Matthew van Eerde's web log
I am a Software Development Engineer in Test working for the Windows Sound team. You can contact me via email: mateer at microsoft dot com
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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:.
Closer investigation of each of the highlighted matches revealed that, astonishingly, in every case the youngest contender's birthday came after the match:
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.
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.