Manuel Álvarez, the 101-year-old chess player: «My secret? “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, play sports and do everything else you can.”

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Manuel Alvarez Escudero He was one of the participants in the Moratalaz Chess Open that ended on September 17. He scored 4.5 points in nine games, nothing exceptional, if it weren’t for the fact that on October 12 he will turn 102 years old. He is probably the oldest active athlete in the world. His physical strength is surprising, but what truly amazes is how his head works.

Manuel has been asked so many times about the secret to longevity that he already has the answer ready. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, play sports and, otherwise, everything you can.” His daughter is in front and does not go into details either. But his main hobby is walking. His family and friends remember, scared, seeing him run to avoid missing the bus, a habit he maintained until a few years ago.

Álvarez regrets more than anything the downturn he suffered during confinement: «The pandemic took 10 years from me. When I came out, I was completely stunted. He didn’t give one. “Now at least I make myself respected.” It produces a mixture of tenderness and comedy to hear him say that age “is showing.”

No less important is his constant willingness to fight and continue improving. A few weeks ago you could see how he proudly rejected the offer to use a walker to teach a simultaneous games session at the Juana de Castilla Institute, near his house. He played against five students from the center at a time, walking from one board to another. The kids couldn’t believe the display.

In August, he participated in the El Escorial tournament, which he tries not to miss any year. Not only did he finish with more than 50% of the points, but he raised his Elo, the score used by the International Federation to classify players around the world. In a recent interview in the chess magazine King’s Pawn he said that this year he hoped to improve his Elo. He did it the first time.

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