Chess playing strength, like IQ, is a multifaceted thing. To my best knowledge, it's at least commonly agreed that when aging, you rather lose tactical attentiveness than positional understanding. I now could go endlessly into other facet details (Müller/Engel player types being influenced differently; risk avoidance; time management etc.) but since I shall only ask one question: Do you know of psychological studies dealing with the influence of aging on chess? (Generic aging/mental ability studies would be OK too if directly applicable to chess.)

Obviously, this is relevant for training.

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    See also chess.stackexchange.com/questions/24897/…
    – Brian Towers
    Aug 28, 2022 at 18:20
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    @BrianTowers: Unfortunately, most studies deal with "peak age", I would be more interested in "what can you do" ("effect of more active play" being the most discussed factor). I was always more into "They Might Be Giants" than "The Who" (music buffs will understand the joke :-) Aug 29, 2022 at 8:52

2 Answers 2


Sources taken from chessjournal article: https://www.chessjournal.com/does-age-affect-chess-ability/

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    Ha, had I known that the theme is already so well researched I would have googled first myself - but I get somewhat lazy with age :-) I take a look ("peak age" is of less interest to me - circumstantial evidence suggests I age slower than the average...) Aug 29, 2022 at 8:46

Nikolai Krogius, Russian GM and sports psychologist, summarized the state of knowledge regarding chess and aging and described his own research in his 1976 book, Psychology in Chess.

First, he dismisses US research :-)

In his dissertation, P. Buttenwisser (Stanford USA, 1935) advanced the opinion that a chess player preserves his optimal strength until the age of fifty. He came to this conclusion by analyzing the games of chess amateurs who did not participate in competitions regularly. For this reason Buttenwisser's findings cannot be regarded as convincingly demonstrated.

He is more impressed by the Soviet research of Stanislav Strumilin.

More serious research on the connection between the age of a chess player and his achievements was carried out by Soviet Academician, Strumilin. In his book Problems in the Economics of Labour (Moscow 1925) he made a statistical analysis of the results of 43 matches (1863 - 1911) and of 34 international tournaments (1890-1914). The participants in these competitions were divided into several age groups. Strumilin counted the total number of games played and then wins, losses and draws, and then compared the results for different age groups. He concluded that a chess player reached the peak of success between the ages of 32 and 33, after which there was a sharp fall in results, while after the age of 60 there was a catastrophic fall in the player's mental energy.

Krogius then describes his research into the subject. He differs from Strumilin, who considered wins, loses and draws, in that he considered tournament standings as more important. He examines the records of 32 great players ranging in time from Chigorin and Tarrasch through to Bottvinnik, Bondarevsky, Kotov and Boleslavsky and 125 tournaments from 1881 to 1967.

His results:

A chess player attains his best results at about the age of 35: his period of optimal and consistent results lasts somewhat longer than 10 years; it ranges between the ages of 30 and 40; some decrease in strength is observed usually around the age of 43 and a particularly noticeable decline starts at the age of 47.

  • Very illuminating. And, I do wonder how "declining belief in the significance of the endeavor" might play in to older peoples' less-intense participation in "chess" (as opposed to literal decline in capacity). Aug 29, 2022 at 2:56
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    @paul Some lose their belief in the significance to a degree that they can't be bothered to defend their titles ;-). Aug 29, 2022 at 13:00
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica, ah, indeed! :) Aug 29, 2022 at 22:29

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