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My understanding is that bridge champions can continue winning tournaments into their sixties, and even later in life. On the other hand, chess champions often seem to lose their crowns in their forties and fifties, and Go champions seem to make no further progress after their thirties. And of course, most sports champions are "done" by age 40, if not before.

Do bridge masters in fact last longer at or near the top than those of other games? And even so, would it make sense to have top bridge partners of very different ages where the older one might have better bidding judgment, and the younger one, greater endurance for the cut-and-thrust of "play?"

Source for Go: "The 1971 Honinbo Tournament," by James Davies. Source for others: Various Wikipedia biographies.

  • Interesting question, could you add some sources to verify your claims ? – Kii Jul 8 '16 at 7:41
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    @Kit: I just went through biographies of players from Wikipedia and various bridge sources, maybe 15-20 in all. I don't have any single, or even "grouped" sources except for Go. – Tom Au Jul 8 '16 at 7:44
  • @Kii I think you've got it the wrong way around. He's looking for sources to verify or debunk the claims. – corsiKa Jul 8 '16 at 15:50
  • @corsiKa : I may have misunderstood but, I want examples of bridge player being top 10 at the age of sixties. – Kii Jul 8 '16 at 16:23
  • @Kii: If I see e.g. Alan Truscott at age 64-years old win a major bridge tournament, I'm going to assume he's top 10, or something close. I asked the question to make sure I wasn't "seeing things," and also to wonder why, and whether it might be because s/he had a younger partner to help him/her over the rough spots. The other games don't feature partners. Arghya had a good answer. – Tom Au Jul 8 '16 at 16:45
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Not only do bridge players retain their abilities to a later age than Chess and Go players, they don't even attain their peak ability until an age, around forty or so, when they have decidedly passed their peak in Go and Chess.

Bob Hamman, born 1938, was ranked 7th in the world by the World Bridge Federation as of October, 2012, at the age of 74. His Championship performances in the preceding 5 years were:
- Bermuda Bowl: Win 2009;
- United States Bridge Team Trial Championship: win 2008 & 2012;
- Spingold North American Championship: win 2007;
- Reisinger North American Championship: Win 2008;
- Open Board-a-Match Teams North American Championship: win 2008;
- Jacoby Open Swiss Teams North American Bridge Championship: win 2009;

A quick glance at Hamman's record suggests that this 5 year period may have been one of his most prolific, with seven significant wins.

Lorenzo Lauria, born July 7 1947, was ranked 5th in the world at that time at age 65.

Jeff Meckstroth, born May 1956, was ranked 6th in he world at that time at age 56.

Eric Rodwell, born May 1957, was ranked 8th in the world at that time at age 55.

Tor Helness, born 1957 or 1958, was ranked 10th at that time at age 54 or 55.

The youngest player in the top 10 at that time was Geir Helgemo, born February 1970, at age 42.

This is and has been consistent for the several decades that I have been playing the game - players very rarely crack top ten in the world until after 40, peak in their fifties and sixties, and often retain world championship caliber play (if not quite championship level play) into their seventies and eighties.

As posted on July 10, 2016, though apparently without adjustments for the cheating scandal of September 2015, the current WBF Top 10 Masterpoint holders with their ages are:

Fulvio Fantoni: Age 52 (disgraced)
Claudio Nunes: Age 48 (disgraced)

  1. Geir Helgemo: Age 46
  2. Tor Helness: Age 59 or 58
  3. Giorgio Duboin: Age 57
  4. Zia Mahmood: Age 70
  5. Frank Multon: Age 52
  6. Alfredo Versace: Age 47
  7. Pierre Zimmermann: Age 61
  8. Jeff Meckstroth: Age 60
  9. Lorenzo Lauria: Age 69
  10. Norberto Bocchi: Age 55

Top 10: Youngest: 46; Median: 53.5 (52&55); Oldest: 70

Note that Fantoni & Nunes, 1st and 2nd on both lists, are now disgraced; found guilty in April 2016 of cheating and banned for life as a pair, and individually for three years.

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    The 'rank' has an inherent bias towards the older people because of the Masterpoint system: the older you get the more Masterpoints you can accumulate. Say player A played Bridge for 20 years and gets 300 points per year. His point is now 6000. Player B played Bridge for 2 years and get 2000 points per year, giving him 4000 points. Player A's rank is higher than B because he has more Masterpoints, but is it the case that A is better than B? – petqwe Jul 11 '16 at 4:09
  • @petqwe: Not for WBF Master Points. Every January 1 prior master point totals are multiplied by 0.85, a 15% depreciation. The WBF tracks lifetime Placing Points, a nondepreciating measure, separately. You can see the effect by observing that Bob Hamman's Placing Point total is nearly 2.5 times that of the current #1 master point holder; but his master points are less than half as much. – Forget I was ever here Jul 11 '16 at 4:28
  • @petqwe: To be precise, the WBF rates player B at 5550 MPs, and player A at 1922 MPs; until the next evaluation date when both players will have these amounts multiplied by 0.85. – Forget I was ever here Jul 11 '16 at 22:16
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I don't know anything about Bridge, I played a bit Chess and am a regular Go player. That being said, I completely agree with Arghya's answer and want to add some details from my perspective.

I think that Go is evolving through time. As chess. These games have Complete Information (see Wikipedia's article about Game Theory) and still are not difficult to play that there is no Perfect Play for us Humans. (but there may exist eventually one)

In Go, the opening theory is still a challenge and new players can learn from the best of their generation. There are multiple player that are considered Go Saints because they discovered some new patterns and thus made the game deeper and more interesting. The arriving of computers that can challenge top pros probably will bring an evolution in the way the game itself is played by Humans In Go, each player has a unique style and if you're considered the best a lot of rivals will learn from your games. They will play between them and eventually find a way to counter your style. It may not be a simple matter of age but a matter of time.

Bridge is not a game with Complete Information and I don't know if the strategies are evolving. Is there even a best strategy possible ?

  • Have you even researched the game of Contract bridge? No, there is not a best strategy, because every hand is one of incomplete information, and a new arrangement of cards. The technical aspects of bridge easily compare with those of Go and Chess, with the additional aspect of having to play with a partner and, in the most prestigious events, a team. Note also that all the top players in the world and many lesser ones are professionals, paid employees of a team captain who often plays as a member of the team. – Forget I was ever here Jul 9 '16 at 1:28
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    @Kil: The optimal strategy for games with incomplete information is often a mixed strategy, e.g. make play A 70% of the time and play B 30% of the time. – kevin cline Sep 21 '16 at 21:41

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