Like many games, chess is often regarded as the preserve of the young – however, this isn’t the case and one of the good things about a less physical sport is that older players can dominate the board too.
Possibly the oldest of today’s Grandmasters is a chap called Yuri Averbakh who played a lot of chess until fairly recently – he was born in 1922!
Then there was Joseph Henry Blackburn who tied in the British Championship at the relatively spritely age of 72!
Chess can be fatal – at least it could in the 16th century, when Paolo Boi (1528-98) who beat Ruy Lopez (one of chess’s all time greats) witnessed by Spanish Royalty. However, he died shortly after a game in which he is reputed to have been poisoned just after his 70th birthday.
It may also be the secret of Jane Lady Carew’s longevity who managed a startling 104 years and saw in the turn of two separate centuries in her long life (1797-1901), she reportedly played the game right up until her 100th birthday.
It’s never too late to start – Valery Grechihin managed to become a Grandmaster at 60, back in 1998. Interestingly he also broke another record at the same time – by being the first deaf person to become a grandmaster too.
Winners don’t have to be spring chickens either, Gisela Gresser managed to take the US Women’s title at the age of 63, she died in the year 2000 at the age of 94.
Vassily Smyslov took it a step further at the age of 61 when he qualified for the candidates tournament chess (which decide who gains the right to challenge for the world championship), he had to stop playing chess when he hit the age of 80 because his eyesight failed.
As you can see, age is no bar to chess greatness – so if you’ve always fancied playing but never got round to learning, you might want to think about starting today – it’s never too late.