Zoltan Sarosy, chess master, turns 110 years old

by Albert Silver
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.

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On August 23, 2016, Zoltan Sarosy, born in Budapest, Hungary, turned 110 years old, making him the oldest man in Canada. This supecentenarian still has a positive outlook, with a sense of humor and is completely lucid, with astonished comments by those who know him on not only his long-term memory, but his short-term as well, including basic things such as what he had for breakfast that very day.

A number of articles appeared to celebrate the feat, of which our favorite is likely that by Fred Langan for The Globe and Mail. This excellent piece details his life, his career in chess, and the many events that transpired from his first encounter with the game at age 10, to his emigration to Canada later in his life.

Here is an excerpt:

By Fred Langan

Zoltan Sarosy was just two months shy of his eighth birthday when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Sarajevo, setting in motion the crisis that led to the First World War. The young Hungarian boy was living on a military base on the Adriatic, where his father was a doctor in the army.

“One morning I came out of my room to see my mother packing. She said war is coming, we have to leave within 12 hours,” says Mr. Sarosy. Soon they were on a torpedo boat that took them to a port in Herzegovina and from there to a passenger ship to Trieste and finally to a train to Budapest.

It’s safe to say Mr. Sarosy is the only man in Canada who remembers where he was when the First World War started. He’s celebrating his 110th birthday on Aug. 23, and while there are no individual Statistics Canada records to point to, that will likely make him the oldest man in Canada. (Wikipedia has a page on Canadian supercentenarians, or those 110 and older. It says there are three people in Canada older than Mr. Sarosy, all of them women.)

Photo taken of Zoltan Sarosy for The Globe and Mail

Today, Mr. Sarosy lives in a seniors’ home on Bloor Street West, across from High Park. Though he now uses a wheelchair to get around – at 102, he finally conceded he could use some help and got a mobility scooter – his mind is still sharp, perhaps from a lifetime of chess.

“He remembers the past but what amazes me is his short-term memory,” says Elena Yeryomenko, lifestyle program manager at the Chartwell Grenadier Retirement Residence Mr. Sarosy calls home. “It is phenomenal at this age to have such a sharp mind. He remembers his life as a child and he remembers what he had for breakfast.”

Mr. Sarosy is still curious about the new. The interview is being recorded on a smartphone, and he wants to know how it works as a recorder. “A marvellous little machine,” he calls it.

He has a computer he bought in 1999 to play chess. At the time he played correspondence chess where people from around the world would mail each other the next move. Since games could take four or five years, he felt that at 93 he might not be around to finish a game.

CBC News met with him and friend Stacey Simon who kindly shared pictures of Zoltan

Mr. Sarosy was born in 1906 in Budapest, the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He started playing chess in public parks at the age of 10.

“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 [chess] master title,” he says. Articles and photos are now appearing in tribute to his longevity and life

Young Zoltan was fluent in Hungarian and German, a skill that probably saved his life in the Second World War. In 1944, he volunteered as a translator when other Hungarian men his age were drafted and sent to the Eastern Front.

Click here to read the full article

Here is a correspondence game played between 2007 and 2009 when Sarosy was a juvenile 103 years old:

Zoltan Sarosy - Klaus Amann

[Event "Correspondence Chess"] [Site "?"] [Date "2007.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Sarosy, Zoltan"] [Black "Amann, Klaus"] [Result "1-0"] [PlyCount "49"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. d4 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 Bxd2+ 10. Qxd2 O-O 11. Bc4 Nc6 12. O-O b6 13. Rad1 Bb7 14. Rfe1 Rc8 15. d5 Na5 16. Bf1 exd5 17. exd5 Rc5 18. d6 Bxf3 19. gxf3 Nc6 20. d7 Ne5 21. Bg2 g6 22. Qd6 Nc6 23. f4 Nb8 24. Bb7 Rc2 25. Bd5 1-0

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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