Viktor Korchnoi, now 80, is still performing at a high level, as can be seen from his 60% score in the Tradewise Gibraltar tournament which finished earlier this month. Korchnoi’s gerontological feat might be considered amazing but it should be borne in mind that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is generally considered superior to his first while Shakespeare’s Tempest (also his last masterpiece) is regarded as one of his best.
A new book Brain Power – Improve Your Mind as you Age (New World Library) by Michael Gelb and Kelly Howell gives concrete examples of superlative achievements in great age and offers tips, advice and instruction as to how to keep the brain healthy. Chess is given particular prominence since medical research indicates that the game is a powerful remedy against the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The authors quote Leonardo da Vinci, often regarded as the illustrator of the chess treatise De Ludo Schacorum, by the renaissance mathematician Luca Pacioli (see article in The Times of 10 March 2008), “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity… even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind.”