Declining or Refining? Print E-mail
By Joel Benjamin   
March 8, 2007
Hello Joel,

I recently dropped to a class A player (1972 USCF) after being a strong expert (2100+) in the 70's and 80's and 2000+ in the 90's and until about a year ago. I am 66 years old. Is a decline in chess skill inevitable as one grows older? Should I just play for the enjoyment of the game and resign myself to eventually getting down to my rating floor of 1800? Are there any good articles on this subject?

Best Regards,

Robert M. Bond

Tournament chess requires a great deal of concentration and stamina. It stands to reason that players will decline in their chess results as their physical and mental condition weakens. A person in good physical condition, free of diseases and illnesses can buck the trend, but that is the exception to the rule. Viktor Korchnoi is still playing quite strongly (though not at his peak) well into his seventies, but few grandmasters are relevant on the world scene past fifty.

It's quite normal for you to fall off from your peak, but you don't have to resign yourself to a continual decline! Older players actually have some advantages. After retirement, the freedom from the physical demands and mental pressures of work offer compensation for the aging process. You may have more time to study and practice as well. For many people this is the most enjoyable and fruitful time of their chess careers. So don't resign to your age - offer it a draw instead.

Joel Benjamin