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|
|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.