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There are pictures of Reshevsky playing simuls at a very young age -- I think there is some controversy over his exact age since the younger he was supposed to be, the more interesting. He also, even as an adult, was not very tall so I suspect SR looked very young at a given age.

His opponents were sometimes grey beards and I think he played 20 cadets and won almost every game at West Point -- even though Elo ratings did not exist and most players I suspect had not much access to top competition or even that many books in the early 1920s, I would suggest that the simul at the US military academy must imply near master strength.

I think Morphy's games when he was under 12 probably show him to be a master quite young and same thing with Capablanca. Both of these players had access to very good competition that few people in the 19th century had although neither lived in London or Paris which I think were top cities for chess competition then.

In modern times where there were ratings, do we know the fastest, starting from learning the moves to 2200 Elo (FIDE) at any age the shortest time to master? I suspect it might be a kid but I also think a teenager starting from scratch would reach master sooner than say a six year old also starting with no knowledge -- most six year old kids lack the temperament to study and also in general have less ability to pick up concepts.

On the other hand, if it were a foreign language, the younger the better with some aspects of language being very hard to learn the older a human gets.

I note that the youngest Polgar became the best, and I think she not only started earliest but she obviously had the advantage of two older siblings who knew the game very well. It is also argued that the younger one starts, the slower the decline in old age. Some people became GM level starting in their teens or even 20s but the ones I have in mind did not play to late old age. (I wonder if Morphy, had he continued to play into middle and even old age would have been like Korchnoi, a top player as he approached 80 -- Morphy quit and passed away so young that he seems very much part of the mid 19th century but had he lived to his 90's, he could have potentially played with people who were 20th century world champions including certainly Lasker but also even Botvinnik -- imagine in the mid 1920s Morphy in his 80s meeting a young Botvinnik as Korchnoi met a young Caruana.)

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  • For many people we will lack the information about when exactly the learned the rules... Otherwise my bet is : some Indian kid !
    – Evargalo
    Jul 17, 2023 at 8:22

1 Answer 1

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The first thing to note is that there is no reliable record of when players first learn the moves. The closest we have to this is when they get their first FIDE rating and even with that there are some obvious hurdles to overcome.

  1. FIDE have only relatively recently lowered the bar for getting a FIDE rating to what could be considered beginner levels.
  2. If a player doesn't play FIDE rated chess until they are already quite strong then it also cannot be determined.

With this in mind I have queried my database of historic FIDE rating data built up from both Olympbase and FIDE data. I have requested the minimum difference in periods between first receiving a FIDE rating (which must be under 1200) and first achieving a rating of 2200 or more. Both these for standard time controls.

These were the top 5:

  1. Prithu Gupta 1187 in October 2013 to 2219 in September 2016 (2 years 11 months)
  2. Pilshofer, Paul 1127 in June 2018 to 2243 in September 2021 (3 years 3 months)
  3. Bharath Subramaniyam H 1009 in December 2013 to 2204 in May 2017 (3 years 5 months)
    4=. Juhasz, Agoston 1055 in September 2014 to 2211 in March 2018 (3 years 6 months)
    4=. Pranav, V 1150 in November 2013 to 2234 in May 2017 (3 years 6 months)

Bharath Subramaniyam H with a starting rating of 1009 is perhaps the most convincing beginner.

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  • You are right about learning moves but first rated game is a good way to demark beginning of "serious" play. About 3 years seems the record. I would guess the world champs of the past simply could not get in enough games without world class opposition using engines. Polgar sisters of course could play with each other and Judit had master-level opposition from her oldest sister starting very young.
    – releseabe
    Jul 17, 2023 at 18:56
  • I think Judit Polgar could have been a master in strength as young as 9 but she started literally at 2 years old. If her rating did not match her strength one reason is Hungary was not allowing the sisters to play in men's events and Judit at least refused to play in women's-only event IIRC.
    – releseabe
    Jul 17, 2023 at 19:01

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