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Between 1916 and 1924, future World Champion J.R. Capablanca, as of 1921, experienced a period of eight years without a single tournament defeat. He was then regarded as one of the world's best defensive players, although he also drew more than other grandmasters of similar stature. Has any grandmaster or world champion since then had an equal or longer record of being undefeated?

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From this Chess.com Discussion

In terms of games played, it would be Tal with 95 games (46 wins, 49 draws) from October 23, 1973 to October 16, 1974. He also has the second longest streak of 84 games (47 wins, 39 draws) from July 1972 to April 1973. In terms of time, Capablanca was undefeated for 63 games (40 wins, 23 draws from February 10, 1916 to March 21, 1924.

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    +1 However, I do think Capablanca's streak is more impressive because he has a higher percentage of wins and also because during that period he was the "man-to-beat" for everyone else. Tal was not regarded as such in 1972. The man-to-beat at that time was Fischer or even Spassky. – Wes Jun 4 '14 at 16:43
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    @Wes Yes, perhaps. There's some other long streaks such as Kramnik's 82 game streak and also Kasparov's 15 consecutive first place tournament finishes (record for tournament 1st places) – Alan Jun 4 '14 at 17:00
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    @Wes Fischer was not a man to beat during Tal's 95 games strike, since he was not active at all. During 84 game strike Fischer was playing the Championship match (July 11 to August 31), and then became inactive, so it was not possible to play Fischer unless your were Spassky. – Akavall Jun 5 '14 at 2:38
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    Ya, I actually saw the second set of dates (July 1972 to April 1973) and missed the first. I think during this period, Tal might have been among the top 10 in the world, but Spassky, Korchnoi and even Karpov were already better than him. It would be interesting to see how many games he played against better players during this streak. – Wes Jun 5 '14 at 14:35
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    Also Ding Liren's streak of 100 unbeaten games against top level opposition just ended two days ago (11 nov) when he lost to Vachier-Lagrave. – RemcoGerlich Nov 13 '18 at 8:13
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To answer this question you would first have to explain what you mean by "long".

If you define "long" as over the number of games played, then the next question is "which games do you count?" It shouldn't be surprising that if a grandmaster plays in their local weekend circuit against much-weaker players, they are almost never going to lose. For the record to have value then, one needs to impose restrictions on the strengths of the opposition. If you argue that you count all FIDE-rated games, then Bogdan Lalic reached 155 games undefeated. Alternatively if you require master-level opposition, then the record holder is current world champion Magnus Carlsen, who was undefeated over 125 games (or 122 games if you follow Carlsen and do not count three games against opponents rated over 500 points lower).

Alternatively, if you define "long" as "years without a loss", then Carlsen is not anywhere close to the record since his streak lasted for only two years. In this case you could argue for Steinitz, who was undefeated for 9 years winning 25 consecutive games in the process. However, that streak was only 32 games. Or you could argue for Bobby Fischer, who was undefeated from 1975 to 1992, during which he played 0 games. But at that point, why stop with Fischer? You could probably pick a random person off the street and they would've been undefeated for years.

In short, you need to define carefully what the scope of the record you're considering is. As far as I'm aware, the longest unbeaten streak is usually attributed to Carlsen, but there will be people who consider otherwise.

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  • +1 Strange case where the accepted and most voted answer is demonstrably false. – firtydank Nov 18 '20 at 5:50
  • My bad, I should look at the dates of the answers. The accepted answer was not false, just outdated now. – firtydank Nov 18 '20 at 5:58
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Sergey Tiviakov in the latest number of New in Chess (2017/3):

It is a well-known fact that I am the official world record holder, as I played 110 tournament games without a defeat in the period 2004-2005. That streak lasted for 11 months. In that period I played a lot against world top players like Aronian, Radjabov, Ivanchuk and Carlsen (just to name a few).

Chessbase has now published Tiviakov's 110 games in a row without a loss: Ding defeated! Tiviakov celebrates!

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  • I'm having some trouble validating this on his chessgames.com profile. He has a loss to Vladimir Georgiev at game #620 in the 2004 Olympiad, and two losses to Sakaev at game #690 at the 2005 World Cup. In between his only losses are to Ivanchuk, at a tournament that may have been rapid. It's possible that their database is incomplete, of course, or that their listings aren't perfectly chronological. – Cleveland May 14 '17 at 17:19
  • He claims that he only lost two rapid games in the time period in question, to Ivanchuk on December 18th 2004. – Dag Oskar Madsen May 14 '17 at 17:37

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