Child prodigies and mini Grandmasters

Child prodigies and mini Grandmasters

Jun 6, 2009, 3:04 PM |

Child prodigies are a well-known phenomenon in chess, which is one of the few sports or intellectual activities where children can compete with adults on equal ground (another is computer games). The great Capablanca learned the game at four, and was one of the strongest players in Cuba in his early teens. Samuel Reshevsky also started at four and was giving simultaneous exhibitions at six.

Four-year-old Capablanca playing against his
father, soon after learning the moves in 1892

Sammy Reshevsky playing Charles Jaffe at 11. He tied for third with
Janowski, Bigelow and Bernstein.

Youngest Grandmasters

In recent times we have seen the record for youngest grandmaster in the history of the game topple repeatedly. In 1991 Judit Polgar, a female at that, broke Bobby Fischer's 33-year-old mark by becoming a grandmaster a month earlier than he had done. In 1994 her record was broken by fellow-Hungarian Peter Leko, who a short time later was overtaken by Ukrainian Ruslan Ponomariov. The latter went on to become FIDE world champion.

In 1999 the Chinese player Bu Xiangzhi completed his final GM norm at 13 years and four months, but the circumstances were unclear and FIDE never fully recognised this record. In 2001 14-year-old prodigy Teimour Radjabov, who hails from the same town as Garry Kasparov (Baku), became the second-youngest grandmaster in history.

Sergey Karjakin, grandmaster
at the age of twelve

But all these records were shattered on August 20, 2002, when Sergey Karjakin (pronounced car-yack-kin) of the Ukraine fulfilled his final grandmaster norm at the age of 12 years and seven months. He did so at the international chess tournament in Sudak, a town on the Crimea Peninsula. His FIDE rating at the time was 2523.

In 2002 Sergey was also one of the seconds of world champion Ruslan Ponomariov. This was another record he achieved before he had reached his teens. Today (January 2006) at 15 Sergey is a top grandmaster, ranked 42 in the world, with a 2660 rating that is climbing rapidly. Although we must be cautious with such statements one must assume that his records will not be broken.

Other famous chess prodigies and records

  • Paul Morphy, 1837-1884, beat Johann Löwenthal 3-0 at age 12.

  • José Raúl Capablanca, 1888-1942, learned chess at the age of four, beat his country's chess champion in a match when he was 13, and eventually became world champion (see above).

  • Samuel Reshevsky, learned the rules at the age of 4, and gave simultaneous exhibitions at the age of six (see above).

  • Arturo Pomar played in the Spanish Championship at age 10 and became a master at age 13. He drew Alekhine in Gijon in 1944 at the age of 13.

  • Boris Spassky became an International Grandmaster at 18 and went on to become world champion.

  • Bobby Fischer became US Champion at the age of 14 and a world championship candidate at 15. He went on to become world champion.

  • Henrique Mecking of Brazil learned the game at 6, gave some simultaneous displays at 9, won the Brazilian championship at 13, and South American Zonal at 14, and became an IM at 15. He won two Interzonal Tournaments in a row, at 21 and 24.

  • Anatoly Karpov became a grandmaster at 18 and went on to become world champion.

  • Garry Kasparov became a grandmaster at 17 and went on to become the youngest ever world champion (at 22).

  • Nigel Short finished joint first in the British Championship at the age of 14.

  • Viswanathan Anand became India's first International Grandmaster at 18 and went on to become the FIDE knockout world champion.

  • Michael Adams became an International Master at 15 and a grandmaster at 17.

  • Pentala Harikrishna became India's youngest grandmaster at 15.

  • Gata Kamsky had an Elo rating of 2650 at the age of 16.

  • Luke McShane won the World Under-10 Championship at the age of eight.

  • Ruslan Ponomariov became the youngest ever FIDE knockout world champion at the age of 18.

  • Alejandro Ramirez became a grandmaster at 15, a month earlier than Fischer. He is the first grandmaster ever in Central America.

  • Magnus Carlsen became the second-youngest grandmaster in history at 13, and broke Fischer's record by becoming a world championship candidate at 15 years and one month.

  • As of this writing (January 2006) Parimarjan Negi has achieved five IM norms and one GM norm. He is twelve years old.

  • Mona Khaled achieved the WIM title and two WGM norms in 2005, when she was eleven years old. At the same time she won both the Arabian and the African Girls Junior Championship in the under 20 group in 2005, although she was the youngest player in both tournments.

  • In July 2006 Parimarjan Negi of India completed his final GM norm to become the second-youngest grandmaster in the history of the game.

  • In January 2007 David Howell became the youngest grandmaster in UK history, at sixteen years and one month, breaking Luke McShane's previous record set in 2000 by six months.

  • On December 7th 2007 Wesley So of the Philippines made his final grandmaster norm at the age of 14 years, one month and 28 days to become the seventh youngest GM in history.

  • In 2008 Hou Yifan, born February 27, 1994, in Xinghua, China, became the youngest ever female in history (at the age of 14 years 6 months 2 days) to qualify for the title of grandmaster.

  • At the Wijk aan Zee tournament on January 30, 2009 the Russian/Nepalese/Dutch player Anish Giri, born on June 28, 1994, completed his third and final GM norm, at the age of 14 years, 7 months and 2 days.