Most chess masters become masters by learning the game of chess at an early age. Seldom does a player become a master after learning the game later in life. There are a few exceptions. However, most strong masters began at a very early age.


Former world champion Jose Capablanca began to play chess at the age of four. He wrote that he learned chess by watching his father play when he had just passed his fourth birthday. He even beat his father in his first game at age four.


Former world champion Anatoly Karpov was taught the moves of chess when he was four years old. By age 15 he was a master and later won the World Junior Championship. He became the world's youngest grandmaster in 1970 at the age of 19.


Former world champion Boris Spassky learned the game in the Urals at the age of five during World War II. After the war he joined the Pioneer Palace in Leningrad and spent five hours a day every day on chess. In college he took up journalism to give him the most time for chess. By age 18 he had won the World Junior Championship, took 3rd place in the USSR Championship, and qualified as a Candidate for the World championship.


Former world woman champion Nona Gaprindashvili learned at age five after watching her five chess-playing brothers. She won the world's women chess championship when she was 21.


Former world champion Bobby Fischer began playing at the age of six, taught by his older sister and reading the rules that came with the game. He became a master at age 13, US champion at 14, world's youngest candidate for the world championship at 15, and world's youngest grandmaster at 16.


Former world champion Vasily Smyslov learned the game at six by studying chess books in his father's library.


Bent Larsen learned the moves at age six. He gave up his civil engineering studies in school to become a full-time chess professional.


Former world champion Alexander Alekhine learned chess at age seven by his mother, an heiress of an industrial fortune. He became addicted to the game and played the game in his head and by the light of a candle when in bed. By age 18 he was grandmaster strength.


Former world champion Tigran Petrosian learned the moves at age eight. When his parents died when he was 16, he found consolation in chess and soon began to win tournaments. He was playing grandmaster strenght by age 20.


Former world champion Mikhail Tal became interested in chess at age eight after watching the game played by patients in the waiting room of his father, a doctor specializing in internal disorders. At age 10 he joined the Riga Palace of Young Pioneers. He won the Latvian championship at age 17.


Former world champion Max Euwe learned at age nine and was taught by his parents. He remained an amateur chessplayer, with his real profession being a professor of mathematics and mechanics.


Former world champion Emanuel Lasker began to play at the age of 11. His older brother taught him the moves of chess.


Former world champion Mikhail Botvinnik learned the game at age 12.


Former world champion Wilhelm Steinitz learned how to play chess at age 12 from school friends.


Six-time U.S. champion Walter Browne learned the game at 13 after joining the Manhattan Chess Club. By age 20, he had the Grandmaster title.


Joseph Blackburne, the leading English player of the late 19th century, didn't learn the chess moves until he was 19. He learned the game from a two-pence chess book. Two years later he was giving blindfold simultaneous exhibitions.


Howard Staunton, the world's leading player in the 1840s, took up chess at age 19 and didn't become a serious player until age 26.


Mir Sultan Khan didn't learn the international game of chess (he knew Indian chess) until age 21. Two years later he was the All-India champion. A year later he won the British championship. He was illiterate, unable to read or write, and never studied any book on the game.


Jordy Mont-Reynaud and Vinay Bhat starting playing chess, joined a chess club (the Palo Alto Chess Club run by Bill Wall), and played in rated tournaments at age 7. By the time they were 10, they both became America's youngest masters. Vinay Bhat became America's youngest master in 1995 at the age of 10 years, 176 days. Jordy was a master in 1994 at the age of 10 years, 209 days.


Other young masters include Stewart Rachels at 11 years, 10 months; Ilya Gurevich at 12 years, 3 months; John Jarecki at 12 years, 6 months; Jon Litvinchuk at 12 years, 7 months.


In 1998 Hikaru Nakamura (born Dec 9, 1987) bacame America's youngest master at 10 years, 79 days. In 2001 he became America's youngest International Master at age 13.


The first list of grandmasters appeared in 1950, published by FIDE. There were 27 chess players nominated as the first grandmasters. The youngest GM on the list was David Bronstein, age 26.


In 1955 Boris Spassky became the youngest GM in the world at age 18. In 1958, Bobby Fischer became the youngest GM in the world at age 15 years, 6 months, 1 day. In 1991, Judit Polgar became a GM at 15 years, 4 months, and 28 days. In 1994, Peter Leko became a GM at the age of 14 years, 4 months, 22 days. In 1997, Etienne Bacrot and Ruslan Ponomariov became GMS at 14. Bacrot was the youngest FIDE master at age 10. Bacrot was 14 years, 2 months when he earned the GM title. Ponomariov was 14 years, 17 days when he earned the GM title. Teimour Radjabov became a GM at 14 years, 14 days. In 1999, Bu Xiangzhi became a GM at 13 years, 10 months and 13 days. In 2002, Sergey Karjakin (born Jan 12, 1990) became a GM at 12 years and 7 months. Also in 2002, Koneru Humpy became a GM at the age of 15 years, 1 month, and 27 days, making her the youngest female ever to become a Grandmaster.


In 1999 David Howell, age 8, defeated Grandmaster John Nunn at the Mind Sports Chess Olympiad in London, becoming the youngest person to beat a Grandmaster at chess.


In 2002 Fabiano Caruana, age 10, defeated GM Wojtkiewicz at the Marshall Chess Club in New York, becoming the youngest player to defeat a GM in the United States.

 

Other articles by Bill Wall can be found on Bill Wall's Chess Page


Samuel Reshevsky at age 11.

Capablanca at age 4, and below playing with his father.

Boris Spassky at age 12

A young Bobby Fischer

A young Gary Kasparov

A young Anand

When Judit Polgar became a Grandmaster at age 14, she beat Bobby Fischer's record of youngest GM by a few months. Now, just a few record, this record has been eclipsed by many players.

Recently, Kateryna Lahno became the youngest Woman's Grandmaster ever at age 12 and 4 months!

Here is a list of the youngest grandmasters (male list) and what age they achieved their final GM norm.


Bobby Fischer 15 years, 6 months, 1 day
Judit Polgar 15 years, 4 months, 28 days
Peter Leko 14 years, 4 months, 22 days
Etienne Bacrot 14 years, 2 months, 0 days
Ruslan Ponomaryov 14 years, 0 months, 17 days
Teimour Radjabov 14 years, 0 months, 14 days
Bu Xiangzhi 13 years, 10 months, 13 days
Sergey Karjakin 12 years, 7 months, 0 days

International Master Sergei Karjakin at age 12, is now the youngest GM ever!

 

The future of chess? Sergey Karjakin, Elo 2556, and Kateryna Lahno, Elo 2417. Both are 13 years old,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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