Nicknames of Chess Players

Adams, Michael (1971- ) is a British chess grandmaster (1989). He is affectionately called “Mickey” or “The Spider” because he usually outplays his opponent with quiet maneuvers like a spider.

Alekhine, Alexander (1892-1946) was the 4th official world chess champion. He was given the nickname “Ale-and-Wine” or “Alekwine” because of fondness for drink. His family members called him “Tisha.” In Russia, he was nicknamed the “White Russian.”

Anand Viswanathan (1969- ), world chess champion from 2007 to November, 2013, has been called the “Tiger of Madras,” (he lived in Madras for awhile and there are no tigers in Madras) and “The Lightning Kid” for his speed of play. When he beat world champion Anatoly Karpov in 2000, he was dubbed the “Indian meteor” for the speed of is rise in the chess world. His nickname is Vishy.

Beliavsky, Alexander (1953- ) is a Soviet, Ukrainian and Slovenian grandmaster. His nickname is “Big Al.”

Blackburne, Joseph Henry (1841-1924) dominated British chess in the late 19th century. In 1873, after his performance at a Vienna tournament, journalists gave him the nickname “der Schwarze Tod” (“The Black Death”) because of his black beard and aggressive style. His nickname appeared in the Vienna 1873 tournament book.

Botvinnik, Mikhail (1911-1995) was a three-time world chess champion. He was called “The Great Stone Face” and “The Engineer.” He had a PhD in electrical engineering. Sometimes he was called the “Iron Logician.” He was the founder of the Soviet School of Chess and called the “Patriarch.”

Browne, Walter (1949- ) has won the US chess championship 6 times. That is why his nickname is “Mr. 6-time.”

Byrne, Robert (1928-2013) was an American grandmaster. In his early days, he was known as “Rapid Robert” for his rapid play in chess. He was also called “Invincible” because of his super-solid play in his younger days.

Capablanca, Jose (1888-1942), was world chess champion from 1921 to 1927. His nickname was “The Human Chess Machine” because of his accuracy and speed of play. The May-June 1921 issue of American Chess Bulletin called Capablanca “a veritable chess machine.” Another nickname was “Capa.”

Carlsen, Magnus (1990- ), is the current world chess champion. He was been called the “Mozart of Chess” and the “Justin Bieber of Chess.”

Doel, Erik van den (1979- ) is a grandmaster from the Netherlands. His nickname is “The Flying Dutchman.”

Dzindzichashvili, Roman (1944- )is a chess grandmaster. His nickname is “Dzindzi” or “Dzin.”

Fedorowicz, John (1958- ) is an American grandmaster from the Bronx area of New York. His nickname is “Fed” and “Rocky” because his voice sounds like Rocky Balboa.

Fine, Reuben (1914-1993) was an American grandmaster and one of the strongest players in the world in the 1930s and 1940s. In his early, he was called “Kid Gafaehrlich” (Kid Dangerous) because of his devastating skill at blitz chess.

Fraenkel, Heinrich (1897-1986) was a writer. He penned chess books under the name of Assiac (Caissa spelled backwards).

Furman, Semyon (1920-1978) was a Soviet grandmaster. His nickname was “The Walking ECO” because of his knowledge of openings and the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO).

Greco, Gioacchino (1600-1634) was an Italian chess player. He was also known is Italy as “il Calabrese” which means ‘the Calabrian.” He was from Calabria, a region in southern Italy.

Havasi, Kornel (1892-1945) was a Hungarian chess master. His nickname was “The White Horse” given to him by his chess coaches.

Helms, Hermann (1870-1963) was an American chess player, writer, columnist, and chess promoter. In 1943, the US Chess Federation recognized him as the “Dean of American Chess.”

Ivanchuk, Vassily (1969- ) is a Ukrainian grandmaster. His nickname is “Chucky.”

Khalifman, Alexander (1966- ) was FIDE world chess champion in 1999. His nickname is “El Khalif.”

Karpov, Anatoly (1951- ) was world champion from 1975 to 1985 and from 1993 to 1999. His nickname is “Tolya.”

Kashdan, Isaac (1905-1985) was an American chess grandmaster and writer. In the 1930s he was called “der kleine Capablanca” (Little Capablanca) after his earliest European triumphs.

Kasparov, Garry was world champion from 1985 to 2000. He has been called the “Beast of Baku” as he was born in Baku, Azerbajan. His nickname is “Gazza.”

Keene, Raymond (1948- )is an English grandmaster. A British satirical magazine started calling him “The Penguin” in 1965 due to his appearance when he wears a black and white dress suit or tuxedo when playing chess.

Keres, Paul (1916-1975) was an Estonian chess grandmaster. He has been nicknamed “Paul the Second,” “The Crown Prince of Chess,” and “The Eternal Second.” Boris Spassky nicknamed him “the pope of chess.”

Kholmov, Ratmir (1925-2006) was a Soviet grandmaster. His nickname by Soviet players was the “Central Defender.” He was an extremely tough opponent for any attacking chess player.

Koltanowski, George (1903-2000) was a Belgian-born American chess player and promoter. His nickname was “Kolty.” He was named the ?Dean of American Chess” by the US Chess Federation in the 1970s.

Korchnoi, Victor (1931- )is the oldest grandmaster still playing in chess tournaments. His nickname is “Iron Victor” and “Victor the Terrible.”

Kosteniuk, Alexandria (1984- ) was the 12th women’s world chess champion. Her nickname is the “Chess Queen” and the “Kournikova of Chess.”

Kramnik, Vladimir (1975) was world chess champion from 2000 to 2007. His nickname is “Vlad the Impaler” and the “Iceman.”

Giovanni Leonardo Di Bona (1542-1587) was an early Italian chess master. He was known as “Il Puttino” (the little boy) because of his small stature.

Loyd, Sam (1841-1911) was an American chess player, chess composer, and puzzle author. He was known as “The Puzzle King.”

Mariotti, Sergio (1946- ) is an Italian grandmaster. In 1974, he was nicknamed “The Italian Fury” by the British Chess Magazine.

Matulovic, Milan (1935-2013) was a Yugoslavian grandmaster. In 1967, he played a losing move at the Souse Interzonal against Istvan Bilke, but then took it back after saying “j’adoube.” His opponent complained to the arbiter, but the move was allowed to stand as there were no other witnesses. He was then nicknamed “J’adoubovic.”

Miles, Tony (1955-2001) was the first UK=born over the board grandmaster. His nickname was the “Beast of Birmingham.” He was born in Birmingham, England.

Morphy, Paul (1837-1884) was one of the greatest chess players of his day and an unofficial world chess champion. He has been called “The Pride and Sorrow of Chess.”

Hikaru Nakamura (1987- ) is America’s top-rated player, ranked #3 in the world.  His aggressive playing style has earned him the nickname “The John McEnroe of Chess.”

Nimzowitsch, Aron (1886-1935) was a Russian-born Danish chess master. He gave himself the title “Crown Prince of the Chess World.”

Owen, John (1827-1901) was a strong amateur chess player from England. He played and wrote under the pseudonym “Alter.” He was ordained and became a vicar in Chesire from 1862 to 1900.

Petrov, Alexander (1794-1867) was a Russian chess player, chess composer, and chess writer. He was known as the “Northern Philidor.”

Petrosian, Tigran (1929-1984) was world champion from 1963 to 1969. He was known as “The Iron Tigran” due to his almost impenetrable defensive playing style. He was also nicknamed “the boa constrictor.”

Pillsbury, Harry (1872-1906) was a leading American chess player. He was called the “Hero of Hastings” after winning at Hastings in 1895.

Polgar, Judit (1976- ) is the strongest woman chess player in the world. Vassily Smyslov nicknamed her “Tal in a skirt.”

Portisch, Lajos (1937- ) is a Hungarian grandmaster. His nickname is the “Hungarian Botvinnik” because of his positional style.

Richter, Kurt (1900-1969) was an International Master from Berlin. His nickname was “Der Scharfrichter” (the executioner) because of his fierce attack on the chessboard.

Sarratt, Jacob (1772-1821) was one of the top English chess players of his day. He claimed the title “Professor of Chess” while teaching chess at the price of a guinea per game.

Schlechter, Carl (1874-1918) was a leading Austrian chess master. Early on, he was given the nickname “remis Koening” (draw king or drawing master) for his high percentage of draws.

Seirawan, Yasser (1960- ) is a 4-time US chess champion. His nickname is “Yaz.”

Sherzer, Alex (1971- ) is an American grandmaster. His nickname is “The Surgeon.” He has a medical degree from Hungary.

Shirov, Alexei (1972- ) is a Soviet-born Latvian grandmaster. He is nicknamed the “Leonardo da Vinci of chess” for his exception chess beauty of his games.

Showalter, Jackson (1860-1935) was a 5-time US chess champion. His nickname was “The Kentucky Lion.” He lived in Kentucky and he had a large head of reddish hair.

Smith, Ken (1930-1999) was a FIDE master and professional poker player. His nickname was “Top Hat” for wearing top hat while playing poker. He was an expert in the Smith-Morra gambit and we wrote two chess books together on the Smith-Morra.

Spielmann, Rudolf (1883-1942) was an Austian-Jewish chess master. His nickname was “The Last Knight of the King’s Gambit” because he played the King’s Gambit often.

Steinitz, Wilhelm (1836-1900) was the first official world chess champion. His nickname was “The Austrian Morphy” after winning the Vienna chess championship in 1861 with the score of 31 out of 31.

Szen, Joseph (1805-1857) was a Hungarian chess master. His nickname was “The Hungarian Philidor.”

Tal, Mikhail (1936-1992) was world champion in 1960-61. His nickname was “The Magician of Riga” because of his birthplace.

Tarrasch, Siegbert (1862-1934) of Germany was one of the strongest players of is day. He was nickmanedPraeceptor Germaniae” (Teacher of Germany) because of his influential chess writing.

Teichmann, Richard (1868-1925) was a German chess master. He was nicknamed “Richard the Fifth” for coming in 5th place in many chess tournaments.

Norman Whitaker (1890-1975) was an International Master.  He was known as “The Fox.”