Who Loves Chess the Most?

by admin on January 11, 2012

It’s got to be the guy who plays the most games, right?

I think that there’s no question that the most active player in top-level international chess is Viktor Korchnoi. According to the following highly unofficial statistics that I found on this web page, the players with the most games in ChessBase (a pretty good proxy for top-level international chess) as of 2008 were:

  1. Viktor Korchnoi — 4827 games
  2. Ivan Farago — 3827 games
  3. Anatoly Karpov — 3723 games

Does anyone know of a more up-to-date, as well as more official, list of the most active international players?

Anyway, the name that impresses me most on this list is not #1 or #3 but #2, a Hungarian player whom I have vaguely heard of but who definitely does not have the cachet of the super-K’s. I’m sure that Korchnoi and Karpov can play in any tournament they feel like. Probably not so for Farago. For him to make this list shows real dedication.

It’s a little bit harder to make a similar list for U.S. players. The USCF publishes a yearbook issue of Chess Life that used to, and perhaps still does, contain a list of the people who played the most games in the past year. However, I don’t remember seeing any such compilation on a career basis.

However, there is one name I definitely remember seeing in the annual lists: Jay Bonin. And one look at his member statistics leaves very little doubt that he ranks at the top for most games in a career. The USCF’s computerized records go back only to 1991, but here is Bonin’s file:

Record By Year (since 1991)

Year Games Wins Draws Losses % score Peak Rating
1991 82 52 19 11 75.0 2507
1992 400 243 97 60 72.9 2521
1993 397 252 87 58 74.4 2526
1994 460 277 122 61 73.5 2523
1995 550 334 147 69 74.1 2488
1996 482 308 121 53 76.5 2516
1997 468 294 127 47 76.4 2500
1998 412 248 122 42 75.0 2511
1999 417 259 101 57 74.2 2492
2000 453 282 100 71 73.3 2444
2001 486 334 97 55 78.7 2486
2002 645 389 139 117 71.1 2467
2003 716 422 163 131 70.3 2470
2004 678 406 142 130 70.4 2453
2005 595 386 132 77 76.0 2473
2006 625 403 140 82 75.7 2441
2007 624 402 145 77 76.0 2445
2008 518 312 141 65 73.8 2459
2009 533 324 134 75 73.4 2438
2010 580 351 148 81 73.3 2437
2011 530 311 147 72 72.5 2479
2012 25 16 6 3 76.0 2436
10676 6605 2577 1494 73.9 2526

As I recall, typically the most active chess player in the U.S. plays about 500 games in a year. Here is a guy who has averaged 500 games EVERY year for 20 years! Keep in mind, that is nearly a game and a half per day.

I have no idea who is number two on the list, but I couldn’t even find anyone else who has played 6000 games, let alone 10 thousand.

However, the question wasn’t who PLAYS the most, but who LOVES CHESS the most. I would like to put in a plug for this guy:

Record By Year (since 1991)

Year Games Wins Draws Losses % score Peak Rating
1991 9 3 2 4 44.4 1520
1992 97 17 14 66 24.7 1546
1993 204 40 31 133 27.2 1505
1994 273 56 47 170 29.1 1472
1995 120 34 21 65 37.1 1476
1996 256 60 43 153 31.8 1570
1997 206 55 42 109 36.9 1428
1998 212 48 42 122 32.5 1395
1999 129 44 15 70 39.9 1432
2000 146 31 27 88 30.5 1317
2001 156 52 21 83 40.1 1445
2002 122 32 23 67 35.7 1415
2003 102 14 19 69 23.0 1333
2004 429 71 58 300 23.3 1414
2005 341 56 48 237 23.5 1430
2006 413 55 79 279 22.9 1510
2007 380 57 70 253 24.2 1403
2008 337 58 66 213 27.0 1451
2009 291 57 46 188 27.5 1496
2010 205 45 37 123 31.0 1480
2011 87 19 17 51 31.6 1343
  4515 904 768 2843 28.5 1570

I know you’ve never heard of him. His name is Ken Cohen, and he lives in New York. What I want you to notice is his conspicuous lack of success. He has played almost half as many games as Bonin, but he has never gotten out of class C. He has never won even half his games in any calendar year. In fact, he has only twice topped 40 percent. And he has lost almost twice as many games as Bonin has.

It’s easy to play chess when you’re winning. But to keep on playing even when you’re losing, game after game, … That, my friends, is love.

So you can have your Bonin with his eye-popping stats, his amazing consistency (he’s never scored less than 70 percent in a year), and his 422 wins in 2003, which may be an all-time record for one year. I think the guy who loves chess the most is the one who loses the most, and my champion is Ken Cohen. Who else can say he has lost 2800 times in his career? Has anyone else ever lost 300 games in a calendar year?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Farbror the Guru January 11, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Wow! Ken Cohen is my Hero!!

Great Article!

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RuralRob January 12, 2012 at 10:00 am

Perhaps we are all just residents in Ken’s personal Hell, where he is condemned to play chess over and over for all eternity, winning just enough games to rub salt in the wound of his Sisyphean torment.

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brougham January 29, 2012 at 6:17 am

Ken Cohen was recently banned from the Marshall Chess Club for his homophobic rants. I once played him in a tournament. He rejected the customary handshake before and after the game. Not a nice guy.

Reply

admin January 29, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Wow. Sounds as if he lost a few games too many.

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