In most other games and sports, it is conceivable that one might “go easy” on a younger person – certainly a child – in order to make up for the age difference. Not so in chess. In chess, it is well known that it is the young that have the advantage – with younger and younger Grandmasters popping up each year, it is only a matter of time before the game is acquired in the womb itself.
Nevertheless, there is a case to be made for the experience and wisdom that comes with age. Both Kramnik and Gelfand put up very impressive fights against opponents that were around a couple of decades younger, with the latter achieving a clear victory. Kramnik’s play was marked by his classic indefatigable spirit, fighting for 98 moves in the (drawn) first game and winning the second one as Black. Despite not securing any more wins, Kramnik continued to play solidly and strategically, fianchettoing Bishops early and keeping at bay Nepo’s attacking ideas until the endgame.
Gelfand, too, demonstrated great form, not losing a single game against the world No. 3, and is a good example to Grischuk’s utterance “youngsters underestimate the legends”. Ever humble and ever graceful, Gelfand scored victory after victory against the young talent (never risking time trouble or being genuinely outwitted), and demonstrated that there was nothing outdated, exhausted, or old-fashioned about his play: playing attacking lines (pushing the h-pawn!), making Leela-like moves. Boris seems to have settled the matter: age does not have to be a relevant factor in chess, and indeed one can use the advantages that come with age to one’s advantage.
Day 2 promises to be no less exciting, pitting long-time friends Gelfand and Ivanchuk against one another, and also famous rivals Carlsen and Anand (who, of course, have a rivalry that dates back to even before their WCC matches). Let’s see how the young chaps hold up as well, because so far, they seem to have no clear advantage.