Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Beating Back Old Age With Chess

There have been numerous recommendations made regarding slowing down the effects of old age on the brain. Physical exercise, an active social life and mental stimulation have been shown to be helpful in slowing down the mental aging process. Crosswords, Suduko and other type puzzle games have become popular with the aging baby boomers. Chess is the ultimate brain teaser for those of us trying to keep the ole neurons firing.

As my regular readers know, I have more then my share of encounters with young chess playing kids. I've taken enough beatings at the hands of children almost young enough to be my grandchildren to last a life time. Though as long as I keep playing I will lose to more kids along the way. So what about the players who are old enough to be my mother or father? I don't run into them as much as the kids, but every once in awhile I get a reminder that chess is not only for the young.

A few weeks ago on Thursday night I played an 87 year old. He's from out Idaho, but you would never know it looking at his MSA. He played in all the big tournaments in the past year; North American Open, Foxwoods, US Senior, Chicago Open, National Open , World Open, US Open, and various tournaments at the Marshall. I've seen him around the Marshall on his visits to New York, but I had no idea how well travelled he was until I looked at his tournament records. I hope when I'm that age I'll still be alert enough and be able to afford to travel like that. He reminds me a bit of my dad who travelled and was sharp as a tack up until the day he died. My dad didn't play chess, but he still played a mean game of bridge in his 80s.

If you want to see proof that intellectual pursuits and challenges help slow down the affects of aging on the brain, just sit down across the chessboard from Mr. Mayers, and you will get plenty of proof. I found out the hard way. I have to admit looks can be deceiving. He uses a cane to walk, and he needs a magnifying glass to help him when he keeps score. One might think that needing a magnifying glass to help see his score sheet would be a big handicap in a fast time limit like game/30. Actually with the 5 second delay it becomes game/25. I thought if nothing else, I might be able to get a big edge on the clock. I've seen some of my older opponents implode in time pressure when I've had the edge on the clock. Ahhhh, but there's the kicker...."Edge on the clock". Something I lacked right up to the end. When I repeated the position I had 9 seconds to his 3 minutes and 6 seconds. He kept score right until the last move, despite not being required to do so.


We both missed wins in the game, so perhaps a draw was a fitting result.


wang said...

Damn! He's rated 1881? Pretty good, he also threw in some nice tactical shots there. Way to get active and get the draw though.

Overall pretty impressive.

Rolling Pawns said...

I wouldn't guess the age of person with Black looking at this game. It reminded me the game I followed at the first day of the last Olympiad between Svidler and Korchnoi (Korchnoi was 1st board for Switzerland). Korchnoi is 77, he is actively playing, became the World Senior Chess Champion at the age of 75. He played his beloved French so aggressively - against Svidler!
And he drew! Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Click here to see a picture of Erik Karklins. [You can see Erik's son Andrew Karklins(2260) playing in the Master section above and to the left of Erik's head]

Erik is 94 years old, rated 2055 and recently tied for first in the expert section at the 17TH MIDWEST CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP


Getting to 2000

likesforests said...

Wow, that is awesome, both Dan Mayers and Erik Karklins.

likesforests said...

I just finished playing over the game. He's aggressive, too! This makes me feel a little better about my blunder last week... he's 1881 and he still overlooked the winning check 32...Rf4+ (because he saw the easy fork 32...Ne3+... or maybe he hoped you'd recapture with the other knight.)

Polly said...

I think his aggressive play was what threw me off. Often I've played older players who just play solid, and safe chess and tend to offer draws. Also I find most older players want to play slow classical time controls.

Karklins is amazing. God bless him!

chesstiger said...

I hope i play that good when i am that old.

BlunderProne said...

On move 13 and the knight on g5. He just retreated the bishop from e6 to g8. Did you consider Nd5? to force an exchange and try to get rid of that bishop. It was teh sole protector of a Ne6 royal fork.

Polly said...

BP: I think I looked at that move, but since he can take it I didn't feel it was that great, His boshop on g8 was kind of lame. I like my knight better.