14-Year-Old Sensation Suleymanli Wins Aeroflot Open
Aydin Suleymanli, the surprising winner at Aeroflot this year. Photo: Rakesh Kulkarni/

14-Year-Old Sensation Suleymanli Wins Aeroflot Open

| 42 | Chess Event Coverage

It was his compatriot, GM Rauf Mamedov, who was leading the tournament from the start, but with a better tiebreak, 14-year-old Aydin Suleymanli of Azerbaijan ended up as the sensational winner of the Aeroflot Open in Moscow. 

A year ago, the Estonian grandmaster Kaido Kulaots was the surprising winner of the Aeroflot Open. As the 62nd seed, he won the tournament a day before his 43rd birthday.

This year, the tournament had another very surprising winner—a little-known, 14-year-old from Azerbaijan. Suleymanli's rating? 2474. Seeded in the tournament? 71st.

2020 Aeroflot Open | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2
1 71 IM Suleymanli Aydin 2474 6,5 5 2622
2 8 GM Jumabayev Rinat 2646 6,5 5 2557
3 11 GM Mamedov Rauf 2643 6,5 4 2578
4 15 GM Aravindh Chithambaram Vr. 2630 6,5 4 2558
5 38 GM Aleksandrov Aleksej 2592 6,0 5 2612
6 56 GM Asadli Vugar 2538 6,0 5 2595
7 6 GM Adhiban B. 2654 6,0 5 2582
8 40 GM Petrosyan Manuel 2590 6,0 4 2598
9 29 GM Yilmaz Mustafa 2607 6,0 4 2574
10 17 GM Paravyan David 2629 6,0 4 2569
11 96 IM Bharath Subramaniyam H 2402 5,5 5 2626
12 4 GM Sjugirov Sanan 2674 5,5 5 2605
13 43 GM Idani Pouya 2577 5,5 5 2604
14 48 GM Antipov Mikhail Al. 2562 5,5 5 2546
15 31 GM Praggnanandhaa R 2602 5,5 5 2510
16 27 GM Kobalia Mikhail 2609 5,5 5 2485
17 12 GM Sethuraman S.P. 2641 5,5 4 2588
18 61 IM Sadhwani Raunak 2522 5,5 4 2572
19 9 GM Rakhmanov Aleksandr 2645 5,5 4 2563
20 2 GM Sargissian Gabriel 2689 5,5 4 2561

(Full final standings here.)

So far, this young talent had made his name known only at youth tournaments. He won gold medals at the 2013 European Youth Championship U8, the 2017 European Youth Championship U12, and the 2019 World Youth Championship U14.

This week, he showed amazingly mature chess in Moscow, where he played at a staggering performance rating of 2791.

On the podium with Rauf Mamedov (right), Rinat Jumabayev and Mark Gluhovsky
On the podium with Rauf Mamedov (right), Rinat Jumabayev and Mark Gluhovsky (left). Photo: Eteri Kublashvili/Russian Chess Federation.

The A group is intended for players rated above 2550, but the organizers are usually not strict with this rule, and especially for a young talent, it makes sense to make an exception. Winning the tournament was not a bad way for Suleymanli to show he belonged there.

Beating GM Aleksandar Indjic and playing draws with GMs Mustafa Yilmaz, Praggnanandhaa R, Mikhail Kobalia, and Haik Martirosyan was already an excellent first half for Suleymanli. But then the fun really started.

The boy defeated three strong GMs in a row: his compatriot GM Vasif Durarbayli, then GM Ilia Smirin, and then GM Parham Maghsoodloo, the 2018 World Junior Champion.

Annotations by NM Jeremy Kane

Aeroflot Open 2020 playing hall
The playing hall. Photo: Boris Dolmatovsky/Russian Chess Federation.

With that third win, he caught another compatriot, Mamedov, in first place before the final round. They played, and when Mamedov failed to get a tangible advantage, he decided to offer a draw and split the prize money with his young compatriot.

He knew he also gave his young compatriot the title because the first tiebreak was the number of games played with black, and Suleymanli had one more thanks to this final game.

Four players playing the black pieces could still reach the same number of points (GM Sanan Sjugirov, Yilmaz, GM Baskaran Adhiban and GM Rinat Jumabayev) and the same number of black games (five), but their second tiebreak, the average rating of their opponents, would be worse than Suleymanli's.

Jumabayev did win, and so did Indian GM Aravindh Chithambaram with the white pieces, and these two players shared first place with Suleymanli and Mamedov. All four won 9,750 euros.

Here are all of Suleymanli's games for replay:

Organized for the 18th time, the Aeroflot Open held up a long tradition that started in the legendary 3182-room hotel Russia (demolished in 2006) before it moved to the Izmailovo complex. It has been hosted by the Cosmos Hotel in recent years.

It was another open tournament with a large contingent of players from India—the A group, for players rated 2550 or higher, had as many participants from India as from Russia: 25 each.

And there was certainly Indian success. 12-year-old Bharath Subramaniyam scored his first GM norm, and at 12 years, four months and 11 days, he still has a (small) chance of beating Sergey Karjakin's historic record.

And then there was 14-year-old FM Pranesh M, who secured his IM title by scoring 4/9, good for his third IM norm.

The Aeroflot Open took place February 19-28 in Hotel Cosmos in Moscow, Russia. The A group had 97 players from 21 federations, including 63 grandmasters.

There was also a B group for players 2300-2549, a C group for players rated below 2300, and a children's tournament named after Anatoly Karpov. The total prize fund was 120,000 euros.

With his win, Suleymanli will be invited to the tournament in Dortmund this coming summer. Renamed "Sparkassen Chess Trophy," this event is no longer a super GM round robin, but will consist of three open tournaments.

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