Friday, December 29, 2017

Chess Ageism

Anand has just become the World Rapid Champion of chess at the age of 48. People have written the ex-World Champion off and there have been suggestions that he should retire. Perhaps this has been partly because of Kasparov's retirement in his early 40's, but whatever the reason, no one should be forced to give up something they enjoy doing and which they are good at.

We seem to have a feeling in chess that it is a province of the young. Young mostly means in a person's 20's, but we have seen a rise in prodigiously young talent as well over the past 20 years, with younger and younger children reaching high levels of play. And I am all for that, but to write off older players is demeaning and bad for the game and ageist.

When I was a young player, if the older, more experienced players weren't around to test myself against, then I might not have have made it to the 2200 level. At the age of 51, I intend to keep playing, and improving if possible, but mostly enjoying the game and playing it to the best of my abilities.

So what is old in chess? 50? 40? In the upcoming 2018 Candidates tournament, only one player, Kramnik is over 40. 4 out of the 8 players are in their 20's. Compared to AVRO 1938, it is similar with 2 players over 40 (Alekhine 46, Capablanca 50) and 4 of the 8 players in their 20's. However, not all tournaments have been like this. The first great modern tournament, Hastings 1895 had a field of 22 players. Only 6 of these were in their 20's while 10 were over 40, and 3 of these were over 50 (Blackburne 53, Steinitz 59, Bird 65). Of the 15 players who competed for the Zurich Candidates tournament in 1953, only 4 were in their 20's while 5 were over 40, Euwe being the oldest at 52.

It seems to me that there can be affects to one's chess as one gets older. Increasing health risk, and rowing family commitments are 2 obvious things can affect a players activity in a field. But we have seen longevity in chess from a number of players, historically Steinitz, Lasker, Smyslov and Korchnoi come to mind and more locally, Darryl Johansen who won the Australian Chess Championship at the age of 53. But to 'keep going' at chess it seems a deep love of the game and a purpose is needed. Also as a community we need to equally encourage participation by players of all demographics, regardless of gender, race, age etc.

I'll leave for another day the fact that Anand's great victory was marred by the boycott of many chess players of Saudi Arabia including defending Women's Champion Ana Muzychuk who said:

"In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles – one by one. Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone's rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature"

And I'll not get into the Twitter story I saw where Swedish Grand Master Pontus Carlsson was abused online:

1 comment:

  1. "No one should be forced to give up something they enjoy doing and which they are good at."

    Spot on.