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In Attack of the Clones, this conversation takes place between Obi-Wan and Anakin:

OBI-WAN: - If you'd spend as much time working on your saber skills as you do on your wit, young Padawan, you would rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.

ANAKIN: - I thought I already did.

OBI-WAN: - Only in your mind, my very young apprentice.

Was Anakin better than Master Yoda at lightsaber fighting at that moment? If not, did he - or Darth Vader - ever become better?

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    It doesn't seem like anyone can beat Yoda one on one in the canon I've seen so far... which makes it odd that he's waiting for someone else to bring balance to the force. – Mark Rogers Jan 28 '16 at 0:56
  • Well, I think Rambo is the only single-man who can win a war without team play - but I haven't actually seen Rambo yet – mgarciaisaia Jan 28 '16 at 1:02
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    I'd put my money on 45 year old Vader beating dying old swamp-Yoda. – Slacklord the Terrible Jan 28 '16 at 1:08
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    @Hypnosifl - In the movie it seemed like Palpatine was trying to escape the fight with Yoda. Palpatine seemed at first confident and then later dismayed at Yoda's skills, if I recall correctly. – Mark Rogers Jul 25 '16 at 18:56
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    (continued) However, the novelization does suggest Yoda eventually gave up because he realized he didn't have what it took to win, though it's possible this wasn't mainly based on lightsaber skills, the text sort of suggests it was a broader philosophical realization that the Jedi had become mired in the past while the Sith had "become new", and that "the new Sith could not be destroyed with a lightsaber .... how could one win a war against the dark, when war itself had become the dark's own weapon?" – Hypnosifl Jul 25 '16 at 19:18
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Anakin/Vader has never surpassed Yoda's skill in lightsaber combat.

In Attack of the Clones, Anakin lost his arm to Dooku. Dooku would have lost to Yoda if the former did not distract the latter in order to escape. Therefore, Yoda > Dooku > Anakin.

In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin lost to Obi-Wan. Since Yoda is considered one of if not the best swordsman in the Order, I think it is safe to assume that Yoda > Obi-Wan > Anakin.

Anakin went through the following changes in his transition to Vader-hood:

  • His potential in the Force is diminished. Palpatine once told Yoda that Anakin "will become more powerful than either of us". After Mustafar, though, Palpatine concluded that Anakin will never reach his full potential.
  • Vader's suit inhibited his prior combat style. The Jedi tend to favour more acrobatic styles, but Vader's suit has a lot of bulk and deadweight, slowing Vader down.
  • To compensate, Vader changed his style, sacrificing the speed he already lost in favour of power and accuracy. In time, he adapted and honed on those aspects further, as well as improving his physical stamina.

It is still fairly easy for Jedi survivors to evade Vader's attacks, but Vader is still able to keep up enough to press the attack and wear them down - he no longer creates openings like before, but simply waits for one. Having enough speed and agility to evade his attacks is one thing - having enough of those attributes to overcome his defences is another. It is, however, a weakness that Yoda's speed, agility, combat style and skill in the Force is sufficient to exploit. Therefore, if the faster and more agile Anakin couldn't win before, he most certainly couldn't ever do so as Vader now, even in spite of the changes and improvements with age.

You may argue Yoda is older during the Empire, but firstly, age doesn't affect a Jedi much, given the restorative properties of the natural Force. Secondly, what is another 20 years to a 900 year old? Yoda only showed signs of age and impending death after Luke arrived on Dagobah (and probably introduced a foreign bacteria that Yoda wasn't vaccinated against).

The Wookiepedia entries for Anakin Skywalker and Yoda describe their combat styles. If you accept Legends information, the Legends sections go into more detail. The Legends section on Darth Vader's suit also goes into more detail how it affected his style in combat. The Legends history of lightsaber combat is an overview that highlighted their styles as well.

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    By the time Vader fights in that fashion, Yoda is nearing his death. Do you think Yoda would fare better against Vader when he couldn't even beat R2 in a fight over "the world's worst flashlight"? – Slacklord the Terrible Jan 28 '16 at 1:48
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    @Axelrod Yoda could raise an X-Wing from the depths of hell at will. I always thought it's obvious on hindsight that that entire scene of being a crazy old hermit is meant to be a test of Luke's worthiness to be trained by him. If he really wanted that flashlight, he would have torn R2 apart if it comes down to it. Don't forget: As late as 2 BBY, in Star Wars Rebels, he was still communing with, guiding and training Jedi telepathically. How many Jedi can manipulate a kyber crystal light years away with the Force? – thegreatjedi Jan 28 '16 at 1:55
  • I think when it comes to combat when you say A>B and B>C this does not always mean A>C, just like with paper-scissors-rock. But good answer nonetheless! – Ivo Beckers Jan 29 '16 at 15:49
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    Great answer, thanks! Luke arrived on Dagobah (and probably introduced a foreign bacteria that Yoda wasn't vaccinated against) - was the bacteria thing ever mentioned or something you've made up? – mgarciaisaia Jan 29 '16 at 19:22
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    @mgarciaisaia Never mentioned, but haven't you ever thought Yoda falling ill and dying the moment Luke visits is suspicious? The same thing happened when Europeans colonised the Americas and Australia... ;) – thegreatjedi Jan 30 '16 at 2:38

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