by John Bain
A Role Model
Yuri Averbakh is the world’s oldest living chess Grandmaster–also, the first and only Grandmaster ever to reach 100 years old!
Yuri was born on February 8, 1922 in Kaluga, Russia.
In His Prime
Averbakh at the match USA vs. USSR, New York City, 1954
Yuri Lvovich Averbakh is a Russian chess Grandmaster and author.
In his prime, Yuri was one of the strongest players in the USSR and the world. In 1953 he rose to the top 15 players in the world, taking part in the legendary Candidates Tournament in Zurich, finishing in 10th place.
He was born into a Jewish family. His father was an immigrant from Germany and his mother was a Russian from the Kaluga area, southwest of Moscow.
Yuri’s father worked as a forester at the time of his son’s birth, and had immigrated from Germany–the original family name was “Auerbach.”
When Yuri Averbakh was three years old, along with his younger sister, the family moved to Moscow and lived only a short walk from the Central Chess Club.
In Moscow in 1925, they lived in a municipal flat shared with three other families. The flat had no heating and no electricity!
The four families shared a common kitchen with a simple stove for cooking. In the mid-1930s, the flats in the multi-storied house received central heating.
Averbakh joined the Moscow Chess Club, which was located in the basement of the Ministry of Justice. Averbakh made steady progress and in 1938 won the Under-16 Soviet Championship. Then, in 1949, 1950 and 1962 Averbakh won the Moscow Championship
After finishing high school he started to study engineering, but in 1952 he gave up his studies to focus entirely on chess.
Also, in 1952 he earned the FIDE Grandmaster title, and qualified for the 1953 Candidates Tournament in Zurich.
In retirement, Yuri was chairman of the USSR Chess Federation from 1973 to 1978. He is the first FIDE Grandmaster to reach 100 years.
After his active career Averbakch worked as author, editor, theoretician, second and official.