Grandmasters are getting younger

By Jack Peters
March 14, 2010

Richard Rapport of Hungary just completed the requirements to become a grandmaster at age 13 years, 11 months, 15 days, the fifth-youngest ever. A thrilling accomplishment, no doubt. But chess fans have grown numb to the exploits of adolescent wonders.

The inimitable Bobby Fischer stunned the world by becoming a grandmaster in 1958 at age 15 years, 6 months, a record that lasted until 1991. In the last two decades, though, 23 players have surpassed Fischer’s mark. Sergey Karjakin, the Ukraine star who now plays for Russia, holds the current record at 12 years, 7 months.

The World Chess Federation’s March rating list includes 1,248 men and 21 women who hold the grandmaster title. There are 37 players (about 3% of GMs) rated over 2700. Of these, 12 acquired the title at age 16 or younger and 21 achieved it at age 17 or 18. The eldest of the four outliers, Boris Gelfand, was already among the top 20 in the world when he belatedly received the GM title at age 21 in 1989.

One could argue about the effects of rating inflation, open tournaments, Internet play and a flood of sophisticated instructional material. What’s indisputable is that, to reach elite status, a player today must earn a GM title in his teens.

Here is the full article.

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