Full Version: Study of chess player performance suggests brain peaks at 35
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Article: Study of chess player performance over many years suggests brain peaks at age 35

A trio of researchers from Institut Polytechnique Paris, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat München, and Erasmus University has found evidence suggesting that cognitive abilities in humans peak at age 35 and begin to decline after age 45. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Anthony Strittmatter, Uwe Sunde and Dainis Zegners describe their study of chess player skill over a span of 125 years and what they found.
Prior research has shown that cognitive skills for most people begin to decline sometime during mid-life and continue to deteriorate for the rest of a person's life. In this new effort, the researchers have found a novel way to show such decline—by measuring the skills of professional chess players.
The work involved analyzing player performance over approximately 24,000 professional chess matches from the years 1890 to 2014. In all, they studied the moves of 4,294 players, 20 of whom were world champions—the other 4,274 were their opponents. The researchers' goal was to follow the skill level of each player over many years of their life to gage their skill level over time. They did this by comparing chess moves made by each player against optimal moves suggested by a computerized chess engine over the course of their career.
They found that performance for most players increased rapidly until they reached the age of 20—after that, their performance improvements slowed until reaching a peak at approximately age 35. Most of the players were able to maintain their peak playing abilities for approximately 10 years—after age 45, skills began to deteriorate. The researchers describe the data for a given individual as representing a "hump-shaped curve."
The researchers also found that player performance across the board has increased over the past 125 years, particularly among young people. They noted that performance rose sharply in the 1990s as chess enthusiasts gained access to computerized chess games, providing them with more accomplished opponents. They found that experience levels for most players rose, as well—in the modern age, professional chess players play a lot more matches than did those a century ago.
Paper abstract: Life cycle patterns of cognitive performance over the long run
Anthony Strittmatter  1 Uwe Sunde  2 Dainis Zegners  3
Affiliations Free article
Little is known about how the age pattern in individual performance in cognitively demanding tasks changed over the past century. The main difficulty for measuring such life cycle performance patterns and their dynamics over time is related to the construction of a reliable measure that is comparable across individuals and over time and not affected by changes in technology or other environmental factors. This study presents evidence for the dynamics of life cycle patterns of cognitive performance over the past 125 y based on an analysis of data from professional chess tournaments. Individual move-by-move performance in more than 24,000 games is evaluated relative to an objective benchmark that is based on the respective optimal move suggested by a chess engine. This provides a precise and comparable measurement of individual performance for the same individual at different ages over long periods of time, exploiting the advantage of a strictly comparable task and a comparison with an identical performance benchmark. Repeated observations for the same individuals allow disentangling age patterns from idiosyncratic variation and analyzing how age patterns change over time and across birth cohorts. The findings document a hump-shaped performance profile over the life cycle and a long-run shift in the profile toward younger ages that is associated with cohort effects rather than period effects. This shift can be rationalized by greater experience, which is potentially a consequence of changes in education and training facilities related to digitization.
Keywords: age–period–cohort decomposition; artificial intelligence; cognitive performance; digitization; lifetime.
I could believe that. If anything would have expected it to be younger. It's all down hill for you and I now Walter! This was mentioned in the podcast true or false section, worth a listen Walter and the podcasts are usually quite topical