a knock-out FIDE Tournament. Karpov lost his Title to Kasparov in 1985, & never regained it in the 1990s events that FIDE labeled as 'world championships'. All solely FIDE Champions that emerged outside WC Traditional Succession elaborated on above, strong as they were, were not true World Champions (eg., Bogolyubov 1928, Khalifman 1999, Ponomariov 2002, Kasimdzhanov 2004, Topalov 2005).// B. In case the previous Titleholder defaults an event that the Chessworld largely deems as a World Championship event in the Tradition of the World Championship Succession. Thus, Karpov was the true successor to Fischer who defaulted their WC Match in 1975.
2. The strongest players in chess history? IMO the 1919 version of Capablanca & the 1971 version of Fischer, both of whom played practically error-free chess, are it; updated in opening theory, they should beat anyone in a match. However, the likes of Lasker, Alekhine, Karpov, & Kasparov would all be close to the limiting Stonewall of human chessplaying ability. We have to take this question in the context of the limits of the human Anatomy and Physiology. A concrete example would be the one hundred meter dash. The human body is designed such that the limit it can run is about 9 seconds. In order for a human being to run faster, we would have to redesign the human anatomy into that of say a cheetah. One can rev up the human Anatomy and Physiology, say with steroids, but this regimen would hit an eventual Stonewall too; the same way that we could rev up human proficiency to learn openings with computer assistance. 'Worse' in chess, any computer assistance ends once the opening is over. After a computer-assisted opening prep, every GM today has to play the game the way Lasker did a hundred years ago, relying on himself alone, with the same fundamental chess rules and chess clock. Since the Nervous System has physiological limits (example of a limit- neuronal action potential speed don't go up much more than 100 m/s) and so limits the human chess playing ability, increasing the number human chess players, thus expanding the normal curve of players, simply creates more possibilities of players playing like a Fischer in his prime, but will not create a mental superman who plays chess at computer levels. This explains why human and computer analysis indicate that Lasker was playing on a qualitatively similar level as more recent WCs.
3. Chessplayers are naturally arranged in populations partitioned by geopolitical regions & time periods that have infrequent contacts with one another. Within such a population, players get to play each other more frequently, thus forming a quasi-equilibrium group wherein individual ratings would tend to equilibrate quickly; but not with outside groups. With caveats & in the proper context, FIDE/Elo ratings are simply fallible descriptors & predictors of an active player's near-past & near-future performances against other rated players, & only within the same quasi-equilibrium group. As corollaries: the best way to evaluate a player's strength is to analyze his games & not his ratings; one cannot use ratings to accurately compare the quality of play of players from the past and present, or even the same player say a decade ago and today; & care should be taken in the use of ratings as a criterion in choosing which players to seed into the upper levels of the WC cycle. All the above often entail comparisons between players from different quasi-equilibrium groups separated by space and/or time.
4. The credible, fair, tried & tested Zonals - Interzonals - Candidates (with known strong players directly seeded into the Interzonals & Candidates; & here ratings may be used with caveats) over the random World Cup and the elitist Grand Prix.
5. Regarding the Rift in the chessworld after Kasparov split in 1993, I believe that Kramnik has done more than any other individual in helping heal it by concrete actions - agreeing to a WC Match with Topalov in 2006 & not walking out when he could have done so with the support of most of the world's top GMs after getting accused of cheating; & agreeing to Defend his Title in a WC Tournament in 2007, the first time a living Titleholder has agreed to do so in chess history. My eternal gratitude to him.
6. Regarding all kinds of problems chessplayers outside of Europe & the USA face in their quest for the Title, Capablanca & Anand have proven it's possible for a non-European non-USA chessplayer to be World Champion; but apparently only if you have the chess talent of a Capablanca or Anand! For others, I guess they would have to try to get monetary support & good seconds somewhere to have some hope for a Title shot.
7. Ducking a World Championship re-match: Alekhine vs. Capablanca - Not definitively resolved. If pushed, I would tend to favor Capablanca given that pre-WW 2, there was no definitive cycle to choose the Challenger &, after all is said and done, it was the Champion who set the conditions & who chose his Challenger. AAA could & should have chosen Capa; & there was ample time, more than a decade, to do so before WW2. On the other hand, Capa's pride may have caused him to behave arrogantly & thus offend AAA. The issue is very much debatable. // Kramnik vs. Kasparov - For me, it's resolved. Kudos to Kramnik for trying his best to install a decent Qualifying Event. Kasparov for his reasons clearly did not want to go through the Qualifying Event that he himself had pledged before losing his Title; & did not even seem serious in playing the solely FIDE champions. Why? I can only speculate that Kasparov would rather retire than risk a loss in a Qualifier or a match to either a FIDE champion or to Kramnik. If he regained his Title, he would be the greatest Champion in history, but there was risk involved. If he retired, he would still be the greatest Champion in history, but there would be no risk involved. Kasparov chose the latter & no one should blame him for that decision; & more so don't blame Kramnik!
8. Predictions for Hypothetical World Championship Matches: Lasker vs. Pillsbury, Rubinstein, Maroczy - Lasker wins 2, loses 1 match // Lasker vs. Capablanca (inexperienced) 1914 - Lasker close win // Capablanca (not overconfident & not having TIAs) 1929 to 1937 vs. Alekhine or any other master - Capa win // Alekhine (sober & prepared) vs. Capablanca (w/ severe HPN & numerous past strokes), Botvinnik, Keres, Fine, Reshevsky, Flohr 1939 - Alekhine win // Alekhine (alcoholic, ill, & depressed) vs. Botvinnik 1946 - Botvinnik win // Fischer (inactive for 3 years) vs. Karpov 1975 - Karpov win// Kasparov vs. Shirov 2000 - Kasparov win. (But GKK should still have given it to Shirov. And don't blame Kramnik. Had Kramnik declined, GKK would have chosen another; & Shirov would still be frustrated.)