Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: Age

There is a general tendency in declining performance with age in every human activity and chess is not the exception. Reasons are weakening concentration and increasing fatigue because chess is a demanding activity in terms of mental effort.

Although chess players reach a peak around the age of 30, there are exceptional cases of players still active at the top level even at age of 50.

Ex-World Champions Vladimir Kramnik retired at 44, but Viswanthan Anand still ranked in the group of 15 best world players at the age of 52.

Another example of chess resilience was Korchnoi.

Viktor Korchnoi (1931 – 2016) was a Russian grandmaster who devoted his whole life to chess.
Born in Leningrad, he suffered as a child the terrible days of the siege of the city by the German army in the II World War. His father died when he was 10. His mother was extremely poor and couldn’t afford to bring him up, so she handed Viktor to his father’s family.

Korchnoi’s father taught him chess when he was around 6. But it wasn’t until the end of the war, as a teenager, that he took the game seriously.

Extremely critical to the soviet political system, Korchnoi defected to the Netherlands in 1976 and brought his political fight to the chess board. He disputed the World Chess Championship against the Russian Anatoly Karpov two consecutive times, in 1978 and 1981.

Korchnoi kept playing chess until his last years. One of his last appearances was in the 5th Gibraltar Chess Festival when he was 70.
Today’s game is from that tournament and the following position appeared in his game against the American WGM Irina Krush.

Irina Krush’s last move was 26…g6. White’s position is advantageous, but Korchnoi couldn’t find the move for ending the game in his favour.

Korchnoi had a strong personality and losing a game was painful for him.

After the game, both players analysed the game and the following are some of Korchnoi’s comments which Irina Krush recorded for the posterity:
“The first thing he said was, ‘I could have had two extra pawns!’. Then he would suggest some move and walk away, only to come back in a minute, and all this interspersed with insults such as ‘It’s good to know theory, but you should learn how to play chess as well.’ Finally, it came down to this: he suggested a move, and WGM Elisabeth Paehtz suggested a (stronger) alternative. Both moves were quite simple, nothing special. So he says, about Elisabeth’s suggestion, ‘No, this move is too good for her.'”

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