by Bill Wall
Recently, emphasis has been on youth in chess. We see younger players like Magnus Carlsen getting stronger and becoming grandmasters sooner. But here is a look at some of the older players in chess and longevity in chess.
Yuri Averbakh (1922- ) is currently the world’s oldest chess grandmaster at age 90. Last year, on his 90th birthday on February 8, he gave an in depth interview about his life and the history of chess. He has been studying the history of chess and games.
Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841-1924) played chess until he died at the age of 82. He tied for 1st place in the British championship at the age of 72. It is estimated he played over 100,000 chess games in his career.
Paolo Boi (1528-1598) played world class chess until he died at the age of 70. He defeated Ruy Lopez in front of the king of Spain. He played chess with church members, including Pope Paul III. He was offered to be made a cardinal, but he refused. At the age of 70, he was playing an important chess match with Salvio in Naples, Italy, but lost. Some say he was poisoned by jealous rivals and died. Others say he caught a cold when hunting a died as a result of it.
Grandmaster David Bronstein (1924-2006) still took an interest in chess in his 80s. He was writing another chess book in his 80s.
Jane Lady Carew (1797-1901) was a chess player who lived to 104 and lived in three centuries. She played chess up to age 100.
Arthur Dake (1910-2000) was once the oldest active chess grandmaster. He played chess for over 75 years. In 1987, at the age of 77, he scored 8-4 in the US Open. He was still playing in rated chess tournaments at the age of 89. He died 20 days after his 90th birthday.
Harlow Daly (1883-1979) won the chess championship of Maine in 1969 at the age of 85. He had previously won in 1961 at the age of 77, and in 1965 at the age of 81. He was still playing chess in his 90s. At age 90, in 1973, he won the New Hampshire Open tournament with a perfect 5-0 score. He died at the age of 95. He played chess for 75 years.
Arnold Denker (1914-2005) died at the age of 90. He was active in chess until his late 80s.
In 1994, Bernard Friend became a chess master for the first time at the age of 71.
Svetozar Gligoric (1923-2012) was 89 when he died of a stroke. At the time of his death, he was the second oldest grandmaster. In his later years, he turned to music and learned how to play the piano. He recorded a music CD at the age of 88.
Valery Grechihin (1937-2008) became a grandmaster the regular way (gaining GM norms) in 1998 at the age of 60. He was the first deaf grandmaster in history.
Gisela Gresser (1906-2000) won the U.S. Women's Championship at the age of 63. She died at the age of 94.
James Hanham (1840-1923) played master level chess until he died at the age of 84. At his death, he was the oldest chess player of master rank in the United States.
Rea Hayes (1915-2001) won the Tennessee championship in 1992 at the age of 76. He was the winner of the first U.S. Senior Open in 1981. He was still playing in it in 1998, at the age of 83.
Hermann Helms (1870-1963) wrote a chess column for 62 years. He published the American Chess Bulletin for 59 years. At the age of 84, he was awarded the International Arbiter title. He died one day after he reached his 93rd birthday.
Kirk Holland (1910-?) was once the President of the American Chess Federation. He was still playing in rated USCF chess events at the age of 94 in Chicago and was once considered the oldest active chess player in the United States.
Mona Karff (1914-1998) won the U.S. Women's Championship at the age of 60. She died at the age of 83.
Larry Kaufman, born in 1947, was awarded the grandmaster title at the age of 60.
George Koltanowski (1903-2000) edited a chess column in the San Francisco Chronicle for 52 years. He was still playing blindfold chess in his 70s. He was still giving his Knight’s Tour in his 80s. He was awarded the Grandmaster title (honorary) at the age of 85. He died at the age of 96. I visited him several times at his San Francisco apartment and he was quite alert and funny in his late 80s.
Viktor Korchnoi (1931- ) was still playing grandmaster level chess at the age of 81. In 2005, he was still ranked in the top 100 in the world at the age of 74. In 2007, he tied for 2nd in the National Open. In 2011, at the age of 80, he beat Fabiano Caruana, currently ranked #5 in the world. Korchnoi is currently in a clinic in Switzerland recovering from a stroke. He was still playing chess as of September, 2012.
Edward Lasker (1885-1981) was playing chess until he died at the age of 95. He was still playing correspondence games when he died. He became an International Master at the age of 75.
Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941) played chess until he died at the age of 73. At the age of 68, he took 6th place in the Moscow International tournament in 1936.
David Lawson (1886-1980) became a world famous chess author at the age of 89 when he wrote Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess.
Andor Lilienthal (1911-2010) died three days after his 99th birthday. He had been the world’s oldest grandmaster.
Alina Markowski (1910-?) is still playing chess in San Diego in her 90s. She started playing postal chess at the age of 61. She now has a chess club named after her.
Jacquest Mieses (1865-1954) died at the age of 89. He was still giving simultaneous chess exhibitions in his mid 80s. He became a grandmaster at the age of 85.
Mario Monticelli (1902-1995) was awarded the Grandmaster title at the age of 83. He died at the age of 93.
Jared Moore (1893-1995) was still playing correspondence chess at the age of 100. He died at the age of 101. He first started playing correspondence chess at the age of 67 and was perhaps the oldest player to play correspondence chess.
Walter Muir (1905-1999) played postal chess until he died at the age of 95. In 1997, he wrote his autobiography, My 75 Year Chess Career.
Miguel Najdorf (1910-1997) played chess until he died at the age of 87. At the age of 81, he played in the Argentina chess championship. At the age of 82, he played in the strong Mar del Plata open.
Gyorgy Negyesy (1893-1992) was a Hungarian chess master. He died just short of his 99th birthday. He may have been the longest-lived master.
Enrico Paoli (1908-2005) became a grandmaster at the age of 88. He was the strongest active nonagenarian in the world, still playing chess at the age of 97. He died less than a month away from his 98th birthday.
Edith Price (1872-1956) won the British Women's Championship at the age of 76. She was still running her chess club, the Gambit Chess Room in England, while in her 80s.
Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992) was still playing chess until he died at the age of 81. At the age of 70, he took 3rd place in the U.S. Championship. At the age of 72, he won a grandmaster tournament, held in Iceland.
GM Hector Rossetto (born in 1922) of Argentina was still playing chess in his 80s.
Dr. Aron Schvartzman of Argentina may be the world’s oldest chess player. He was born in 1908 and is still playing chess at the age of 104.
Rober Scrivener (1881-1969) won the Mississippi State Championship at the age of 80. He was still playing chess until he died at the age of 87.
Oscar Shapiro (1924-2004) was the oldest person to first make chess master. He became a chess master at the age of 74.
Vassily Smyslov (1921-2010) became a Candidate and oldest qualifier for the World Chess Championship at the age of 61. At age 61, he took 2nd place in the 1982 Las Palmas Interzonal. In 1988, at the age of 67, he was the oldest person to play in a Soviet chess championship. He won the first World Seniors Championship in 1991 at the age of 70. He won the Staunton Memorial at Groningen at the age of 75. He ended his chess career at the age of 81 because of failing eyesight, rated 2500.
William Stienitz was the oldest world champion. He was world champion at the age of 58 years and 10 days before he lost his title to Emanuel Lasker on May 6, 1894.
Mark Taimanov (1926- ) is still involved in chess at the age of 80 and still gives simultaneous exhibitions. He was World Senior Champion in 1994 (age 68) and 1995 (age 69).
George Thomas (1881-1972) won the London championship at the age of 65. He was awarded the International Master title at age 69. He died at the age of 91.
Wolfgang Uhlmann, born in 1935, is still playing in German Team matches at the age of 77,
Wolfgang Unzicker (1925-2006) was still playing grandmaster chess in his late 70s.
Norman Whitaker (1890-1975) played chess until he died at the age of 85. He became an international master at the age of 75.
Louis Zeckendorf died one month before his 100 birthday in 1937. He was a member of the Manhattan Chess Club.
Players that made it into their 80s include Unzicker, Bernstein, Cochrane, del Rio, Euwe, Lasa, Reshevsky, Van Scheltinga, Maroczy, Rudenko, Szabo, Winawer, Atkins, Blackburne, Botvinnik, Eliskases, Golombek, Karff, Canal, Kasparian, Whitaker, Kottnauer,Rubstova, Johner, Najdorf, Mieses, Milner-Berry, Smyslov, and Elo.
Players that made it into their 90s include Dake (90), Denker (90), Bohatirtchuk (91), Thomas (91), Monticelli (93), Gresser (94), Ed Lasker (95), Muir (95), Koltanowski (96), Paoli (97), and Lilienthal (98).
A recent study showed that playing chess in old age could be one of the best preventative measures against Alzheimer’s disease, which affects one in 14 people over 65.