Chess Beyond Barriers - The Story of IM Zoltan Sarosy

Chess Beyond Barriers - The Story of IM Zoltan Sarosy


Chess Beyond Barriers - The Story of IM Zoltan Sarosy

I am constantly fascinated by the relationship between chess improvement and the age of participants. Thus there is no surprise that I read anything on the subject such  as IM Silman's recent article ( As a fifty year old myself I refuse to believe that there is no hope for older players past a certain age. I am a realist though, thus I readily acknowledge that the older a player is the harder that individual will have to work at their chess. I recently read in a Scottish Correspondence Chess Association summer 2017 magazine a story that inspired me, and I hope can inspire other senior players.

The notice in page 24 of the aforementioned magazine announced the death of IM Zoltan Sarosy from Canada at the grand old age of 110. It was widely held that at the time he was both the oldest living Canadian citizen and oldest titled player in the world.


Zoltan Sarosy was born in 1906 in Budapest, the second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was just two months shy of his eighth birthday when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Sarajevo, setting in motion the crisis that led to the First World War. The young Hungarian boy was living on a military base on the Adriatic, where his father was a doctor in the army. He started playing chess in public parks at the age of 10.

"I was with my mother and I saw a boy playing chess and I asked, 'What is that?' The next day I was back at the park. That boy's mother wouldn't let me play with him but I found others."

As was the case for many civilians, the onset of war led to migration to safer environs.

 "One morning I came out of my room to see my mother packing. She said war is coming, we have to leave within 12 hours."

He continued playing chess in school and at university in Vienna, where he studied International Trade. He graduated in 1928 and returned to Budapest where he continued his chess career. He played chess at every opportunity in local clubs or parks, studying any books he could get hold of at the time.

"In 1943, I played in the Hungarian championship and gained the Hungarian [chess] master title."

In 1948 he moved to Alsace in France, in 1950 he drew a training match (2-2) with Alsace Champion Henri Sapin and then emmigrated to Canada shortly after Christmas. He arrived in Halifax on Dec. 27, 1950, and then took the train to Toronto. He won his first championship in Canada in 1955.


: 1952 Toronto Championship

In 1967 Zoltan was invited to play in a correspondence chess match vs. Denmark.

“From then on I continued to play C.C Soon I abandoned OTB altogether and played only in CCCA tournaments.”

 He was Canadian Correspondence Champion in 1967, 1972 and 1981.

Consequently I won four championships and finished 2nd 8 times. I started to play in international tournaments too, soon exclusively. After fulfilling a first norm and thereafter the second, in 1988 I was awarded by the ICCF the title of International Correspondence Master.”

Zoltan became aware of the onset of the aging process, but wanted to continue playing chess for as long as possible.

“the year 2000 all my postal games were running out and I thought I could not finish any new ones started at my age. Incidentally, I read an article in the Toronto Star about computer courses for seniors. Oh, could that be possible? Instead of those courses I bought a PC, got two lessons by my vendor's son, acquired a couple of books and I was on. After purchasing a chess program I started to play email tournaments. At first in the CCCA, then in international organizations. I advanced in ratings, and was invited to more prestigious tournaments.”

2006 saw Zoltan reaching 100 years old and still playing chess, it was fitting that he was inducted into the Canadian Chess Hall of Fame in this year. The following year he was recognised as the longest living Canadian Chess player.

It seems fitting that we should have a look at some of his chess mastery here.


Personally I am inspired by the story of Zoltan, I hope that it inspires you too.!