Until recently, the careers of most great players followed a similar path: they would make their mark in their early 20s, reach their peak in their mid-30s, and begin a slow decline from their mid-40s. Between 55 and 60, the decline would gather pace, and after 60, they could give up hope of any more first prizes.

That was the picture until about 25 years ago, when grandmasters suddenly started growing younger. Now if you haven't made it by 30, you might as well give up. Curiously, though, there has been an improvement at the veterans' end of the age scale too. Viktor Korchnoi, 66, is still competing at the highest level, while David Bronstein, 73, and Vassily Smyslov, 76, are also still active. The last two are at present in action in Hoogeven in the Netherlands. Smyslov is competing in a four-player invitation event in which he is older than the other three (Judit Polgar, Emil Sutovsky and Loek van Wely) put together. In his first three games, he scored one loss and two hard-fought draws.

Bronstein is playing in the Open Tournament at the same event and seems to be enjoying himself with two wins and two draws after four rounds. While Smyslov still relies largely on the delicate judgement and fabulous technique that won him the world championship 40 years ago, Bronstein sticks to his own blend of fantasy and elegance, as the following game, played in the third round, shows.

Black's slightly loose opening play (c5 and f5 do not fit well together and leave a problem over what to do with the d-pawn) is punished by 16.c5! when any capture on c5 is met by 17.Rxd7! Nxd7 18.Qxe6+ followed by Rxd7 with a winning attack.

Vedder gave added protection to d7 with Bc6, but Bronstein found another way through with the brilliant 18.Ne5! By the end, he had sacrificed both rooks to force mate. It must have made an old man very happy.

White: D. Bronstein

Black: R. Vedder

1 d4 Nf6 14 Rfd1 Be7

2 c4 e6 15 Qb3 Rc8

3 Nf3 b6 16 c5 Bc6

4 g3 Bb7 17 cxb6 Qb7

5 Bg2 Bb4+ 18 Ne5 Bxg2

6 Bd2 c5 19 Rxd7 Bd5

7 dxc5 Bxc5 20 R1xd5 Rxc3

8 0-0 0-0 21 Rd8+ Bf8

9 Nc3 Ne4 22 Rxf8+ Kxf8

10 Qc2 f5 23 Qb4+ Ke8

11 Rad1 Nxd2 24 Rd8+ Kxd8

12 Rxd2 a6 25 Qf8 mate

13 a3 Qc7