Take the best player from the 19th century, at his prime, and imagine he started playing tournaments today. He can't learn new stuff. What Elo would he achieve?

  • "He can't learn new stuff." That qualifier renders the whole thing moot. You'd have to compare the opening knowledge of the last century with today's, and the current player will know all the holes in the [bad] opening theory of that time, while the older player would be treating the divergences from the book as probably inferior. That would bury a lot of them, right there. They might be able to play 2400-level chess, but since they'd start out in a hole, 2400-rated opponents would beat them.
    – Arlen
    Sep 9 '15 at 18:51

Ken Regan's research (e.g., Understanding Distributions of Chess Performances - PDF link) suggests that the best players of the 19th century were playing at a level in the 2400-2500 range (see the table on page 9 of that paper).

  • I am far from understanding that article. Mar 23 '15 at 20:35
  • @user3671618 He used computer analysis to see how good players' moves were. That table on page 9 provides estimates of the strength of players' play based on the moves of their games.
    – dfan
    Mar 23 '15 at 21:10

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