Decades ago, there was a young man who joined the Rochester chess club where he had the frequent opportunity to play against USCF Life Master Dr. Eric W. Marchand if my memory is correct.

Who was that late starter? He became a GM in a relatively short time.

Many chess players who go on to become GM's have started out in the first few years of their lives.

Which late starters have been able to become grandmasters?

Please note that this question is the opposite of the more general "how young..." category of questions.

Dr. Marchand was not a GM, my error, he was a USCF Life Master.
My point is having strong competition can help one's chess development.

Also, it's fair to consider a late starter as someone who is perhaps age 20 and up.
end edit.

  • The problem with this question is the meaning of "to start". Many of the ostensible late starters probably already played before they became "serious" about chess. Or possibly played a chess variant like Chinese chess. Many of the old masters "started" relatively late (like Rubinstein at 16) but my guess is that they probably knew the rules and some basics way before they "started". Dec 15, 2015 at 8:27
  • 1
    I'm curious about GM Marchand. I checked the list of grand masters (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chess_grandmasters) but didn't find him. Maybe you mean Marcel Duchamp, a famous painter and also a good chess player? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Duchamp
    – Maxwell86
    Dec 15, 2015 at 8:29
  • @Maxwell86 my error, see above. Marchand did not reach GM. Rochester holds an annual Marchand tournament.
    – gerryLowry
    Dec 15, 2015 at 8:59
  • Although this question is of a general nature, it's possible my memory about the young man mentioned in the O.P. may be flawed if that person was Ken Rogoff because Rogoff was a USCF master and New York State Open Champion by age 14.
    – gerryLowry
    Dec 15, 2015 at 9:05

2 Answers 2

  • Oscar Shapiro was the oldest player to become a master. He did it at the age of 74.

  • Wilhelm Steinitz was the oldest world chess champion. He won the title from Zuckertort in 1886 at the age of 50 and held it until he was defeated by Lasker in 1894 at the age of 58 years and 10 days.


  • 1
    according to a Wikipedia citation(a), Steinitz learned chess at age 12. (a) Schoenberg, Harold C. (1981). Grandmasters of Chess (Rev. ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 99
    – gerryLowry
    Dec 15, 2015 at 8:30

I'm not aware of the person you're referring to, but GM Ye Jiangchuan of China started playing at around 17, as far as I remember from what I read about him. That's relatively quite late for Chess GMs. You can find more about him here: Ye Jiangchuan (Wikipedia)

  • please note that i am looking for multiple late starters; if Ye Jiangchuan did not even learn the moves until age 17, it's likely fair imho to include him in such a list. Born in late 1960, he would have been around age 32 when he became a GM. Ye beat Korchnoi in 1990 FWIW: King's Indian Defense: Orthodox Variation.
    – gerryLowry
    Dec 17, 2015 at 22:08

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