Benchmarks by Korchnoi

  • 64 years winning span in competitive closed chess tournaments from USSR Junior Championship 1947 to Suzdal (Botvinnik Veterans Mem) Rapid 2011, followed by further first prizes as individual best and team winner (Legends vs. CEG, Geneva) 2012 or winner in friendly matches vs. Uhlmann, Leipzig 2014 and vs. Taimanov, Lucerne 2015
  • More than 50 years winning span as National Champion (USSR 1960 to SUI 2011)
  • More than 40 years winning span of supertournaments from Hastings 1955/56 and Buenos Aires 1960, followed by frequent supertournament victories in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, up to Madrid 1995, Sarajevo (Bosna) 1998 and Biel 2001, clear first as a septenarian, all opponents being near forty to more than fifty years younger than Viktor Korchnoi
  • Longest winning span of 19 years at Wijk aan Zee from 1968 (first participation) & 1971 (second participation) to 1984 & 1987
  • About 2000 won games against major opponents (not counting simul exhibitions):
    Viktor Korchnoi is undoubtedly the player with the most wins against grandmasters in professional chess history
  • More than 220 victories in major chess tournament, match and team events
    (for full achievement with more details, see also the different categories of 1st Prizes chronology, major tournaments, prominent opponents and corresponding listings)

    • Top Five player for more than twenty years
    • Top Ten player for more than thirty years, consecutively from 1960 to 1990
    • Top Hundred player of the world for near sixty years
    • Candidate ten times (a cycle back then lasted three years), world record
    • Qualified in Candidate Cycles 1960-1963, 1966-1969, 1969-1972, 1972-1975, 1975-1978, 1978-1981, 1981-1984, 1984-1987, 1987-1990, 1990-1993
    • Korchnoi played a world record of 251 games as a Candidate
    • Oldest National Champion in chess history (Switzerland 2011, at 80 years 4 months)
    • Viktor Korchnoi beats players from five player generations
      (from Levenfisch & Lilienthal to Carlsen & Caruana)
    • Viktor Korchnoi beats nine undisputed Chess World Champions
      (including all from Botvinnik to Kasparov) in classical chess

>> At the age of 50, Korchnoi was still number two (in the FIDE ELO list July - December 1981, with only 5 points behind number one, and 55 points ahead of number three).

>> At the age of 58 (July-December 1989), Korchnoi was last in the Top-Five (only five points behind to position three).

>> At the age of 68 (July-December 1999), Korchnoi was last in the Top-Twenty of the World.

>> At the age of exact 76, Korchnoi last made the ELO Top-100, in March 2007, and Mighty Vic was never a player who has "frozen" his rating by playing only a few games periodically.

>> At the age of 80, Korchnoi beat a Super-GM with an ELO rating of 2700+ in classical chess (Caruana in Gibraltar 2011).

Korchnoi is by far the oldest chess player to beat an opponent of Super-GM strength in a competitive classical game. He is also supposed to be the oldest player to beat a Grandmaster in classical chess, winning against GM Joe Gallagher in the National Swiss Championship in 2012, meanwhile Mark Taimanov is the oldest player beating a Grandmaster, Korchnoi, in speed (rapid) chess.

In his youth, Korchnoi played and beat GM Grigory Levenfish (born 1889).
In his own twilight years, he played and beat GM Fabiano Caruana (born 1992).
A 103-year span - is that unique?

At a total of 174 years, Korchnoi vs. Taimanov (in November 2015, Swiss Chess Museum).
This is the oldest combined aggregate ever for a chess match between grandmasters!

Viktor Korchnoi is the only man on earth beating every of the eight undisputed post-war II world chess champions from Botvinnik to Kasparov, always in a regular classical tournament or match game, in total beating nine undisputed, universally recognized world champions in classical chess, a non-surpassed record held with Keres and Beliavsky.

Gallery of Greats, beaten by Viktor Korchnoi:

Oldest National Champion – men and women

Switzerland's championship in 2011 faced a play-off between Korchnoi and Gallagher. The eminent octogenarian took the title. Photo from the tie-break: Alexandra Kosteniuk, published in

Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016) in 2011 at age of 80 years and four months, Switzerland, current world record!

Hans-Uwe Kock (1938, FIDE Master) in 2017 at age of near 79, his first national title, Liechtenstein (only five rounds, 15 players, there was no GM participating).

Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016) in 2009 at age of 78 years and four months, Switzerland, setting then a new world record.

Edith Price (1872-1956), Women's Vice World Chess Champion (1933), won the British Ladies’ Championship once more in 1948 at age of 76, setting then a new world record.

She had previously won in 1922, 1923, 1924, and 1928:, and

Youngest National Champion – men

Alireza Firouzja from Iran, pictured at the Chess Olympiad in Baku 2016. Photo: David Llada


Youngest *male* national chess champion of any country in history

Alireza Firouzja (born June 18, 2003) from Iran apparently became the youngest male national chess champion of any country in history in January 2016 at age of twelve years and 224 days.

The 2015/16 Iranian Men's Final Chess Championship (1394 according to the Iranian (Persian) calendar) was organized in a closed, single round-robin tournament which took place in Tehran from January 20-28, 2016.

12 to 13 years young Alireza Firouzja dominated that national championship in a field filled with young talents, but also veteran players such as top-seed Ehsan Ghaem Maghami.

Alireza Firouzja scored 8/11 points, and confirmed his supremacy by leaving the nearest followers a full point behind. The second place was shared by the two young players Aryan Gholami (14 to 15 years old), and Parham Maghsoodloo (15 to 16 years old), Gholami took the silver on a better tie-break criteria. All three achieved IM norms, being Alireza's second.,,

Niaz Murshed (*1966) won the championship of Bangladesh at the age of twelve years and 309 days (according to Bill Wall who knows such things). This record stood for a long-time!

In 1978, Murshed finished first in the national championship with two others, but ultimately placed third on a tie-breaker. He went on to win the next four national championships in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982. He became the national chess champion again after 30 years in 2012. Murshed is Bangladesh's first ever GM, and the first South Asian Grandmaster, having been awarded the GM title in 1987:

Henrique Mecking (*1952) in 1965 at age of 13 yrs 5mths, Brazil:, at that time a record, later surpassed / undercut by Niaz Murshed in 1979 (see above).

Daniel Dardha (born 1 October 2005) winning in July/August 2019 his first National Championship of Belgium: Daniel Dardha, a Belgian champion at 13! | ChessBase, at age of 13yrs and 10mths.

Bobby Fischer (*1943-2008) in 1957/8 at age of (near) 15, United States of America.

Arturo Pomar (*1931-2016) in 1946 at age of 15, Spain. Sometimes, Arturo Pomar is labelled as youngest national champion, winning the Championship of the Balearic Islands at the age of 11. 

!! Judit Polgar (*1976) won the Men’s Hungarian Championship, played in Budapest in December 1991 (42th edition) at age of 15 and 5 months (unbeaten above joint 2nd-3rd Adorjan and Sax, ten players including her sister Zsuzsa (Susan) Polgar and legendary Lajos Portisch), making her third and final GM norm.

In December 1991, Judit Polgar thus achieved the title of an International Grandmaster of Chess at the age of 15 years, 4 months and 28 days, at the time the youngest player ever to have done so, breaking the record previously held by former World Champion Bobby Fischer.

Simen Agdestein (*1967) became Norwegian national champion at age of 15+ in 1982. Agdestein and IM Bjorn Tiller shared first place in the Norwegian championship in the Summer. At the end of December 1982 they played a title match of four games. Agdestein won by 3-1 (+2=2).

Magnus Carlsen (*1990) became Norwegian national champion, too, at age of 15+ in 2006.

GM Magnus Carlsen, chess prodigy, and his (former) teacher GM Simen Agdestein, tied for first at the Norwegian Championship in Summer 2006 in a 22-player 9-round Swiss tournament that was held from July 8th to 15th, 2006, in the city of Moss, just south of the capital of Oslo.

The rules required that in case of a tie at the top a playoff would be staged. This was done two months later with two regular games played on September 19 and 20, and then two rapid chess tiebreak games on September 21.

The two games in standard time control ended in draws, then Carlsen won both rapid chess games to take the title. Sven Mühlenhaus of Düsseldorf, Germany, linked Agdesteins's and Carlsen's first national title win, and noted:

History repeats itself – Even the score of the playoff match was the same!


Anish Giri (*1994), Champion of the Netherlands, winning the Dutch title in September 2009 at age of 15yrs 3mths.

Fabiano Caruano (*1992), the American-Italian teenage phenom became Italian Champion in December 2007 at age of 15 years and five months. Caruana already tied for first in 2006, but lost the play-off to GM Godena and had to settle for second place then.

Wesley So (*1993), Champion of the Philippines, winning the title in 2009 at age of 15yrs 6mths.

Murray Chandler (*1960), Co-Champion of New Zealand at age of 15 yrs and 8 mths. The NZL Championships in 1975/76 saw a triple tie for the title (without play-off), after Chandler lost in the final round to William Fairhurst (multiple Scottish Champion), thus allowing record title holder Ortvin Sarapu (born in Estonia, known in New Zealand as “Mr Chess”) and Lev Aptekar (ex-USSR), to catch up. First-timer in alphabetical order: Aptekar, Chandler, and Sarapu.

Daniel Yanofsky (*1925-2000) in 1941 at age of 16, Canada.

Florin Gheorghiu (*1944) in 1960 at age of 16, Romania.

Wei Yi (Chinese: 韦奕; pinyin: Wéi Yì; born 2 June 1999), in end of May 2015, Wei won his first Chinese Championship, breaking the previous national record of Ding Liren (born in October 1992, who had won the national title in May 2009 at age of 16 years and 7 months), becoming the youngest Chinese chess champion ever a few days before turning 16 years young.

G. Akash (*1996, October) is India's youngest-ever national chess champion at 16 years and 14 days. In 2012, G. Akash, a student of computer science at Jawahar Higher Secondary School in Chennai won the National Premier Championship (doubling as Zonal) as untitled player. This win earned him his IM title and a GM norm. He won the title with a draw against GM Deep Sengupta in the final round to become clear first.

Murali Karthikeyan (*1999, May) in 2015 at age of 16 to 17, India.

Viswanathan Anand (*1969, December) in 1986 at age of 16 to 17, India.

Dibyendu Barua (*1966, October) in 1983 at age of 16 to 17, India.

Etienne Bacrot (*1983, January) in 1999 at age of 16 to 17 (16 years and 8 months), France

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (*1990, October) in 2007 at age of 16 to 17 (16 years and 10 months), France

Note: at the British Championship in Chester 1979, the 14-year-old Nigel Short tied for first place with John Nunn and Robert Bellin, earning his first IM norm, the title was won by Robert Bellin, subsequently Short cannot be counted then as National Champion even some sources do so.

In general, the British championship was originally open to citizens of any Commonwealth country and has previously been won by Mir Sultan Khan (India) and Abe Yanofsky (Canada). After the Indian R. B. Ramesh finished first in 2002 and several other Indians took top prizes at the same event, many top Britons declined to compete in the 2003 championship. Following the victory of Indian Abhijit Kunte in 2003 and criticism that the British Championship was not serving the interests of British players, it was announced that starting in 2004 only British and Irish players would be eligible to take part. Since 2006 the Commonwealth Chess Championship has been organized on an annual basis. Source: Wikipedia.

Though some of the child prodigies («Wunderkinder») failed to fully fulfil their early promises (i.e. Niaz Murshed), or / and suffered severe illness (i.e. Pomar, Mecking), they all remain strong GMs. 

Other National Champion titles by the mentioned players have been omitted for reasons of consistency and clarity. This listing may be , and certainly is, incomplete.

Youngest National Champion – women

Isabelle Kientzler in 1984. Photo: Catherine Jaeg (Europe Echecs 308-309 p526)


Youngest national chess champion of any country in history

Isabelle Kientzler, later Isabelle Kientzler-Guerlain (born February 25, 1972) from France won her (first and only) national female title on July 4, 1984 in a closed championship tournament at age of twelve years and 130 days:

She thus was nominated and played at the 1984 Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki for the French women's national team:

Hou Yifan (*1994, February) won her first Chinese Women’s Chess Championship in Chongqing in June 2007 at age of 13 yrs and 4 mths, breaking WGM Qin Kanying's (who was 14 when she won the title in 1988) record as the youngest Chineses champion. Hou scored 9/11 (+7 =4 -0, Elo TPR 2585). 

Humpy Koneru (*1987, March) won the British Ladies’ Championship in August 2002 (BCF-ch 87th, a swiss system, won by Julian Hodgson as clear first, ahead of sole second Christopher Ward; Koneru as 21st best female player) at the age of 13 yrs 4 mths (breaking also a 61-year record held by the late Elaine Saunders Pritchard to become the youngest winner of the British Ladies title), and again in 2002, later also the female Indian Chess Championship. 

In 2002, Koneru became the youngest woman ever to achieve the title of grandmaster (not solely a Woman Grandmaster) at the age of 15 years, 1 month, 27 days, beating Judit Polgár's previous mark by three months; this record was subsequently broken by Hou Yifan in 2008.

Elaine Saunders Pritchard (*1926, January, died in January 2012), child prodigy who won in Bournemouth in August 1939 the British women’s tournament at age of 13 yrs and 7 mths:,,,

British Chess Champions:

At the 1939 British Chess Federation Congress at Bournemouth, the proximity of war meant that the British Championship itself was not at stake. With the uncertainty of the time, and the absence of the players competing in the Buenos Aires Olympiad (Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander, George Alan Thomas, Philip Stuart Milner-Barry, Harry Golombek and Baruch Harold Wood), the men’s championship was scrapped in favor of a more general Premier Tournament, won by Euwe:

Nicola Tjaronda (*1998) became Namibia’s youngest ever national chess champion since Independence at age of near 14 in 2012 in a swiss system, finishing as 15th-23rd out of 58 players:

Marie Sebag (*1986, October), one of the very rare West European women players with a male Grandmaster title in chess, became Women's National French Champion in 2000 at age of near 14.

Corina Peptan (*1978, March) got the Romanian women's title for the year 1991 just a few days before her 14th birthday in March 1992 after she won a four games play-off against Elena-Luminița Cosma (née Radu, also Radu-Cosma) 2.5-1.5, they shared 1./2. place of the 1991 national female championship (Source: DIE SCHACHWOCHE no. 14/1992; several Wikipedia editions are wrong).

Irina Krush (*1983, December) won the U.S. Women’s Chess Championship in November 1998 at age of 15 minus one month to become the youngest U.S. Women's Champion ever.

Sabine Fruteau (*1972, February) won the National Championship of France in 1987 at age of 15.

Jana Schneider (*2002, April) won the German Chess Championship in April 2017 at 15 years, roughly at the same age as Elisabeth Pähtz (*1985) in 1999, and Petra Feustel (1958-2010), winning her first national Championship of East Germany in 1974.

Claire Gervais (*1976, April) won the first French National Championship in 1992 at age of 16.

Alessia Santeramo (*1998) won the Italian Chess Championship in 2014 at age of 16.

Listing may be incomplete! Especially, there are a lot of young female national champions; women competitions are much weaker on average. For instance, in a swiss system with no separate section, the title is then awarded to the best placed women. Other National Champion titles by the mentioned players have been omitted for reasons of consistency and clarity.

Longest period between the first and the last national champion title

An incredible 51 year-span, by Viktor Korchnoi (from 1960 USSR-ch to 2011 Switzerland-ch). World record!

Youngest and Oldest winner of a major international (closed) invitation tournament in classical chess

Youngest: aged 16

Magnus Carlsen (*1990) winning as GM at Sarajevo, Bosna in 2006 (joint in a three-way-tie: Nisipeanu, Malakhov and Carlsen finished on 5.5/10 with the above being the tie-break order (1:number of wins; 2:sonnenborn) ahead of 4. Predojevic, 5. Sasikiran, 6. Naiditsch in a six player double round robin), at age of 15 yrs 5mths:

Anish Giri (*1994) winning as GM at Malmö, Sigeman & Co. in 2010 outright at 4.5/5 (ahead of Jon Ludvig Hammer, Nils Grandelius, Jonny Hector, Tiger Hillarp Persson, and Pia Cramling – it was a single round robin, Giri the only Non - Scandinavian player), at age of 15 yrs 11mths:

Garry Kasparov (*1963) winning without GM / IM-title as non-rated player at Banja Luka in 1979 outright (16 players, including former World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian), celebrating his 16th birthday during the tournament! History: Banja Luka -

Gata Kamsky (*1974) winning as IM, achieving his final GM norm at the supertournament of Tilburg Interpolis in 1990 (joint with Ivanchuk, ahead of clear third Gelfand, Short, Timman, Andersson, Nikolic, Seirawan) at 16 yrs 3 mths:

Oldest: aged 70+

Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016) winning at the supertournament of Biel in 2001 outright ahead of the tournament title defender Svidler as clear second, Gelfand as clear third, Grischuk, Lautier, Pelletier (double round robin) at age of 70yrs and 4mths:

Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016) winning at ITAG-Masters, Basel in 2002/2003 (a special side event of the Open at the the Hilton-Schachfestival, Mini-Tournament of four players, double round robin, ahead of Pelletier, Hort, and Nemet):

Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016) winning at Paks (Hungary), György Marx Memorial in 2004 outright by a full point (six players including Beliavsky and Portisch, double round robin):

Vassily Smyslov (1921-2010) winning a Mini Staunton Memorial event (50 years since 1946), held again at Groningen in 1996 at age of 75. There were arbitrarily only two or three rounds per player, and all aged above 70 years:

Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2006) winning at Banja Luka in 2007 (joint 1st/2nd, first on tie-break, ten players) at age of 76:

(lists may be incomplete, without minor and sheer national events)

note: focus here is on international invitation tournaments (meaning actually you need a certain standard to be invited), thus not including national championships (see above), Open Festivals or individual best performances in team events (from Olympiads to ad hoc formations such as the “Veterans vs. Ladies” series). Neither are matches. By definition, official Junior (U-16, U-14 age limits, etc.) and Senior events (originally 60+, now two categories of 50+, 65+) are a different story and not listed.

For instance, Korchnoi won at age of 75 the Senior World Chess Championship in 2006 (swiss system) at his first and only participation, same year he won the international Open at Banyoles, Spain as first on tie-break above Sergei Tiviakov. In 2011, at age of 80, Korchnoi won the national Swiss Champion title again as well as the international Botvinnik Memorial at Suzdal, Russia, in Rapid Chess. But such achievements do all not fit the initially defined criteria above of a closed international invitation tournament in classical chess.

Youngest and Oldest winner of a supertournament in classical chess

Gata Kamsky, prodigy

Youngest: Kamsky at age of 16 years 😀

Gata Kamsky (born in June 1974) was still untitled (!) but already ranked sole no. 8 in the Elo FIDE rating list II (July - Dec.) 1990 before the traditional Tilburg tournament was held in September 1990, tied for first alongside with Ivanchuk, ahead of Gelfand, Short, Timman, Andersson, Nikolic, and Seirawan, earning his third and final GM norm, just three months after his 16th birthday. Gata Kamsky thus gained his Grandmaster title without previously acquiring an IM title.

Oldest: Korchnoi at age of 70 years 😀

Viktor Korchnoi (born in March 1931) at Biel Chess Festival in July / August 2001, just four months after celebrating his 70th anniversary. Korchnoi won as clear first in a double-round robin tournament (ten rounds) above Svidler (previous winner in Biel 2000) as sole second, Gelfand as clear third, Grischuk, Lautier, all reputed and leading players at that time, and Swiss GM Pelletier who could beat Korchnoi.

Extraordinary achievements of older chess players in major international tournaments

Jacques Mieses (1865-1954) was 85 years old when FIDE first awarded the grandmaster title, Mieses was one of the 27 original recipients: Jacques Mieses - Information, Pictures and Games (in german). He played in classical chess tournaments of note between 1888 (Berlin, Nuremberg, Leipzig, Augustea Jubilee Tournament, followed in 1889 by Breslau, DSB Congress) and 1945/46 Hastings Congress, winning the Brilliancy Prize at age of 81 for his win over Martin Christoffel, then the reigning Swiss National Champion, and even at age of 88, Mieses took part in the Blitz City Championship of London. 

Viktor Korchnoi (1931-2016), National Champion (Switzerland 2011) at age of 80 years, and beating Fabiano Caruana, then best Junior of the world and already an established ELO 2700+ player at Gibraltar Open in 2011:

Korchnoi took the supertournament of Biel in 2001 outright ahead of the tournament title defender Svidler as clear second, Gelfand as clear third, Grischuk, Lautier, Pelletier (double round robin) at age of 70 years and 4 months; followed by further international tournament wins. His career shows a unique 64 years winning span in competitive closed chess tournaments from USSR Junior Championship 1947 in Leningrad to Suzdal (Botvinnik Veterans Mem) Rapid 2011.

Viktor Korchnoi beating the Engine kids:

winning with about 40 plus year-odds vs. elite players as Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Shirov, Svidler, Adams, Topalov, Leko, and Judit Polgar,

winning with about 50 plus year-odds vs. elite players as Vallejo Pons (born 1982), Ponomariov (born 1983), Bacrot (born 1983), Grischuk (born 1983), Gashimov (born 1986, R.I.P. 2014), Carlsen (born 1990), and Caruana (born 1992).

Samuel Reshevsky (1911-1992) tied for first at the prestigious Reykjavik Open in 1984, as shared winner at the age of 72 and a half with (then IM) Johann Hjartarson, first on tie-break, and (then IM) Helgi Olafsson; Reshevsky and Balashov as the only two players undefeated in a field of amongst others Geller, Chandler, Christiansen, De Firmian, R. Byrne, Alburt, Lobron, Gutman, Ree, Daniel King, or Fridrik Olafsson. Sammy Reshevsky continued to play until before the end of his life. He has recorded games from nine different decades. On Chessgames are shown 74 years of games from him (

Reshevsky is the only Oldtimer also to be a child prodigy!

At the age of 72 and a half, Joseph Blackburne (1841-1924) won a Special Brilliancy Prize* for his win over Aron Nimzowitsch at the great St. Petersburg in 1914 tournament:, but failed to qualify for the final stage of the best five players (Lasker won, ahaed of Capablanca who won the preliminaries, Alekhine, Tarrasch, and Marshall. That same year, Blackburne tied for first place in the British chess championship with Frederick Yates, but ill health prevented him from contesting the play-off for the title. This was Blackburne's last major tournament. However, in 1921 Blackburne was still giving simultaneous exhibitions. *Tarrasch won the main Brilliancy Prize for his win over Nimzo, involving a double bishop sacrifice,

At the age of 72, Ossip Bernstein (1882-1962) won the Brilliancy Prize for his win over Miguel Najdorf at the UNESCO Montevideo tournament in 1954 (18 participants): Bernstein tied for 2nd-3rd with Miguel Najdorf, behind René Letelier. Nadjorf protested that it was unfair to play such an aged opponent, and then became so confident of eventual victory before this last round game that he convinced the organizers to double the tournament First Prize money at the expense of reducing the payouts for the lesser prizes, a gamble which backfired in spectacular fashion as the septuagenarian Bernstein routed Najdorf in a 37-move Old Indian Defense that won Bernstein the Brilliancy Prize.,
The same year, Bernstein played at first board for France at the Chess Olympiad in Amsterdam 1954 (+5 −5 =5), he was also a member of the French team at the next Olympiad in Moscow 1956, but he did not play because of illness.

Miguel Najdorf (1910-1997) tied for second place in a supertournament at age of 69, the Clarin International at Buenos Aires in 1979. Larsen who won as clear first, and Najdorf as the only two undefeated players in a field including former world champions Petrosian and Spassky as well as Miles, Andersson or fellow countryman Oscar Panno. Najdorf's last national championship entry was in 1991 at age 81, even later, he still participate in the traditional Mar del Plata Open with good results. He also remained active in chess play and commentary to the end of his life.

Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941) returned to elite chess in his mid-sixties, finishing fifth in Zürich 1934 and third in Moscow 1935 (undefeated, ½ point behind Mikhail Botvinnik and Salo Flohr; ahead of Capablanca, Spielmann and several strong Soviet masters), sixth in Moscow 1936 and seventh equal in Nottingham 1936, his last international tournament at age of 68. Lasker's ongoing strength on top level was hailed by Reuben Fine as "a biological miracle".

Honorable mention:

Mark Taimanov (1926-2016), the famous pianist and chess grandmaster has recorded games from nine different decades. On Chessgames is shown a span of 73 years of games from him ( Taimanov played his last public games in Switzerland in November 2015 (Rapid match versus Korchnoi, fabulous 65 years after they first met otb in 1950) at age of 90 years minus three months.

Arnold Denker (1914-2005), the "Dean of American chess", renowned chronicler, and organizer, has recorded games from nine different decades, too (1929-2001).

Ratmir Kholmov (1925-2006) played regular competitive chess on high level virtually right up until his death, i.e. in 2005 at age of 80 he  participated at Pardubice A-Open, and Aeroflot B-Open in Moscow, he played also at Olomouc and Dnipropetrovsk (now officially named Dnipro). Kholmov achieved in some pretty strong events still results above 50%.

Alexander Cherepkov (1920-2009) kept his strength and improved gradually as he got older. He won the first of his three Leningrad Championships in 1967 at age 47, and repeated the next year following a playoff. After some appearances in minor events and team championships, with mixed results, Cherepkov won his third Leningrad title in 1982 after a playoff. Maybe the best result of his career, was winning the international invitation Leningrad White Knights tournament 1984 with 8/13, ahead of several Grandmasters. This was a remarkable achievement at age 64. He earned the IM title by FIDE. Another superb showing at age 70 came in the 1990 Leningrad International, where he finished clear 2nd with 9.5/13, behind Konstantin Sakaev. Source: Wikipedia. (1984) (1990) (interview, part I) (interview, part II)

Géza Maróczy, Andor Lilienthal, Edward Lasker, Enrico Paoli, Arthur DakeDavid Bronstein, László Szabó, Svetozar Gligoric, Wolfgang Unzicker, Borislav Ivkov (*1933), Fridrik Olafsson (*1935), Wolfgang Uhlmann (*1935), or Boris Spassky (*1937) have long chess careers, too (often semi-retired for years, still occasionally playing in tournaments or team events until nature forces to stop). Earlier oldtimers include Baron Tassilo Heydebrand und der Lasa and Henry Bird.

This survey is subjective. Veteran events, friendly matches, rapid, blitz or exhibitions or late entries in team events are not of same status and strength as an international closed or open tournament in classical chess, thus generally not indicated here.

According to Chessmetrics (all data per 2005), Viktor Korchnoi, Vassili Smyslov, Miguel Najdorf, Samuel Reshevsky, plus Ratmir Kholmov, Svetozar Gligoric (he suffered somehow a striking decline in his personal mid-50s and 60s, then remarkably consolidating in his 70s), surprising IM Alexander Cherepkov in common with the late successes of the great Joseph Blackburne and Ossip Bernstein could be considered as the world's strongest septuagenarian players in chess.

The only octogenarian chess player frequently and fully competitive active on high level in the international circuit was Viktor Korchnoi.

At age of 80 in 2011, Viktor Korchnoi, performed a sensational year: National Champion once again and more than fifty years since his first national USSR title, winning the closed Botvinnik Memorial Veterans, Rapid at Suzdal, beating Caruana in a fascinating Ruy Lopez with black at the prestigious Gibraltar Open, playing at the European Team Chess Championship for Switzerland on board no. 2, and achieving the individual best score in the Swiss Team Championship together with Alexey Dreev (both at 6.5/8). 

The following year, Viktor Korchnoi won as individual best an international team event at Geneva, already forced to sit in a wheelchair. In September 2012, Korchnoi suffered a severe stroke, but continued after a rehabilitation phase to play competitive chess, in rapid matches, twice versus Wolfgang Uhlmann at Leipzig in 2014 and at Zurich in 2015, and with his longtime friend from Saint Petersburg, Mark Taimanov at Lucerne in November 2015.

On a slightly lesser level: Zoltan Sarosy, born in Budapest, Hungary (1906 - 2017) had been playing for more than a century! 🙂

Oldest Chess Grandmaster to be awarded

Jacques Mieses in 1950 (title inauguration), 85 years

Jacques Mieses (Leipzig, 27 February 1865 – London, 23 February 1954) was a German-born chess Grandmaster and writer. He became a naturalized British citizen after World War II.

Mieses moved to England in the 1930s to escape Nazi persecution as a Jew. In 1950 he became the first FIDE-authorized British grandmaster, though not the first British born grandmaster. When FIDE first awarded the grandmaster title in 1950, Mieses was one of the 27 original recipients, and the oldest of them. (Source: Wikipedia)


Oldest recipient of the Honorary GM title (only awarded between 1977 and 2003):

Enrico Paoli in 1996, at age of 88

Enrico Paoli (January 13, 1908 – December 15, 2005) was an Italian International chess master.

He was born in Trieste, Italy, and learned chess when he was nine years old. He was winner of closed International Tournaments of Vienna (1951) and Imperia, Italy (1959). Paoli won his last Italian Championship at age 60, and organized the famous Reggio Emilia chess tournament.

He beat Soviet GM Alexander Kotov with the black pieces in Venice in 1950, but missed receiving the Grandmaster title by only half a point at a tournament in Vrsac (Kostic Memorial) in 1969 (that year, there was no new grandmaster nomination at all). Paoli was awarded the title honoris causa in 1996 by FIDE. (Source: Wikipedia)

Youngest Chess Grandmaster to be awarded

by Year and Age ("advanced control")

David Bronstein, Soviet Union in 1950 (title inauguration), 26 years
followed by:
Tigran Petrosian, Soviet Union in 1952, 23 years
followed by:
Boris Spassky, Soviet Union in 1955, 18 years
followed by:
Bobby Fischer, United States in 1958, 15 years, 6 months, 1 day
followed by:
Judit Polgár, Hungary in 1991, male GM 15 years, 4 months, 28 days
followed by:
Péter Lékó, Hungary in 1994, 14 years, 4 months, 22 days
followed by:
Etienne Bacrot, France in 1997, 14 years, 2 months, 0 days
followed by:
Ruslan Ponomariov, Ukraine in 1997, 14 years, 0 months, 17 days
followed by:
Bu Xiangzhi, China in 1999, 13 years, 10 months, 13 days
followed by:
Sergey Karjakin, Ukraine in 2002 (current record), 12 years, 7 months, 0 days

Above are all players who have held the record for youngest grandmaster. The age listed is the age at which they qualified for the title (GM-elect). This is not equal to the age at which they officially became Grandmasters, because de-jure titles can only be awarded at FIDE congresses. All players are listed by their nationality at the time of gaining the title, not their current or later nationality.

Dommaraju Gukesh, commonly known as Gukesh D, from India, was on the verge of surpassing Sergey Karjakin to become the youngest grandmaster in history, but he missed the record by less than a month. He became the second youngest grandmaster in history on January 15, 2019, at the age of 12 years, 7 months, and 17 days. He is thus the second youngest person in history to qualify for the title of a Chess Grandmaster, which FIDE awarded him formally in March 2019.


Youngest IM in chess history:

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (born 10 August 2005) from Chennai, India.

Praggnanandhaa became the youngest person ever to become an International Master in history. He did so on 29 May 2016 at the age of 10 years and 10 months and 19 days, over twelve months younger than the record previously set by Sergey Karjakin.

On 23 June 2018 Praggnanandhaa got his third and final norm to become a chess grandmaster, at the age of 12 years, 10 months and 13 days, the *then* second-youngest person ever to achieve that rank.

Chess is crossing age borders: Korchnoi, Ponomariov, young Karjakin, young Lahno (Lagno), amongst others, at the famous Kramatorsk chess school in Ukraine. Photo: ChessBase

Dethroned as reigning World Chess Champion without winning a single game

Two of the longest-reigning world chess champions, Lasker and Kasparov, both went down without winning a single game, in 1921 (Lasker vs. Capablanca, private title negotiations), and 2000 (Kasparov vs. Kramnik, Braingames, split title) respectively.

The same fate faced Anand in 2013, when losing his title (undisputed FIDE ruling) to Carlsen.

Rapid / Blitz / Armageddon speed tie-break to determine the male World Champion in CLASSICAL CHESS

So far, no Blitz or Armageddon was needed to tie-break a World Championship title match. 

A Rapid Mini-Match decided the World Championship in classical chess in the following years: 2006 (Kramnik vs. Topalov), 2012 (Anand vs. Gelfand), 2016 (Carlsen vs. Karjakin), and 2018 (Carlsen vs. Caruana); plus during the schism with split titles and FIDE direct seeding / knock-out competitions in 1998 (Karpov vs. Anand), and in 2004 (Kasimdzhanov vs. Adams).

  • 2006 in Elista: Kramnik vs. Topalov 6-6

A World Chess Championship known as "toiletgate", seriously damaged with unproven cheating allegations by Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov. The first phase of the tiebreaks was a four game mini-match played with 25 minutes per each side, and a 10 second increment. Kramnik's victory in the fourth rapid game allowed him to win the rapid-encounter and the whole match.

After thirteen years of chaos in the chess world, due to the FIDE schism forced by Short and Kasparov in 1993 (Garry later admitted, it was a misjudgement), the splitted chess world thus has become again a solitary and undisputed World Chess Champion in 2006: Vladimir Kramnik (reigning for one year until 2007, followed then by Vishy Anand).

  • 2012 in Moscow: Anand vs. Gelfand 6-6

Known for his prowess at rapid play, Vishy Anand was the clear favorite going into the tiebreaks (25 minutes + 10s/move). After a see-saw victory in the second rapid game, followed by two complicated draws, Anand had defended the title he gained Mexico City in a tournament in 2007 for a third time in a row, following the matches against Kramnik (who was directly seeded for a one-off event in which he as the previous world champion had been given the right for a title re-match) in Bonn 2008 and Topalov in Sofia 2010. Anand finally lost the crown at Chennai in 2013 against Magnus Carlsen.

  • 2016 in New York: Carlsen vs. Karjakin 6-6

The match was decided then in tiebreaks where Magnus Carlsen prevailed 3-1 in the rapids (again 25 minutes + 10s/move), winning the third and fourth rapid game:

Karjakin vs Carlsen (game 15)
Carlsen vs Karjakin (game 16)

  • 2018 in London: Carlsen vs. Caruana 6-6

After three weeks, twelve straight draws, Carlsen finally retained the World Chess Championship against his challenger Caruana in the day of speed tie-breakers:

A schedulded series of four rapid games in which the players have 25 minutes, plus 10 seconds per move. Carlsen won the first, the second, and the third rapid game to win the play-off 3-0.

The very last move of the World Chess Championship at New York in 2016: White (Magnus Carlsen) to move, mate in two: 49.Rc8+!!, Kh7 is just played, in fact, Magnus' birthday combination (Diagram: NZZ)

Rapid / Blitz / Armageddon speed tie-break during SPLIT TITLES

During the schism (split titles), the FIDE World Chess Championship has been decided twice in speed games: 1998 in Lausanne, Switzerland (Karpov vs. Anand 3-3, 2-0 in rapid games), and 2004 in Tripoli, Lybia (Kasimdzhanov vs. Adams 3-3, 1.5-0.5 in rapid games).

  • 1998 in Lausanne: Karpov vs. Anand 3-3

The FIDE World Chess Championship 1998 was contested in a match between the FIDE World Champion Anatoly Karpov and the Challenger Viswanathan Anand. The match took place between 2 January and 9 January 1998 in Lausanne. The circumstances caused controversy:

Karpov as defending FIDE champion was seeded directly into the championship match! 

Kasparov (ranked 1st in the world) declined his invitation in advance.

Kramnik (ranked 2nd in the world) declined participation on the grounds that Karpov's direct entry into the final was unacceptable.

The challenger had to be determined in a large knock-out tournament held prior in Groningen, The Netherlands, between 9 December and 30 December 1997 with 97 participants.

A very tense playoff between Michael Adams and Viswanathan Anand took place on the last day, 30 December, of the Groningen k.-o. event. Anand generally dominated the rapid playoffs (2 games 25 minutes + 10 seconds increment, followed then by 2 games 15 minutes + 10 seconds increment), not managing to put Adams away until the introduction of the blitz sudden death Armageddon game (4 minutes to white, 5 to black).

Vishy Anand and his team then had to sort out a flight and to move quickly, very quickly from Groningen to Lausanne opening ceremony of the final stage of the event on the 1st January 1998 at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne: a Mini-Match against Anatoly Karpov.

After the Championship in Lausanne ended in a draw (3-3), Karpov won the rapid playoff (2-0), becoming the 1998 FIDE World Chess Champion again. Afterwards he did not defend his FIDE title and went to Court.

  • 2004 in Tripoli: Kasimdzhanov vs. Adams 3-3

In 2004, Kasimdzhanov beat Adams 4½–3½ after the rapid tie-breaks, the final match of a large FIDE World Chess Championship knock-out tournament having been tied 3-3 in the six standard games. During his whole career, Rustam Kasimdzhanov never entered the top ten Elo ranking, neither before nor after this surprising win.

Retaining the title as reiging World Chess Champion by drawing the match: NO TIE-BREAKS HELD

Despite not winning the Championship, the following  World Champions could retain their title without a tie-break:

  • Lasker in 1910: Drawing with Schlechter 5-5
  • Botvinnik in 1951: Drawing with Bronstein 12-12
  • Botvinnik in 1954: Drawing with Smyslov 12-12
  • Chiburdanidze in 1981: Drawing with Alexandria 12-12
  • Kasparov in 1987: Drawing with Karpov 12-12
  • Kramnik in 2004 (split title): Drawing with Leko 7-7

In these matches, the reigning World Chess Champion kept the title without any further play-off, according to the rules then in charge.

Schlechter, Bronstein, Alexandria, and Leko never became World Champion.

Note: Botvinnik played five regular World Championship title matches (1951, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1963), he didn’t win one!!!!! Botvinnik drew Bronstein (1951), drew Smyslov (1954), lost to Smyslov (1957), lost to Tal (1960), lost to Petrosian (1963). Two re-matches (a special regulation then in charge), he did win, vs. Smyslov (1958) and vs. Tal (1961). The re-match clause had been abandoned in 1963, later re-installed for Karpov, finally buried.

Most consecutive draws during a World Chess Championship match

The most consecutive draws happened in Moscow 1984/1985 between Anatoly Karpov and his Challenger Garry Kasparov with 17 undecided games in a row. An incredible series of draws! Karpov was leading by 4-0 wins, six wins were necessary to gain the title, draws did not count at all.

This match lasted from September 10, 1984 to February 8, 1985. It was aborted after 48 games, just after Kasparov had won game 47 and game 48, making Karpov the de facto winner because he kept his title. A new match was scheduled to take place later in 1985, now limited to 24 games, Kasparov won by 13 to 11 to become the new World Chess Champion.

The longest streak of drawn games from the beginning on is twelve draws in the first twelve games!

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana are holding now the record for the most consecutive draws to start a World Chess Championship match in London 2018, in fact, all twelve out of twelve games in classical chess ended in a draw.

This was the first time in the history of the world championship, which dates to the 1800s, that regular play in classical chess ended with every game a draw.

The previous record dated from 1995, when Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand drew the first eight games of their title match in New York City.

Candidates: Qualified but non-participating

Bondarevsky, Euwe, Fine  and Reshevsky  all in 1950, Botvinnik  in 1965, Fischer  in 1977, and Carlsen  in 2011 qualified for the Candidates or were directly seeded (as Ex-World Champion) in the Candidates, but did not play!

Note: Bondarevsky (qualified for the Candidates in 1950) withdrew due to illness, all other players were voluntarily absent. Bondarevsky and Fine never played in the official FIDE Candidate’s at all.

Flohr in 1950, Geller in 1965, Spassky in 1977, and Grischuk in 2011 only qualified due to the non-participation (withdrawal) of players printed cursively in bold above.

Unlucky Stein*  in the Interzonal 1962 and in the Interzonal 1964 as well as unlucky Bronstein*  in the Interzonal 1964 were qualified but excluded from the Candidates by a rule limiting the number of players from the same country.

*Benkö (in the Candidate's tournament in 1962), *Ivkov and *Portisch (both in the Candidate's matches 1965) took benefit of the ‘country limitation rule’ in force at that time.

Since the Candidate's tournament is re-installed, held as a double round robin of eight players, a wildcard has always been given to one player per cycle: the profiteers / tournament organisers' nominee were Mamedyarov (already in 2012, with Candidate matches), then Radjabov (in 2013), Svidler (in 2014), Aronian (in 2016), and Kramnik (in 2018).


In earlier time, Anatoly Karpov has been directly seeded into different stages of the Championship campaign, for instance in in a so-called 'super-final' to decide the World Championship Challenger for 1987, meanwhile his opponent then had to qualify via both, a strong Candidate's tournament (Montpellier in 1985) and two following Candidate's matches, a semi-final and final match. The eventual winner, Andrei Sokolov, who had played already a Zonal, an Interzonal, and a Candidate's tournament plus two Candidate's matches, lost that 'super-final' (held in Linares) to a seeded Karpov without winning a single game.

For the FIDE World Championship 1998, Karpov was seeded directly into a final championship match (held in Lausanne) against the winner of a large FIDE knock-out tournament (held in Groningen), finishing just a few days prior to the match. The circumstances caused controversy (see above).

After the following Chamnpionship match between relaxed Karpov and exhausted Anand ended in a draw (3-3), Karpov won the rapid playoff (2-0), becoming the 1998 FIDE World Chess Champion again. Subsequently, he did not defend his title and went ot Court.

Tournaments: Streaks are in fashion

Historical testimonies, and some recent streaks

Prins starting by a score of 10/10 at Madrid international tournament in 1951:, Prins triumphed, but lost four games!

Najdorf winning 9-0 from round 6 to 14 at the first Capablanca Memorial in Havana 1962:, Najorf won outright  ahead of Spassky, Polugavsky, Smyslov, Gligoric, etc.) despite beginning with two losses!

Madrid then can be regarded as a major international chess tournament, but not as a world class tournament (today often called 'supertournaments') like the significant series of the mentioned below Beverwijk / Wijk aan Zee (Hoogovens, Corus, Tata Steel), Linares or the Sinquefield Cup at Missouri, St. Louis.

Korchnoi starting 8-0 at Wijk aan Zee in 1968, his first participation (wins from round 1 vs. Padevsky to round 8 vs. Tal). Korchnoi won Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee with full three points ahead of Portisch, Hort, and Tal as joint runners-up.

Caruana starting 7-0 at the Sinquefield Cup 2014, winning as clear first (8.5/10), full three points ahead of World Champion Magnus Carlsen against whom Caruana drew in round eight after beating him in round three. This was the first edition of the Sinquefield Cup, a double round robin of six players (Anand and Kramnik absent).

Karpov starting 6-0 at Linares 1994, winning incredible 2.5 points ahead of Kasparov, and Shirov as shared seconds.

Recently, a selection:

Seems like everyone's going on a six-game winning streak these days, at least: Fabiano Caruana (who made it to seven games), to name a few super-GMs to have accomplished the feat since Sinquefield Cup in 2014 (as a selection):

Nakamura starting 6-0 in the Gibraltar (Open) 2015, winning the event.

Giri starting 6-0 in the Qatar Masters Open (Open) 2014, not winning the event.

Gunina (losing her two first games), finishing 7-0 at 64th Russian Superfinals women (ch-RUS) in Kazan 2014, winning the round robin tournament outright.

Carlsen's 6-0 in the middle of TATA Steel at Wijk aan Zee 2015, winning the event.

Kramnik from round 3 to 8 (losing the final round) in the Qatar Masters Open 2014, not winning the event.

FIDE 04 September 2014

Fabiano Caruana is at 7/7 in Sinquefield Cup 2014

Day after day the Italian-American superstar Fabiano Caruana is making history. Fabulous Fabiano aka Fabi is now at 7/7 in the strongest ever chess tournament, the Sinquefield Cup, breaking every expectation, shattering even the bravest predictions.

With his victory in round six he surpassed the 5/5 start of Ivanchuk at Sofia, Mtel Masters in 2008, with the victory today another achievement remains behind – the 6/6 of Karpov at Linares in 1994. The modern times of chess have a new king: ice-cold Fabi. One has to look back to 1968 where in Wijk aan Zee the legendary Korchnoi started with 8/8.



Starting with two losses – and winning in the end!

Top tournaments won from that situation include

Miguel Najdorf, 16,5/21 at the first Capablanca Memorial in Havana 1962,

Bent Larsen, 12/17 at Palma de Mallorca 1969,

Alexander Beliavsky, 8,5/14 at Tilburg 1986.

Are there others?

Recently, Valentina Gunina (losing her two first games), then finishing 7-0 at 64th Russian Superfinals women (ch-RUS) in Kazan 2014, winning the round robin tournament outright.

*list may be incomplete*

Perfect clean sores in chess tournaments

coming soon

Longest-running chess column

Leonard Barden's daily chess column for the London Evening Standard began in June 1956, and was published daily in the printed newspaper  until July 30, 2010, making a total run of 54 years and 1 month.

It has since continued online, and is still running! 🙂