Maturity and Majesty

by Albert Silver
11/25/2013 – While Magnus Carlsen’s victory is a victory for youth, with his numerous records in precociousness, it is unfair and incorrect to suggest that excellence and success are the exclusive domain of the young. As a follow-up to our look at the wonders of those in the springtime of life, here is a list of the players for whom age is just a number, and each wrinkle is but a battle scar.

ChessBase 14 Download ChessBase 14 Download

Everyone uses ChessBase, from the World Champion to the amateur next door. Start your personal success story with ChessBase 14 and enjoy your chess even more!


Along with the ChessBase 14 program you can access the Live Database of 8 million games, and receive three months of free ChesssBase Account Premium membership and all of our online apps! Have a look today!

More...

Maturity and Majesty

While Magnus Carlsen’s victory is a victory for youth, with his numerous records in precociousness, such as the title of youngest number one ever, to becoming world champion one week shy of his 23rd birthday, it is unfair and incorrect to suggest that excellence and success are the exclusive domain of the young.

As a follow-up to our look at the wonders of those in the springtime of life, here is a list of the players for whom age is just a number, fighting to the end, and sometimes showing that maturity can bring majesty.

Oldest number one

Once again, we have resorted to the calculations and results published by Chessmetrics, allowing us to take into consideration players whose careers preceded the Elo system. Even if the ratings do not agree with FIDE's, they still calculate quite well who the best performing players are at a given moment.

It is easy and natural to know who the youngest world number one is, and the reason for this is that the younger they achieve this, the greater the chance they have of surpassing the feats of their predecessors. Sometimes however, those geezers just won't stay down and can frustrate the aspriing green rivals with their tenacity and resilience. Here is a list of the oldest no.1 players.

Rank
Name
Age
When
1
Emanuel Lasker 58 years 0 months December 1926
2
Wilhelm Steinitz 54 years 0 months May 1890
3
Alexander Alekhine 51 years 9 months July 1944
4
José Raul Capablanca 48 years 8 months July 1937
5
Mikhail Botvinnik 46 years 9 months May 1958

Emanuel Lasker was still unstoppable at 58

It would be easy to dismiss Emanuel Lasker's no.1 spot as a mistake or mathematical glitch, but he earned it and in spades. After facing penury, he came out of retirement, having to face his rivals while closing in on 60 years of age. Players such as Capablanca, Alekhine, and Bogoljubow who were 20 years his junior and at the height of their powers, yet in the super tournament New York 1924 he came clear first, and the very next year took second in Moscow 1925, ahead of Capablanca.

Capablanca with Lasker

Oldest world champion

Some players roll over gracefully as they age, others become tougher than hardened leather, treating each wrinkle on their face as a battle scar, proof of their ruggedness. Here is a list of the players who held on to the title of world champion the latest. The ages are calculated upon the day before they surrendered their title.

Rank
Name
Age
1
Wilhelm Steinitz 58 years 0 months 8 days
3
Alexander Alekhine 53 years 4 months 21 days
2
Emanuel Lasker 52 years 4 months 3 days
4
Mikhail Botvinnik 51 years 9 months 2 days
5
Viswanathan Anand 43 years 11 months 10 days

Wilhelm Steinitz was 58 years old when he lost his title

Alexander Alekhine died as world champion in 1946, though he had not defended his title in nine years after winning it back from Max Euwe in 1937. After Mikhail Botvinnik lost his title in 1963, Vishy Anand has been the most age-resistant world champion in 50 years.

The largest age difference

Although there have been many champions fighting off opponents both younger or older, and some faced a greater challenge in terms of age, than others. Here are the matches between players with the greatest age difference.

Emanuel Lasker was 32 years younger than Wilhelm Steinitz when they played
for the title. It is by far the greatest age difference in a match, and unlikely to
ever be surpassed.

Rank
Players
Age difference
Year
1
Lasker-Steinitz
32 years 7 months 7 days
1894
2
Botvinnik-Tal
25 years 2 months 23 days
1960/1961
3
Anand-Carlsen
20 years 11 months 19 days
2013
4
Karpov-Korchnoi
20 years 2 months 0 days
1978/1981
5
Lasker-Capablanca
19 years 10 months 26 days
1921

Anatoly Karpov first faced Viktor Korchnoi in a match in 1974. Seven years later,
Korchnoi was back.

Viktor Korchnoi is the only player in history to have become the massively older challenger, inverting the usual story of older champion and younger hopeful. Officially, Mikhail Botvinnik beat his much younger rival Mikhail Tal as the challenger, but it bears remembering he skipped the entire qualification process thanks to the 'rematch' clause.

In the grand tales of experience and maturity fending off youth and verve,
Mikhail Botvinnik is the greatest as he beat Tal in 1961 to regain his title



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


Discuss

Rules for reader comments

 
 

Not registered yet? Register