In chess there are exciting players, but there are also those that ruin the party.
You know who I am talking about, those that play so stale that even they should be bored of their own games.
As someone who has competed against strong chess players, I understand that “playing it safe” is the way to go.
If you want to win games then you have to practice patience, but this doesn’t mean we cannot pick on those that have a really boring play style.
After all, there are strong chess players that have at least expressed their creativity on the board, we will not be talking about those.
We will be talking about top players that produce the most boring games, in my opinion at least. I think that this would be a funny article. With all of that in mind, let’s get started.
What is my definition of a boring chess game?
First it is important to understand what is the definition of a boring chess game. Depending on your level your definition of “boring” might become different.
If you are a strong chess player that understands the nuance of positional play, what might be interesting to you might be boring for most people.
For the purposes of this article, my definition will be those that only play the expected moves in any given position.
These are players that play moves with little creativity, those that when you view their games, you wouldn’t really get inspired.
If you look at the games of Fabiano Caruana, who is a highly positional player, his games are not boring. This is because you can tell that there are deeper combinations hidden within his simple-looking moves.
But with the top chess players that I will be mentioning, it’s like the moves that they play are not as intriguing.
This does not mean that they are bad chess players, it is just that their style of play is not that inspiring in my opinion. With this definition in mind, I have made this list.
1.) Anish Giri
Anish Giri will be the first in my list. Some of you would know his reputation as being the “draw grandmaster”, as he is a chess player that almost always goes for the draw.
This does not mean that he is a bad player, in fact, he is very hard to beat. He usually doesn’t get the win, but he makes sure that his opponent won’t get the win either (a draw).
This reputation has toned down over the years as he has proven to become a formidable opponent taking wins even in the world chess championship candidate tournament.
However this “drawish” reputation has some grounds, his play is just too predictable.
When you view his games it is almost robotic, not in the sense that he is as strong as an engine, but in the sense that it has little to no creativity.
It’s like he has no signature (in my opinion), someone that would differentiate them from other top chess players.
Magnus has the endgame, Caruana has positional-like precision, Nepo is unpredictable, Ding Liren plays weird moves, etc. Almost every other top chess player has their own signature, Anish Giri does not have such a signature.
When I watch his games I don’t really feel inspired, most of his moves are also quite predictable.
He is a very strong chess player, do not get me wrong, his rating and results speak for itself. But when it comes to the play style, I think his is very boring.
2.) Levon Aronian
Levon Aronian will be my second boring top chess player. Some people may disagree with me on this, and I do understand.
What confuses me with Levon Aronian is that he occasionally plays inspiring games randomly, but 90% of his games are just like Anish Giri’s.
He doesn’t have a signature that can differentiate him from other top players, he plays too predictably.
Given the opportunity he will take advantage, but even when he is on the attack I don’t really feel inspired.
I think this is due to the fact that he doesn’t go for too much risk, his play safe approach makes him hold back on the initiative. Again, he is a strong player that occasionally plays inspiring games.
However most of the time, he plays bland, the games that he plays also likely ends in a draw. Weirdly enough he used to be one of my favorite chess players, well, until I discovered more of them.
As I have been to introduce to many top chess players with their own unique play styles, Levon Aronian’s approach seems “too standard”.
Like it is great, but when you are the viewer, you wouldn’t really enjoy watching it over the games of Firouzja for example.
His games are just typical strong super-grandmaster games with almost no life, and the drawish results doesn’t help either. Levon is great, but I am also not a fan of his playstyle.
3.) Viswanathan Anand
A lot of Indian chess fans might become upset that I included Viswanathan Anand on this list.
Although he is a very strong chess player, I am not really fond of his approach. Just like with the other two super grandmasters mentioned, his style of play isn’t really inspiring.
Occasionally he will play a memorable game, but this is not usually the case.
Most of the time his approach is just plain boring positional play. It is important to know that I am talking about the world champion Vishy Anand.
Vishwanathan Anand was a really exciting player during his youth. His occasional encounter with Garry Kasparov is so iconic, Kasparov’s “eye disappointment” meme came from a game against this strong chess player.
However in his older years, his style was not really entertaining. His bouts against Magnus Carlsen was a snoozefest, even the players themselves were caught snoozing during the game (this happened,search it on youtube).
His style is not memorable, you can mistake the game as those played by Anish Giri.
The moves are typical replies that are quite expected, in other words, quite boring.
Although Vishy Anand might have been a strong “exciting” chess player during his youth, his older version that has achieved far more (world champion) was really boring to me.
4.) Veselin Topalov
Unlike the others mentioned in the list, Veselin Topalov is not as popular.
This is quite weird since Veselin literally became the world fide chess champion at some point before he was defeated by Vladimir Kramnik (unification match).
He also became the world chess championship challenger against Viswanathan Anand, he had a lot of achievements.
However, as strong of a player he is, I just find his play to be really boring. He plays wonderfully, but his approach is just too standard. He is also one of those chess players that don’t have a memorable signature.
He had a lot of good results, but personally, I don’t get inspired by his playstyle.
Nowadays he gravitates so much into playing for a draw, not really something that you want to see as a spectator.
And although I do understand that he is playing to not lose, this doesn’t mean that he won’t be included in this article.
Positionally he can become brilliant if he chooses to, but he usually forces himself into playing for a draw (nowadays at least).
When I found his older games there was a little spark of brilliance here and there, but this is not the case today.
I know that he can play better, but he is complacent in having “decent” tournament results.
Due to this fact, his play started to become too boring. Until he returns to his older self, he will be included in this list.
5.) Peter Svidler
Peter Svidler mostly commentates on elite tournaments and rarely participates competitively, but he used to be a really consistent player.
He had many achievements, playing for the fide world championship title and the world title after the reunification match.
He also played for multiple world chess championship candidates, clearly a very competitive player.
However I also cannot deny that his games are so boring. At the last ends of his competitive career he mostly plays for a draw.
He is one of those old-school players that used to be exciting to watch.
I have to say though that his play back then was still not as exciting compared to Veselin Topalov, and with the elite chess tournaments incentivising draws, he became so stale.
Like a painter that can only paint black and white, his plays don’t inspire me in any way.
Do not get me wrong, he still has creative tendencies here and there, but most of his games are pretty boring.
I want to hold back on saying this since Peter Svidler is one of the nicest guys in the scene, but I want to be truthful.
He doesn’t have much uniqueness that can make him stand out. He is a very strong chess player, but his artistic side is somewhat lacking.
For me, the top chess players that produce the most boring games are: Anish Giri, Levon Aronian, Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, and Peter Svidler, in this particular order.
Some of you may not agree which I understand, what may be boring for me might be exciting for you.
However I do not see how I can create an article without using my own definition of a “boring chess game”.
After watching many games of these top chess players I just find that they are “too standard”, it’s like they are engines that play with no life.
Their decisions are fundamental, yet not as inspiring.
This is also probably due to the fact that they have a safety first approach, playing for a draw does not help either.
I am very sure that these chess players can produce exciting games, it is just that they don’t want to since it is not their playstyle.
That is all for this article, thank you for reading.