Zoltan Sarosy, Chess Master, passes at 110

by Albert Silver
6/21/2017 – We celebrated his longevity just two weeks ago. It is with regret that we now share the passing away of Zoltan Sarosy, who died at the very ripe age of 110, making him not only the oldest man in Canada, but easily the oldest chess master ever. Born in Hungary in 1906, and learning chess at the age of ten, the lifelong aficionado effectively played it for 100 years, still playing in his 100s, which helped him maintain an astonishingly healthy brain until the very end.

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Born in Budapest, Hungary on August 23, 1906, Zoltan Sarosy learned the game of chess at the age of 10 while visiting the parks. “I was with my mother and I saw a boy playing chess and I asked, ‘What is that?’ The next day I was back at the park. That boy’s mother wouldn’t let me play with him but I found others,” said Mr. Sarosy.

He continued playing in school and at university in Vienna, where he studied international trade. He graduated in 1928 and returned to Budapest where he continued his chess career. He was soon a grandmaster.

“In 1943, I played in the Hungarian championship and gained the Hungarian master title,” he says.

During the war (the second World War) he used his fluency in Hungarian and German to work as an interpreter, avoiding being sent to the Eastern Front, where so many perished. After the war he emigrated to Canada, though not before a length passage through Europe, from Austria then to Alsace where he drew a training match (2–2) with Alsace Champion Henri Sapin in 1950.

Zoltan Sarosy at the 1952 Toronto Championship

In 1950, he read that Canada was looking for immigrants and he went to Paris to get papers. After arriving in Halifax and then settling in Toronto, he took up correspondence chess. He was thrice Canadian Correspondence Champion (1967, 1972, 1981), and was awarded the IMC title in 1988. In 2006 he was inducted into the Canadian Chess Hall of Fame.


TV report by CTVNews with Zoltan Sarosy celebrating his 110th birthday

It is only fitting that the cake used to celebrate his 110th birthday was in the shape of a chess board. A chess player through and through until the very end!

It wouldn't be a proper tribute to a chess player without a game. Here is one he played against IM Lawrence Day in 1964 at the Canadian Open:

Zoltan L Sarosy vs Lawrence Day

[Event "Canadian Open"] [Site "Scarborough, Ontario"] [Date "1964.08.02"] [Round "3"] [White "Zoltan L Sarosy"] [Black "Lawrence Day"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E71"] [BlackElo "2279"] [PlyCount "95"] [EventDate "1964.??.??"] 1. c4 g6 2. e4 d6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. d4 Nf6 5. h3 O-O 6. Nf3 e5 7. d5 c5 8. dxc6 bxc6 9. Be2 h6 10. O-O Be6 11. Be3 Qc7 12. Qd2 Kh7 13. Rfd1 Ne8 14. c5 dxc5 15. Bxc5 Rg8 16. Rac1 Nd7 17. Be3 Qb7 18. Nh2 f5 19. f4 exf4 20. Bxf4 fxe4 21. Bg4 Bd5 22. Nxd5 cxd5 23. Be6 Nef6 24. Bxg8+ Rxg8 25. Rc7 Qb6+ 26. Qd4 Qxd4+ 27. Rxd4 Nh5 28. Rxd7 Nxf4 29. Rb4 Kh8 30. Rbb7 Bd4+ 31. Kf1 Rg7 32. Rxg7 Bxg7 33. Ng4 h5 34. Nf2 e3 35. g3 Ne6 36. Nd3 Ng5 37. Nf4 Ne4 38. Nxg6+ Kh7 39. Nf4 Nxg3+ 40. Ke1 d4 41. Ne6 Nf5 42. Nxg7 Nxg7 43. Rd7 Kg6 44. Rxd4 Kf5 45. Ke2 Ke5 46. Ra4 Nf5 47. Rxa7 Ke4 48. Ra4+ 1-0

15 years ago, at the age of 95, he purchased a computer with due chess software to continue to play chess online. He worried that the old fashioned method via mail could mean games that took 3-4 years, which he might not live to finish.

Even well into his 100s, all those in touch with him could not help but remark on his incredible lucidity and memory. Not just long-term, with memories that allow him to recall where he was when the First World War broke out, but even short-term memory such as what he had for breakfast that morning.

A segment from a documentary, Cyber-seniors, when Sarosy was 105 years old 

While genetics certainly payed a roll in his incredible longevity, his unbroken relationship with chess no doubt helped him keep such a healthy mind until his very last days. On June 19, 2017, he passed away, just two months shy of his 111th birthday.

Sources: Youtube, Globe and Mail, Wikipedia, CBCnews


Zoltan Sarosy, chess master, turns 110 years old
9/3/2016 – It is tempting to think that must be a typo. 110 years old? Or that the description is a generous exaggeration to link this supercentenarian (the official term for anyone reaching 110) to the noble game, but neither is the case. Zoltan Sarosy, born in Hungary in 1906, is the oldest man living in Canada, and was a professional chess player with titles from the 1920s to the 1980s, winning the Canadian Correspondence Championship three times. Here is a look at a man who has literally played chess for 100 years.

Chess master turns 110 years old
Aug 23, 2016 – With memories stretching back to pre-WW1, Zoltan Sarosy is believed to be Canada’s oldest man. By Kate McGillivray, CBC News

Study of the Month: Dancing bishops
6/5/2017 – That's the subject of this month's pick by our study expert Siegfried Hornecker. He introduces us to three prolific Soviet composers, each of whom had created around 110 studies. While researching the background for his article Siegfried hit upon a coincidence involving the number 110. It involves the Canadian Master Zoltán Sárosy, and we have included a lovely interview with him at the end of the article. Can you guess what the coincidence was?

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, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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