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Based on documented evidence, at what age would someone normally expect to see his chess results start to decline?

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    "based on documented evidence"?! Do you really think there's been a scientific research solely dedicated to studying decay of brain performance in chess? ... The answer to your question probably is "at whatever age you start losing concentration." Which is different for everyone, see Viktor Korchnoi. – Phonon Jul 24 '15 at 15:07
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    @Phonon Sure, there's been scientific research dedicated to studying decay of brain performance in chess. Chess is a nice quantitative proxy for mental performance in general. This is the first example I found, but I'm sure there are plenty more. – dfan Jul 24 '15 at 16:57
  • You may want to look at peak ELO ratings of top players and correlate them with the age of the players. Such data are available (alltho' I don't have links ready for you). – jk - Reinstate Monica Jul 24 '15 at 17:02
  • @dfan Looks like an interesting article, pity there's no arXiv version of it available! – Phonon Jul 24 '15 at 17:17
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    Phonon, I know about Korchnoi and Resheveky, but I believe they are exceptions, as there are to any rule. But I doubt if their later performances approached those of their peak years when they were younger. I don't think it was a fatuous question. It was a serious attempt to find out about the subject, since I'm almost 80 and still play weekly, although I haven't played a tournament game in 20 years. If I thought I could compete successfully, I'd be interested in trying again. I really don't think denigrating my question was helpful. – CConero Jul 24 '15 at 18:13
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According to this study chess grandmasters peak at age 31.4.

This study confuses the hell out of me, but there is one sensible chart at page 20, that seems to indicate that you can still improve a little bit in your thirties and generally hold your playing level into your mid-forties. After that the decline becomes noticable.

The slight discrepancy between these two studies is easily explained by the fact that the first only looks at grandmasters, whereas the second examines more than 40,000 players. In fact I would assume that the very top players peak even earlier these days.

I found a very good chess.com article about this topic. This guy analysed more than 71,000 players and found a rating peak in the late twenties. Until you are eighty you'll lose 200 Elo points on average, which really isn't all that much.

  • Thanks for pointing me to that informative article. I guess my best chess years are behind me. – CConero Jul 27 '15 at 13:08
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There are many exceptions of people performing on a high (and sometimes higher level than before) when they get older. The most obvious are: Boris Gelfand who reached a World Championship match in his forties, Vishy Anand who is currently World No 2 and in his forties, Victor Korchnoi, who reached two World Championship matches in his forties, and many others on the amateur scale. Even at 80 depending on the level you play at there may be room for improvement. It might be worth looking up a coach.

  • Good luck! One further anecdote. Miguel Najdorf used to play blitz regularly and maintained a very high strength in his eighties until about eight-five when his blitz strength went into decline. – magd Jul 31 '15 at 20:49

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