Anand vs. Gelfand world chess championship 2012 oldest pair of contenders since 1886

Anand vs. Gelfand world chess championship 2012 oldest pair of contenders since 1886

  • Comments 2

In 2012, World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand will attempt to defend his title aqainst challenger Boris Gelfand. This is a very unusual match in that both players are fairly old by World Chess Champion contender standards. I decided to see just how unusual it was, and do so with some degree of rigor.

One tricky bit is that chess championships (usually) have (at least) two players, so we have to define an age metric for pairs of people. Creating a well-ordering on tuples is sometimes controversial. I chose to have the comparison routine be:
    age(contenders) = min(age(contender) : contender ∈ contenders)
which is to say, the age of the youngest contender.

Another tricky bit was deciding which matches were definitively "world chess championship matches." I pulled the list of world chess championship matches from chessgames.com. For time periods where the organizational ownership of the title is in question, this includes matches sponsored by all contending organizations.

As a naïve first pass, I looked up the birth years for all the contenders and subtracted that from the year of the championship to get an estimated age. This could be off by a year if the youngest contender's birthday comes after (or during?) the match. Nevertheless, this was accurate enough to give me a short list of matches to investigate further:.

Year Player 1 Estimated Age Player 2 Estimated Age Minimum
2012 Viswanathan Anand 43 Boris Gelfand 44 43
2010 Viswanathan Anand 41 Veselin Topalov 35 35
2008 Viswanathan Anand 39 Vladimir Kramnik 33 33
2006 Vladimir Kramnik 31 Veselin Topalov 31 31
2005 Veselin Topalov 30 Many N/A1 30
2004 Vladimir Kramnik 29 Peter Leko 25 25
2004 Rustam Kasimdzhanov 25 Michael Adams 33 25
2001 Ruslan Ponomariov 18 Vassily Ivanchuk 32 18
2000 Vladimir Kramnik 25 Garry Kasparov 37 25
2000 Viswanathan Anand 31 Alexey Shirov 28 28
1999 Alexander Khalifman 33 Vladimir Akopian 28 28
1998 Anatoly Karpov 47 Viswanathan Anand 29 29
1996 Anatoly Karpov 45 Gata Kamsky 22 22
1995 Garry Kasparov 32 Viswanathan Anand 26 26
1993 Garry Kasparov 30 Nigel Short 28 28
1993 Anatoly Karpov 42 Jan Timman 42 42
1990 Garry Kasparov 27 Anatoly Karpov 39 27
1987 Garry Kasparov 24 Anatoly Karpov 36 24
1986 Garry Kasparov 23 Anatoly Karpov 35 23
1985 Garry Kasparov 22 Anatoly Karpov 34 22
1984 Anatoly Karpov 33 Garry Kasparov 21 21
1981 Anatoly Karpov 30 Viktor Korchnoi 50 30
1978 Anatoly Karpov 27 Viktor Korchnoi 47 27
1972 Bobby Fischer 29 Boris Spassky 35 29
1969 Boris Spassky 32 Tigran Petrosian 40 32
1966 Tigran Petrosian 37 Boris Spassky 29 29
1963 Tigran Petrosian 34 Mikhail Botvinnik 52 34
1961 Mikhail Botvinnik 50 Mikhail Tal 25 25
1960 Mikhail Tal 24 Mikhail Botvinnik 49 24
1958 Mikhail Botvinnik 47 Vasily Smyslov 37 37
1957 Vasily Smyslov 36 Mikhail Botvinnik 46 36
1954 Mikhail Botvinnik 43 Vasily Smyslov 33 33
1951 Mikhail Botvinnik 40 David Bronstein 27 27
1948 Mikhail Botvinnik 37 Vasily Smyslov 27 27
1937 Alexander Alekhine 45 Max Euwe 36 36
1935 Max Euwe 34 Alexander Alekhine 43 34
1934 Alexander Alekhine 42 Efim Bogolyubov 45 42
1929 Alexander Alekhine 37 Efim Bogolyubov 40 37
1927 Alexander Alekhine 35 José Raúl Capablanca 39 35
1921 José Raúl Capablanca 33 Emanuel Lasker 53 33
1910 Emanuel Lasker 42 Dawid Janowski 42 42
1910 Emanuel Lasker 42 Carl Schlecter 36 36
1908 Emanuel Lasker 40 Siegbert Tarrasch 46 40
1907 Emanuel Lasker 39 Frank Marshall 30 30
1896 Emanuel Lasker 28 Wilhelm Steinitz 60 28
1894 Emanuel Lasker 26 Wilhelm Steinitz 58 26
1892 Wilhelm Steinitz 56 Mikhail Chigorin 42 42
1890 Wilhelm Steinitz 54 Isidor Gunsberg 36 36
1889 Wilhelm Steinitz 53 Mikhail Chigorin 39 39
1886 Wilhelm Steinitz 50 Johannes Zukertort 44 44

Closer investigation of each of the highlighted matches revealed that, astonishingly, in every case the youngest contender's birthday came after the match:

  • 2012 Viswanathan Anand (43?) vs. Boris Gelfand: Anand's birthday (December 11) comes after the match (starts in May) so he will still be 42.
  • 1993 Anatoly Karpov (42?) vs. Jan Timman (42?): Timman's birthday (December 14) came after the match (finished November 1) so he was still 41.
  • 1934 Alexander Alekhine (42?) vs. Efim Bogolyubov: Alekhine's birthday (October 31) came after the match (April to June) so he was still 41.
  • 1910 Emanuel Lasker (42?) vs. Dawid Janowski (42?): Janowski was born May 25; Lasker December 24. Lasker's birthday came after the match (finished December 8) so he was still 41.
  • 1892 Wilhelm Steinitz vs. Mikhail Chigorin (42?): Chigorin's birthday November 12 (October 31 old style) came after the match (finished February 28) so he was still 41.
  • 1886 Wilhelm Steinitz vs. Johannes Zukertort (44?): Zukertort's birthday (September 7) came after the match (finished March 29) so he was still 43.

We conclude that Anand vs. Gelfand (2012) features the oldest contenders since the very first World Chess Championship Steinitz vs. Zukertort (1886) - and is within a year of even that! If the 2014 championship is a rematch, it will set the record.

1 Topalov was the clear winner of the 2005 FIDE World Championship Tournament so there was no need for a runoff.

Leave a Comment
  • Please add 6 and 6 and type the answer here:
  • Post
  • Why do you think the the minimum age is more significant than the combined or average age of the 2 contestants?

  • If you go by the average age of the contestants, or the age of the older contestant, then the Steinitz matches are way ahead. In 1892 Steinitz vs. Чигорин the average age was around 49. In 1896 Steinitz vs. Lasker, Steinitz was around 60.

Page 1 of 1 (2 items)