Candidate Profile: Anish Giri

Candidate Profile: Anish Giri

| 41 | Chess Players

By GM Robert Hess and IM Teddy Coleman

If Benjamin Button played chess, his name would be Anish Giri.

At 21 years old, Giri is the youngest player in the eight-man field for the Candidates Tournament, yet has a geriatric style of play. His talent and strength are undeniable, as evidenced by ranking number three in the world earlier this year.

In stark contrast to his youth, Giri’s plays conservatively and frequently avoids risk, often gaining points by grinding down his opposition or taking advantage of their mistakes. He plays the most passive of all the players in the tournament, which could hinder his chances to face Carlsen, against whom he has never lost a classical chess game.  

In any individual game, Giri is one of the toughest players in the world to beat; however, it takes a number of wins to advance beyond the Candidates'. It remains to be seen whether Giri possesses the firepower to blast through the competition.  

Key Strengths:

Giri is the most rock-solid player in the tournament.  He’s very difficult to beat, as evidenced by the fact that he lost just one game with White in 2015 in a long time control (to Peter Svidler.) At his best, Giri grinds down opponents in seemingly dry positions and achieves a victory without any risk of defeat.


While Giri is a positional player, he’s by no means a chump when it comes to tactics.  Quite the opposite, he is extremely opportunistic and punishes opponents for their mistakes.  Below, he takes out super-GM Grischuk by punishing a questionable queen maneuver.

Key Weaknesses:

Often, a player’s greatest strength doubles as weakness. While Giri does not normally expose himself to losses, he also does not take enough chances to win. He frequently ends up in drawn positions or worse.  In the following game against Adams, he plays too passively and pays dearly for it.  

Giri’s solid play and close eye for tactics make him very difficult to beat. One of the few ways to do so is simply to see further than he does, and the majority of his losses come against aggressive, tactical players. Below, GM Wesley So uses a deadly knight maneuver to take advantage of Giri’s oversight.  

What to Watch for:

While Giri is one of the hardest players in the world to beat, he is facing opponents with a more aggressive arsenal of weapons. Giri will have to fight a lot harder than he is used to in order to gain enough points for first. To earn the right to face Magnus, he will need to break out of his comfort zone and play more aggressively. If he fails to do so, he’ll likely finish in the middle of the pack.  

Giri will be a fixture of candidates tournaments for many years to come, but don’t expect this to be his year. Perhaps Giri will age similarly to Button and his style of play will become more youthful, leading to superior results.  

Can't get enough Giri? Check out's videos featuring Anish Giri

The FIDE Candidates’ Tournament runs March 10-30 in Moscow. The winner will earn the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in a match that will be held November 10-30 in New York.

The eight participants are Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura (both USA), Vishy Anand(India), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler (both Russia), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Levon Aronian (Armenia). is publishing profiles of each participant.

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