Photo quiz - When we were young

by Eduard Frey
6/2/2023 – Once upon a time we all looked quite different - even some famous chess players. Our author has selected some childhood and youth photographs of famous chess grandmasters and invites you to guess. For example, who are the two perky new wave girls? Background singers from A-ha?

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Photo quiz - When we were young

In this quiz, you have to guess who is in the photo. Twelve chess players in early and funny photographs. Some are easy, some are not, some contain a hint. Have a look! A-ha, the first photo in the lead is not of a famous 80s Scandinavian new wave pop/rock band with hip hairstyles, but ... You can find the solutions and photo credits at the bottom.

It was a long journey to the top for the current World Champion

The oldest living former candidate, in presidential pose in a 1946 photograph

A few clues

He has beaten many greats in classical games from Tartakower (*1887) to Gunina (*1989), plus Eliskases, Pilnik, Panno, Najdorf, Reshevsky, Taimanov, Keres, Geller, Gligoric, Ivkov, Szabo, Portisch, Hort, Uhlmann, Unzicker, O'Kelly de Galway, Donner, Timman, Miles, Speelman, Byrne, Benko, Browne, Seirawan, Hübner, and Larsen, and Andersson, as well as world champions Fischer (twice), Petrosian (twice, winning their individual mini-match in the Candidates of 1959), Tal (twice), Karpov (when he was reigning world champion in Buenos Aires, Clarin 1980), or Korchnoi (in Amsterdam, IBM 1976), among many others.

The saga of his finest victories includes the Hastings Congress 1955-56 (as an untitled player together with the then IM Viktor Korchnoi) and his two triumphs at the traditional Hoogovens tournament (now Tata Steel) in Beverwijk in 1959 (clear first place ahead of Erich Eliskases) and much later again, now at Wijk aan Zee in 1976 (together with Ljubomir Ljubojevic, ahead of Mikhail Tal as joint third).


A well-rounded life during and after his professional chess career, a professional commentator, an excellent storyteller, a great analyser, a renowned teacher, a widely published author, a top-level player and an ambassador for the game, always with good manners and good sportsmanship.

At the age of 19

His first name is an anagram of "orbis", Latin for "globe", and indeed he went on to become World Chess Champion, today he is the oldest living former World Champion. A picture from 1956, when he was 19 years old and playing in the Candidates' Tournament for the first time.

He will celebrate his 80th birthday in August this year

A few clues

He came to international prominence at the 1964 Olympiad in Tel Aviv, when he won the individual gold medal on board four (12.5/15 as an untitled player). His team took the bronze medal, beating favourites and eventual winners the USSR 3-1 in the Final A phase (All-play-all of the 14 strongest nations).

Perhaps his most famous game was against Lev Polugaevsky at the Buenos Aires Olympics in 1978, when his team beat the USSR again (the other three matches ended in draws).

An outstanding personality. Although his main duties as a hospital doctor and paramedic limited the time available to him, he simultaneously established a career as an amateur chess player, taking part mainly in team events; his activities in internal medicine and as a psychotherapist left him little time for tournaments.

Later he became a fabulous television commentator on chess and also published several popular books on chess. For more than 40 years he has had his own chess column!

Born in 2004 (the same year as Vincent Keymer), photographed at the age of nine, he won the traditional 2023 Capablanca Memorial tournament a few weeks ago

Born in 1976, pictured when he was 13, he took first place at the traditional TePe Sigeman & Co. tournament in Malmö 2023 a few weeks ago

At four years old, dreaming of winning the Tour de France

A few clues

Multiple winner at the Biel Festival GMT (2009, 2013, 2014, 2015), plus winner of a match (classical, rapid, blitz) against Svidler in 2016, twice winner at the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis in 2017 (perhaps his greatest success, unbeaten ahead of 2./3. Carlsen, Anand, 4./5. Aronian, Karjakin, 6. Svidler, 7. Caruana, 8. Nakamura, 9./10. Nepomniachtchi, So) and at the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis 2021 (in a less strong field compared to the 2017 edition), winner at Dortmund 2016 (1.5 points ahead of 2.-4. Kramnik, Caruana, Dominguez Perez, 8 players), winner of Shenzhen Masters 2018 (best on tie-break, with Giri and Ding Liren, 6 players), winner of Bucharest Superbet Chess Classic 2022 (three players tied for first place, then both co-leaders So and Ding Liren eliminated in a rapid play-off round robin).

Several joint first places at the Gibraltar Open (but never won the subsequent play-offs) and joint first/third place at the London Chess Classic 2015 (first beating Giri in a three-way rapid tie-break, but then losing to world champion Carlsen in the play-off final), joint runner-up at the Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee 2015, behind only world champion Carlsen.

His first major international invitational victory came in Paks, Hungary, at the Gyorgy Marx Memorial 2008, ahead of the legendary Alexander Beliavsky, who later worked as a second to him.

Junior World Champion 2009. World Blitz Champion in 2021 (after a play-off against Duda, three players shared the first place, Firouzja took bronze). Three-time national champion in 2007 (at 16 years and 10 months), 2011 and 2012 (shared title). Finally a candidate for 2020-21.

Peak rating: Elo 2819 in August 2016. Peak ranking: 2nd behind Magnus Carlsen in the same year 2016. He is currently just outside the top ten.

Two World Champions

World champions, both of them! She was born in 1961 and won the crown in 1978 at the age of 17. He was born in 1963 and pictured here at the age of 12.


Cover photo: Pia Cramling in perfect pose, together with Zsuzsa (today: Susan) Polgar in the mid-80s (Twitter Cramling by Polgar)

Photo 2: Ding Liren (Ding Liren's archive)

Photo 3: Fridrik Olafsson (, recently a biography in English has been published: The Chess Saga of Fridrik Ólafsson | ChessBase

Photo 4: Yasser Seirawan as Washington State Champion, 1976 (Flickr, Philip Peterson)

Photo 5: Boris Spassky at the Candidates' Tournament in Amsterdam, 26 Mars 1956 (Anefo, Herbert Behrens)

Photo 6: Helmut Pfleger at the Zonal in The Hague, 7 October 1966 (Anefo, Joop van Bilsen)

Photo 7: Jonas Bjerre (

Photo 8: Peter Svidler (e3e5, Mikhail Kheyfets, A. Kentler)

Photo 9: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Personal Website)

Photo 10: Garry Kasparov and Maia Chiburdanidze (FIDE Facebook)

Eduard Frey was born in spring 1967, is an economist (lic. et mag. rer, pol.) and works as a coach in human resources. He learned the game as a child from his father. Chess is a hobby without rating. He has been a frequent visitor to the Biel Chess Festival since 1976, as well as to Lucerne (1982 Olympiad, and the 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997 World Team Championships), and to the international tournaments in Zurich or the Lugano Open series. Frey spoke with many top players; he knew Viktor Korchnoi, Wolfgang Uhlmann and Mark Taimanov more closely.