AylerKupp: <King Death> Yes, comparisons between players of different eras is always tricky at best because of the different circumstances in which they played, and not just Fischer. How do we factor in Morphy, whose career was even shorter than Fischer's and his "dominance" over his peers even greater? And how much of a factor have the availability of strong chess engines and chess databases had in Carlsen's performance when Fischer had no access to either? And the issue of comparing players of different eras is not restricted to chess; how do we compare in basketball the "dominant" performance of Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s with Shaquille O'Neal in the 1990s?
Of the 3 links I provided above the article by Jeff Sonas, http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail..., most closely addresses the issue of "dominance" (the other 2 links address the issue of "greatest", "best", or "highest ranked" which are not the same thing). Below are the results of Sonas' 10 categories for "dominance" and how Fischer fits within them. Of course, any criteria that takes longevity into account will penalize Fischer.
(1) Longest time as world champion: Lasker (26.9) years. Second (maybe) was Steinitz depending on when you "formally" consider him the world champion; 8.2, 21.7, or 27.8 years. Fischer was 11th with 2.6 years.
(2) Largest rating gap between #1 and #2 player: Steinitz, 199 rating points ahead of Bird in 1876. Second was Fischer, 146 rating points ahead of Boris Spassky in 1971.
(3) Most years with #1 ranking: Lasker, 24.3 cumulative (active) years between 1890 and 1926. Second was Kasparov, 21.9 cumulative years between Sep-1982 and Oct-2004. Fischer was 6th, 9.1 cumulative years.
(4) Highest rating ever: Fischer, 2895, Oct-1971. Second was Kasparov, 2886, Mar-1993.
(5) Highest single-match performance rating: Fischer, 2887, vs. Larsen in 1971. Second was Lasker, 2882, vs. Steinitz, 1896.
(6) Highest single-tournament performance rating: Karpov, 2899, Linares 1994. Second was Kasparov, 2881, Tilburg, 1989. Fischer best single-tournament performance rating was not in the top 10.
(7) Most tournament performance ratings of 2820+ (50 tournaments): Kasparov, 17 tournaments. Second was Lasker, 6 tournaments (what a gap between 1st and 2nd!). Fischer was tied 5th - 8th with Alekhine, Keres, and Capablanca with 2 tournaments each.
(8) Longest straight time (years) as #1 ranked player: Kasparov, 19.8 straight years, Feb-1985 to Oct-2004. Second was Lasker, 12.6 straight years, Jun-1890 to Dec-1902. Fischer was 4th, 7.9 straight years.
(9) Most top performing years (years with the best performance rating): Kasparov, 16 years. Second was Lasker, 12 years. Fischer was 11th with 4 years.
(10) Most top 2 performing years (years with either the best or 2nd best performance rating): Karpov, 23 years. Second was Kasparov, 21 years. Fischer was tied 12th – 16th with 6 years along with Keres, Tal, Petrosian, and Zukertort (!)
So who was the most dominant chess player of all time according to Sonas? Well, you'll have to read the articles for his opinions and his reasons and see if you agree with them. :-)