Ageism in chess – and a bit of market research

Being over 40 and an optimist, I think the recent poll got it wrong. A clear majority think that chess is best played by those less than 30 years old.

Obviously we appreciate the support for our star author Boris Gelfand, but we fear a few people have voted this way for entirely the wrong reasons…


I checked the current top 100 on, not to claim that it is a scientific proof of anything, but just out of curiosity. And I found that the average age for the various top something were practically identical:

Top 10: 30.30
Top 25: 30.36
Top 50: 30.72
Top 100: 30.43

Add to this that it is likely that the average age of players aged 30 is 30 years and six months, it means that the current top 50 might be over 31 in average, but the other groups are just under 31. That the two players with the “right” age are going out of the top 10 soon by current trends, just shows that this is an average. The prime could well be between 21 and 45.


How many chess books did you buy this year?

Marketing survey!

How many chess books/DVDs did you buy this year? We are six months in and we were just wondering.

It does not matter who published them or anything like this. We know that there are plenty of smart people in our business and that we are not the only one to take our job seriously.

52 thoughts on “Ageism in chess – and a bit of market research”

  1. I agree with you Mr. Aagaard. I think people put to much into the age factor ever since an article was written in the 60’s. I believe the title of the article was ‘The age factor in master chess.’ (I could be wrong about the title so I ask forgiveness.) According to Frank Brady, the article was an inspiring factor in the Fischer – Reshevsky match. (If the truth of that statement is writers license, I do not know.)

    With chess as a whole, I believe we are entering a new era. Computers, better training and information access have always been a telling factor when it comes to preparation and strength of play. With most information only a click away, I think you will see the age factor go into the late 40’s and early 50’s before the playing strength will fall significantly.

    Lets all remember Victor the terrible 🙂 He was still in the top 100 in the world at 75.

  2. I’d still say that players peak in their mid-20s. These stats argue more about the longevity of chess players, who can keep their level for longer than players in most other competitive disciplines.

    For example, from the top 10 list, Anand, Topalov and Kramnik are clearly increasing the average age. If you’d have taken the list 20 years ago those same guys would have been in the top 10 probably pulling the average down. I think that these guys had the skills they needed by the time they ended their early 20s. Since then they’ve maintained a very high level (slight improvements in some areas, slight weakening in others).

    An interesting study would be, what’s the average age of players when they first entered and the last time they left the top 10, or top 100. Not so easy to do though I guess.

  3. I voted 4-6, but I will explain on it, because it is not quite clear:

    For christmass I got

    * 100 endings you should know – de la Villa – FC version.
    * Dvoretsky’s endgame manual.

    and I got it after new year.

    Afterwards I got

    * Chess Structures – Flores – FC version.

    In my birthday (which is tomorrow, but I already got the books) I bought to myself:

    * Positional decision making – Gelfand.
    * The secret Life of bad bishops – Lund.
    * Quality Chess Puzzle book – Shaw.
    * San Luís 2005 – ?? – Free with the other three.

    So I paid for 6 books but I actually got 7. Moreover as a birthday gift I got:

    * Ajedrez Insólito – Tallarico.
    * Al ataque – Tahl.

    Hence I am responsible for the purchase of 8 books in this period, plus a free book. Nevertheless it just happens that the two periods where I’m supposed to buy things, christmass and birthday, fell in the same half of the year. I do not expect to buy more books until next christmass. Hence for the effects of your survey 4-6 would be a correct approximation.

  4. I want to add two bits of data that you might find interesting for your study (and you may already know):

    1. Reviews make me buy more books. I follow this publisher, hence I do not need much in this front, but other publishers I only notice by reviews, and I will not buy a book if it does not have a positive review. So you are doing one thing write: keeping an active blog when you can advertise your products.

    I found, unfortunately, that there are not many reviewers out there. It is that big of a problem that I’m thinking to become a reviewer myself. I think I may be a hard reviewer, though, so publishers will hate me.

    2. Big names sell books (Gelfand), and good titles sell books. And I do not mean that Gelfand sells his book. He sells his books, and other books aswell. I bought 3 books only because I wanted to have his. But once you are already buying, you get interested in other books as well… Apart from opening books, ‘Thinking inside the box’ may help to sell the whole series, not only that book.

    I’m sure everyman should have noticed it with his Kasparov books too.

  5. Marketing survey answer. Zero books, and it’s all Quality Chess’s fault! Why?

    Well, I got the first in the Yusupov series a couple of years ago, but only started working on it seriously last September. In the introduction, Yusupov talks about how to work with the book, and how much time each lesson should take, which is roughly 4 hours. I quickly realised that even if I did 4 hours of study a week, it would take six months to finish one book! This realisation that I only have limited study time forced me to be more focused in my approach, and stop jumping from one book to the next. I finished the first Yusupov about two weeks ago.

    Over the summer period, having finished the first Yusupov, I’m going to work on Weteschnik’s ‘Understanding Chess Tactics’ before heading back into the hard, but enjoyable, Yusupovian path to enlightenment at the end of August.

    So I’ll be buying more Yusupov books in the weeks ahead.

  6. Jacob Aagaard

    @Niall Doran
    I have a 12 year old student who went through all nine books in six months. I think Artur is getting his timing as badly wrong as his recommendation regards who should use the books!

  7. I bought this year about 20 books, some of them are older (ie Bogoljubow 1.d2-d4!), most probably I will buy another 10 until end of year.
    Btw – thank you Quality Chess for Gelfand’s book which I got 2 days ago – it’s maybe the best book which I ever saw.

  8. @Jacob Aagaard
    6 months is impressive. There is a blog on-line(cannot remember which one) where someone went through the first book in about 7-8 weeks and I thought that quite fast.
    I do a chapter in about 2-3 hrs and I do one chapter a week. But I am 40, not 12. I could probably do 2 chapters a week easily enough but more than that would permit little to no time for any other chess activities.
    For reference, my rating has ranged 1710-1860 in the last year or so.

  9. This half year over 10 . As usual nearly every QC-Book ,2 -chessbase-DVDs, one New in ´Chess-Book, and 2-3 Chess Stars books as well as several subscriptions (e.g. chess24)

  10. I got 2 NIC Yearbooks, 2 Informators, 2 Mar de platas, 2 Bergs, 1 Rotella, 1 Tiger, 1 Avrukh, 1 Negi, 1 Ovetchkin-Soloviov (Vienna), 1 Dvoretsky (memoirs)

  11. 10+ Here sad but true, most QC, a couple of yearbooks, I got the Vienna book too, Rotella, the Houska book on the Carp (Aagaard’s fault, a good book!) the Benjamin endgame book, the v.d. Oudeweetering book, it just gets more embarassing….

  12. Jacob Aagaard :
    @Niall Doran
    I have a 12 year old student who went through all nine books in six months. I think Artur is getting his timing as badly wrong as his recommendation regards who should use the books!

    And who should use the books according to your opinion? 🙂

  13. This half-year (so, not counting Christmas), I have bought Negi’s first two volumes, Python Strategy, Tal’s first volume. Very reasonable 😉 but I have not bought Gelfand’s only because my chess library had sold it out.

  14. The library guy told me the books had been sold incredibly quickly, and that the readers’ comments were absurdly good.

  15. I also was kind of impatient to buy Gelfand’s book from a local shop here but the way things are going it’s on the verge of not getting imported. In any case when the cap control ends I’ll surely gonna buy hopefully before it gets pirated. Although I’m gonna buy it even after I get my pirated version (which I’m gonna do, sorry guys, blame the IMF on that).

  16. @Jacob Aagaard

    Regarding the 12 year old, how much time did he spend on each chapter? And did they follow the advice to play through all the positions on the board? I wish I could have started playing at that age, but there was no chess club in my area, so didn’t start playing until my late 20s.

    As a 40 year old, I have less free time (work, food shopping and preparation, chess organising…) available than a 12 year old, who generally only has school work to worry about, and has a personal organiser/chauffeur/chef to deal with the rest.

    Incidentally some of the tactical chapters were fairly easy and I could have just gone through them quickly by looking at the book without a board, but decided they would ‘burn’ better into my brain if I used the board. I also created a Chessbase file with the positions from the endgame chapters for easier revision, as I feel I will forget this quickly otherwise.

    Like Kassy, I could do a wee bit more work on chess, but only by cutting back in other areas.

  17. Jesper Nielsen

    “9 books in 6 months at age 12?!

    Ha! When I was 6, i used to do 18 books in 3 months!
    And we had to BUILD our own chess set.

    I say chess set. It was actually Uncle Bernie’s dentures and an assortment of beetles.

    But it was a chess set to us!”

    On a more serious note: I have bought 2 books this year. “Chess Tactics From Scratch” and one from a competing publisher.

    Currently going through Yusupov’s “The Fundamentals 2”. And enjoying it tremendously.

    I see a lot of people describing the Yusupov series as “a lot of hard work”. Not many comment on the beauty of some of the solutions. I smile out load, when I spot some of the the ideas. 🙂

    I go through the series fairly slowly, at about 6 month per book, so far.

  18. So I bought 11 books yesterday. 9 from Quality Chess that I have been considering for months(or even years) now.

  19. Actually I already had the entire Yusupov series. Some of the ones I ordered I won’t be ready for for 2-3 years even with the most ambitious of plans.
    And unless you can look at Chess4Less orders in the US, you won’t be able to look it up. 🙂
    But I don’t mind telling: Grandmaster Prep series, Gelfand, Legends, Python, Mating Castled king.
    In 3 lifetimes from now when I am done with these and the 24 other Quality Chess books I now own, I’ll order some more(or may next year)

  20. Jacob Aagaard

    That is too much quality for one man 😉 (no no, keep on purchasing. I have this excellent Greek bank that can lend you a bit of cash…)

  21. Actually buying right now using your bank balance in Greece is wise since you’re saving money before the haircut. Problem is you cannot buy from abroad.

  22. I bought all QC books that were published this year and will most likely continue to do so if QC keeps on publishing these great books 🙂 Only space limitations might become a problem, but I’ll solve this by throwing away some other books…

  23. When I buy a NICYB or Informant only 10-20% of the book is any useful to me given my not very wide opening repertoire.

    Anti-sicilian book is good news,I hope it also contains najdorf spesific anti sicilians too.Is there any plan for GM 6 open sicilian for 2005?

  24. Jacob Aagaard

    Many plans. Top of the list is the Dragon books, which will be out late August most likely… But we also hope to finally get the Najdorf book down on paper!

  25. Jacob Aagaard :
    Many plans. Top of the list is the Dragon books, which will be out late August most likely… But we also hope to finally get the Najdorf book down on paper!

    Good news,I am looking forward to it.

  26. Jacob, you ought to annotate Kramnik – Nisipeanu for ‘Thinking inside the box’. A text-book example of playing against the isolani, and a text-book example on how difficult rook endings are.

  27. I’m wondering if QC will stick to the traditional artwork for The Dragon books or will they take the opportunity to have a cool Dragon design on the cover?

    What’s the current thinking then??

  28. @Jacob
    Actually, the greek bank you have in mind may lend him some money, but certainly not cash :p
    I had a chat with these escape room managers, and they told me they were amazed at how being in an escape room very often brings out the worst in people. The same with this referendum 🙂

  29. @The Doctor

    The Dragon books are Grandmaster Repertoires, so the overall design is planned to be in that style.

    But “Python Strategy” was in our Classics style, except with a snakey twist. So who knows. I am leaning towards traditional GM Repertoire covers for “The Dragon”, but would a dragon perching on top of the chessboard be a good addition?

  30. @John Shaw

    I like the idea of more style on the cover. Having a Dragon or using black and red tones as the cover colors (Classic Dragon colors) would be quite cool. But no matter how you do it, you need to make the cover look a little bit evil. It is the Dragon after all 🙂

  31. Well, whatever you decide you know the old phrase about pleasing people!!

    I’ll buy them on Forward and Hardback whatever

  32. I didn’t see a poll for number of books bought based on the tail end of this article, but I will post here that I have bought far fewer books this year thus far than most years. Those that I have gotten this year thus far include:

    Chess Developments: The Grunfeld
    Chess Developments: The Sicilian Najdorf 6.Bg5
    Liquidation at the Chessboard
    The Extreme Caro-Kann
    The Sicilian Taimanov – Move by Move

    A total of 5! I am also currently reading the second half of the Grandmaster Battle Manual and about 1/3 of the way thru Grandmaster Preparation: Endgame Play, but I bought those books in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

  33. The snake ob the Cover of the petrosjan Book ist the only thing i didnot like. Except that the Book is fantastic,

  34. I bought ~ 30 books in the first half of the year. This sounds much, but I bought some 2nd copies for they are cheaper than copying or printing is for my file cards. And I buy some books for giving them away. So I bought the German editions of Marin’s learn from the legends twice for two players in my club, because the were reduced. Over all half of the books are from Quality Chess. Glenn Flear Tacticmania is a good book for youth training. It would be good for kids too, but there’s the language barrier in my case.

    As the poll is over: There’s a difference by the level. Beginners aren’t hit by age. They are hit by time. Average club players – 1300-1700 – are best around 45 and the higher the level the younger now till, because there’s so much information to work over. These are group estimates. Single players always can fall out of this. (Gelfand is a well known example. But I cannot judge, when he was best.)

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