Thursday 3 April 2014

Is being the oldest a handicap?

I was recently reading the introduction to "Spassky's 100 Best Games" by Bernard Cafferty and I cam across a theory I had not seen before. It was from David Hooper (who passed away in 1998) and it was that "a significant proportion of great chess masters are second children and more especially second sons in a family". In support of this claim he said that Spassky, Alekhine, Fischer and Botvinnik are known instances.
It does seem an appealing theory, at least on the surface, and now Magnus Carlsen can be added to the list. By being the second child you have someone to compete against from an early age, and this would help you chess development. But I suspect it is one of these theories that would not hold up to rigorous analysis (assuming all the data was available) and we only notice it because some obvious cases fit the pattern.

Kasparov,Garry (2690) - Spassky,Boris V (2605) [E84]
Niksic Niksic (8), 1983


Jim said...

I suppose coincidences will occur by random chance alone. Keep making random guesses and one of them will eventually be right.

Anonymous said...

There used to be a close correlation between top players and being brought up by a single parent.
Spassky, Fischer, Kasparov all fitted the bill as did, on Australian scene, 3 of the 4 GMs.
But with the new generation - Anand, Carlsen and in Australia Cheng, Illingworth, etc, the theory doesn't seem to hold at all.