The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Aleksandra Goryachkina

Aleksandra Goryachkina
Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Full name
Aleksandra Yuryevna Goryachkina
Sep 28, 1998 (age 25)‎
Place of birth
Orsk, Russia



Russian GM Aleksandra Goryachkina is an elite chess player who narrowly lost the 2020 Women’s World Chess Championship in tiebreaks. She nearly captured the most prestigious crown in women’s chess after decimating her competition (which included three former women’s world champions) in the 2019 Women's Candidates Tournament, winning with two rounds to spare.

In July 2021, she became the first woman ever to qualify for the open section of the Russian Championship Superfinal after a shared second place at the Higher League tournament in Cheboksary, Russia. She also broke the 2600 Elo barrier there as only the sixth female player in history.

Her ascension to the top is not at all surprising. Goryachkina has a total of five world youth titles in the under-10, under-14, under-18, and (twice) junior girls sections. She also took two Russian women’s chess championships as a teenager.

Goryachkina is in her mid-20s and has already beaten many of the best women in chess. She may have not even hit her peak yet, which is a scary thought for her competition.

Playing Style

Goryachkina is a well-rounded player and is comfortable in pretty much any aspect of the game. It’s probably accurate to say that while she doesn’t have any singular, obvious style of play, she often exhibits a fighting style of chess. Take the following world championship game as an example.

Notice how Goryachkina uses all parts of the board to make her opponent uncomfortable. From pressure down the h-file and opening up the queenside (with 29. b4) to the queen and bishop battery along the a8-h1 diagonal, Goryachkina doesn’t let up. Black is unable to hold her position, and the talented Russian GM has no trouble converting her position into the full point.

Early Chess Career (2007 To 2011)

Goryachkina played her first FIDE-rated tournament at the age of eight years old, scoring 4/9 points at the Anapa 2007 girls competition held in Russia.

Her father, a FIDE master, served as her first coach. However, by nine years old, the prodigy was able to beat her father as well as her mother, a candidate master. The family moved more than 1,000 miles so she could study at Anatoly Karpov Polar Chess School in Salekhard, Russia.

In August 2008, the nine-year-old beat her first titled opponent in competition. And then, two months later, Goryachkina won the girls under-10 section of the 2008 World Youth Championship. It would be her first of several youth world championships.

She placed second in the under-12 girls section of the 2009 European Youth Chess Championships and the 2009 World Youth Championships. Then Goryachkina took the under-12 girls section of the 2010 European Youth Chess Championships and the under-14 girls section of the same tournament in 2011.

In the 2011 Lyudmila Rudenko Memorial Tournament, the 13-year-old shattered the more experienced competition, which included eight WGMs and an IM. Goryachkina finished a full point ahead of the field, scored a tournament performance rating of 2441, earned her first WGM norm, and gained nearly 100 points as a result.

The same year, she added her second world youth title. This time it came with a perfect 9/9 points in the under-14 girls section of the 2011 World Youth Championships. Her sensational year resulted in a climb of almost 300 rating points.

A 13-Year-Old WGM And Multiple World Youth Titles (2012 To 2014)

Coming off a fantastic 2011, Goryachkina put together a career year in 2012.

The 13-year-old kicked things off by earning her WGM title in March 2012. As a result, she became the youngest WGM in the world at the time, and the youngest WGM since GM Hou Yifan. In August, roughly a month before turning 14 years old, Goryachkina won the under-18 girls section of the 2012 European Youth Chess Championships.

After turning 14 years old in September 2012, the chess prodigy added a third world youth title to her long list of accomplishments. In November, Goryachkina won the under-18 girls section of the 2012 World Youth Championships with 9.5/11 points. Finally for 2012, she won the Women’s Russian Cup knockout event in December by beating higher-rated WGM Olga Girya in the finals.

Aleksandra Goryachkina at he 2012 World Junior Chess Championships
Aleksandra Goryachkina at the 2012 World Junior Chess Championships. Photo: A. Kontokanis, CC 2.0.

In the subsequent two years, Goryachkina added what would be her final world youth titles by winning back-to-back World Junior Chess Championships. In 2013, the 15-year-old phenom took the girls under-20 section with 10.5/13 points, topping the field by a full point. The following year, the 16-year-old defending champion notched 11/13 points, crushing the field by 1.5 points.

The back-to-back world champion became the second girl after IM Ketino Kachiani (in 1989 and 1990) to win the world junior title in consecutive years.

The First Of Two Russian Women's Chess Championships (2015 To 2018)

After winning back-to-back world championships in the under-20 girls section as a 15- and 16-year-old, Goryachkina set her sights on the national championship as a 16-year-old.

At the 2015 Russian Championship Superfinals, Goryachkina scored 8/11 points, taking the women’s title by a full point over the field (including GM and former women’s world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk). Two years later, at the 2017 Russian Championship Superfinals, Goryachkina won the event yet again, finishing in joint first place with WGM Natalia Pogonina. Goryachkina, who had recently turned 19 years old, beat Pogonina two games to none in the playoff.

Aleksandra Goryachkina at the 2017 Russian Championship Superfinals
Aleksandra Goryachkina at the 2017 Russian Championship Superfinals. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Goryachkina had two impressive team performances in 2015. First, at the 2015 Women’s World Team Chess Championships in April, the 16-year-old won silver on the fourth board with 5/7 points, helping Russia win silver. Then in November, Goryachkina scored 7/8 points on board four at the 2015 Women’s European Team Championship. Russia won gold, and the 18-year-old won individual gold for her impressive showing—she had a tournament performance rating of 2668.

During this period, Goryachkina won the 2015 Women’s Russian Cup, which was her second time winning the competition featuring top players from around the country. At the Women’s European Individual Chess Championships 2017, she took the silver medal.

Goryachkina was awarded her GM title in February 2018, becoming a grandmaster at 19 years old.

Candidates Victor And World Title Challenger (2019 To 2020)

In May 2019, Goryachkina began her quest toward the most prestigious title in all of women’s chess. The 20-year-old (she turned 21 in September 2019) would come remarkably close to capturing the women’s world title after a dominating the Candidates Tournament.

In 2019, FIDE reintroduced the Candidates Tournament (an eight-player double round-robin) after, throughout the 2010s, alternating between a 64-player knockout tournament and a match between the champion and the challenger who was decided through six Grand Prix events. Goryachkina was chosen to replace Hou, who had declined an invitation to the event due to scheduling conflicts.

The entire field was rated 2500+ and included three former women’s world champions—GMs Tan Zhongyi, Mariya Muzychuk, and Kosteniuk. Yet, within five rounds, Goryachkina led the competition. Her margin increased to a 2.5-point lead in the eighth round, and she ended the tournament with the same margin of victory. Keep in mind that Goryachkina won the whole tournament with two rounds to spare—in those two rounds, she received her only loss and made a final-round draw.

Mariya Muzychuk vs Aleksandra Goryachkina at the Candidates Tournament
Mariya Muzychuk vs. Aleksandra Goryachkina at the Candidates Tournament. Photo: FIDE.

That performance earned her a January 2020 matchup with GM Ju Wenjun for the women’s world title. The format was a 12-game match in standard time controls that would end if rapid tiebreaks if necessary.

After three draws to kick off the match, Ju scored a win in game four. However, Goryachkina responded right back in the fifth game, taking her first win against the talented Chinese GM and evening the match.

The latter part of the match is where the back-and-forth nature of the event really started to show. Goryachkina notched a win in game eight, after Ju had made a questionable opening choice, and suddenly, she had a lead for the first time in the match. Ju responded with back-to-back wins in games nine and 10, and a draw occurred in the penultimate game. Goryachkina needed a win in the final game of the standard time control portion of the match. She pulled through to send things to tiebreaks.

Goryachkina had the momentum heading into the rapid tiebreak games. In the first game, she had a strong advantage with the black pieces, but Ju escaped in the midst of time pressure. The next two games presented strong opening play from Ju. She quickly simplified the position with the black pieces in game two, and then played a surprising novelty as White in the next game to win game three and take the lead. Goryachkina couldn’t get anything going in the fourth game, which ended in a draw, closing the young Russian’s hopes of taking the world championship.

Present And Future

Although Goryachkina may not be too happy about coming so close to winning the women’s world championship without taking the crown, it’s clear that she will be a major force in chess for years to come. She’s already guaranteed a spot in the next Candidates Tournament, and judging from her total domination of the previous event, maybe she can push for a rematch with Ju.

Goryachkina won the third leg of the 2023 Women's Grand Prix, putting her in good position to make the next Women's Candidates, which she secured with her performance in the entire four legs of the Grand Prix. She added the championship of the 2023 World Cup to her resume in August, defeating IM Nurgyul Salimova in the final. In the Candidates Tournament in April 2024, she scored 50 percent.

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