Chess is the only way against memory aging

In May 2018, the sixth FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said: “chess has a beneficial effect on the psyche, and on the moral and physical condition of a person. People over 50 are strongly advised to play chess at least for half an hour. Chess is the only way against memory aging. Recently, we met with 96-year-old Yuri Lvovich Averbakh. He works, teaches children how to play chess and conducts lessons via the Internet. Many chess players live for a very long time,” concluded Ilyumzhinov.

In confirmation of these words, we offer our readers an interview with the great chess player Yuri Lvovich Averbakh.
Yuri Averbakh: “The secret of my longevity is chess”


“If you want to leave a mark on your life, you must create something. I have a dream now: I hope to live to be a hundred years old,” says legendary grandmaster Yuri Lvovich Averbakh who is the oldest living grandmaster on our blue planet.

In his 97 and half years, Yuri Lvovich still teaches and considers chess as the main secret of his longevity.
Only now he is ready to admit: he became a chess player by chance. A MK observer talked with the great chess player and found out how this legendary person remains active.
Since childhood, Yuri Averbakh loved to read and by the age of 12, he had read all of Shakespeare. However, sport was present in his life from a young age. True, at first it was a completely different sport. “My life is already approaching a century-old milestone, and I devoted almost all of it to chess, but now I can admit: chess entered my life quite by accident,” says Yuri Lvovich.
“I studied at a school on the Arbat, where physical education was well-established,” recalls the grandmaster. “I was fond of sport and volleyball. I played in a team for school and for the district and dreamed of becoming a master of sports in volleyball.”
Back in 1935, the USSR volleyball championship was planned among schoolchildren, in which Yura Averbakh was to take part: “I was supposed to participate in competitions of young children under 15 years of age. But they didn’t take me to the national team! I was too short: 167 centimetres only. Now it’s hard to believe but today my height is 191 cm; I grew up to 25 years. Qualifying volleyball competitions were held at the Young Pioneers Stadium. Of course, I was very upset and in dishevelled feelings went to the locker room. I decided that I will do anything to become a sportsman.”
By a happy coincidence, the stadium had a chess club. The boy decided to play a couple of games and suddenly got carried away. He felt much happier. So he remained at the Young Pioneers Stadium and gradually turned into a chess player. “First I got the fifth category, then the fourth, third, second ... I studied at the Chess Club of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions, where the director was the brother of Alekhine, the first Russian world champion. I still have the best memories of meeting with him,” he says.
After school, Yuri Averbakh entered the Bauman institute. For three years, he was a Stalin scholarship recipient, and upon graduation, he decided to go into science. “I was hired by an institute of the Ministry of Aviation Industry; it was a research institute of rocket aviation. I was preparing a dissertation on “Hydraulic Losses in Gas Turbines”. By the way, gas turbines later played a large role in aviation: aircrafts still fly powered by gas turbines. But I did not leave chess; I became a master of sports. Once Professor Ushakov asked me: how do you manage to combine science and chess? I said I managed poorly: science affected chess and chess interfered with science. I give you two years, the professor said, try to play chess; if it doesn’t work out, you will return to the institute,” continues Yuri Lvovich.
By 1950, Yuri Averbakh became the champion of Moscow in chess. And by 1954, when he was going to return to the research institute, he became the champion of the USSR and received the title of grandmaster. The issue has been resolved.
Today, the world's oldest grandmaster describes his life's path as “life with chess”: “God willing, I will reach one hundred years; this is my dream. I don’t know if it will work out, but Leventhal was the oldest grandmaster before me. He died at 99 years old- one year short of anniversary. If I succeed, I will fulfil the task that I set for myself when I became a chess player.”
And, of course, we asked Yuri Lvovich what was the secret of his longevity.
“I’ve been playing chess all my life and still teach it. I do not abuse alcohol. During the war, I smoked, but I don’t smoke anymore. Every day I walk for two hours, if the weather allows. I am sure that a man should plan his life so that he can live longer,” the great chess player replied.