GM Alexander Grischuk

Full name
Alexander Grischuk
Born
Oct 31, 1983 (age 36)‎
Place of birth
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Federation
Russia
Retired
in 2020
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Bio

Alexander Grischuk is a Russian super grandmaster who is consistently among the world’s best players. While he’s an elite professional chess player, Grischuk is well-known for being one of the top blitz players. He’s a three-time World Blitz Champion, making him only one of two players to have multiple world titles in blitz time controls. The other player is Magnus Carlsen (with four titles), who’s widely recognized as one of the best chess players of all time.

Don’t assume that Grischuk is a blitz specialist, however. He entered the world’s top 20 players in 2002 and, since then, has remained there for nearly the whole period. In fact, most of his time has been in the top 10, and his peak was No. 3 in 2014 when he surpassed the 2800-rating threshold. Grischuk has competed in four Candidates’ Tournaments and reached the semifinals of the FIDE World Chess Championship 2000. He also won the Russian Chess Championship in 2009. In team play for Russia, two out of his six medals at the Olympiads are gold, to go along with four gold medals out of five at the World Team Chess Championships.

Youth and Early Chess Career (1987 to 1999)

At four years old, Grischuk learned how to play chess from his father. He then received training and mentoring from Mikhail Godvinsky , Maxim Blokh (in 1990-1994) and Anatoly Bykhovsky (since 1995).

Grischuk made the most of his early guidance in chess. He tied for first place but finished in second at the World U10 Championship in 1992. In the Russian Championships throughout the 1990s, Grischuk swept his age group, winning the under 10, 12, 14 and 16 titles.

Grischuk at U10 World Youth Chess Championship in 1992
Grischuk at U10 World Youth Chess Championship in 1992. Photo: G. Hund, CC 3.0.

At the age of 14, Grischuk competed as an FM at his first Russian Chess Championship in 1998, where he scored 5/10 points and finished 44th. Later that year, he became an IM and was the top-rated player in the U16 section of the World Youth Championships. He turned 15 years old during the event, and the 2490-rated IM tied for eighth place.

At the 1999 Chigorin Memorial, Grichuck shared first place with GM Sergey Volkov in the elite tournament held at St. Petersburg, Russia. The field included 39 GMs and Volkov himself went on to become the Russian champion the next year, making Grischuk’s performance in 1999 all-the-more impressive. The 16-year-old had a performance rating of 2701 in the tournament. The same year, Grischuk competed in the Russian Championship and made it to the quarterfinals.

Breaking Out on the World Stage (2000 to 2005)

In 2000, Grischuk entered the world’s top 100 at the age of 16, where he has remained since. He beat future World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov in tiebreaks to win the 3rd Tórshavn International in 2000 (Grischuk won the tournament the following year, too), earning a tournament performance rating of 2821. Grischuk beat Ponomariov again in 2000 at the finals of the Lausanne Young Masters to take that event too. The same year, he played in 34th Chess Olympiad, Grischuk’s first Olympiad, and won gold with Russia to go along with individual bronze.

The real story that year for Grischuk was his performance in the FIDE World Chess Championship 2000. Rated 2606 and ranked No. 46 in the tournament, Grischuk made it to the semifinals of the tournament before being beaten by No. 4 Alexei Shirov (who lost to top-seeded Viswanathan Anand in the finals). It cemented his status as one of the world’s brightest rising stars.

Grischuk wasn’t done competing on the world stage. At the 2001 FIDE World Cup of Rapid Chess, the 17-year-old, 2663-rated phenom made it all the way to the semifinals before meeting world No. 1 and all-time great Garry Kasparov, who won the event and dominated his competition. And then, two years later at the FIDE World Rapid Chess Championship 2003—which featured 11 of the world’s 12 top-ranked players—Grischuk, now a 2732-rated junior, made it to the semifinals of the tournament before losing to the current Classical World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik.

This period of Grischuk’s career includes several other notable performances. At the elite Linares tournament in 2001, the young Russian was ranked No. 28 in the world and took on five other players all ranked higher than him: Kasparov (No. 1), Peter Leko (No. 5), Shirov (No. 7), Anatoly Karpov (No. 20) and Judit Polgár (No. 23). Kasparov won with 7.5/10 points and Grischuk tied with the rest of the star-studded pool at 4.5/10. Grischuk finished second at Wijk aan Zee, another elite event, in 2002. In the Aeroflot Open 2002, he tied for first before Gregory Kaidanov won the event. Also in 2002 was the 35th Chess Olympiad, where Grischuk won his second gold medal with Russia; he played board two behind Kasparov. Grischuk won the 2003 and 2004 Ordix Open, as well as the 5th Karpov Tournament in 2004. In 2005, Grischuk earned his first gold medal at the World Team Chess Championship with Russia.

World Blitz Chess Champion (2006 to 2019)

In 2006, Grischuk won the first FIDE World Blitz Championship with a score of 10.5/15. Peter Svidler also finished with the same score and Grischuk won the armageddon game as Black to take the world championship. The tournament featured seven of the world’s top 20 grandmasters, in addition to an emerging Magnus Carlsen.

That wasn’t the only time Grischuk won a world blitz championship. In 2012, FIDE changed the structure so that the event would be included in the World Rapid & Blitz Championships. Grischuk won the inaugural World Blitz Championships in 2012 half a point ahead of Carlsen and then won the event three years later in 2015. The three-time blitz world champion has more titles than anyone except for Carlsen, who has four. They are the only two players to win multiple world blitz titles.

2009 was a banner year for Grischuk. At Linares, he participated in the tournament that featured five players rated 2750 and up. Grischuk was the second-lowest rated player (2733), but finished ahead of Vassily Ivanchuk, Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand, earning a tournament performance rating of 2809. Later that year, Grischuk won the Russian Chess Championship; he was undefeated in the event. Another note is that in 2009, Grischuk took 1st in the Russian Championship Superfinal, scoring +4=5, ahead of Svidler, Nikita Vitiugov and Evgeny Tomashevsky. It remains to date his only victory in the event. Altogether from 2004 to 2016, he played in seven championships and gained three silver and two bronze medals.

In 2011, Grischuk took part in the Candidates’ Tournament after Carlsen withdrew. The replacement player (ranked No. 6 in the tournament) caused a lot of noise after beating No. 3 Levon Aronian in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Vladimir Kramnik in the semifinals, before losing to Boris Gelfand in the finals. Notably, both of Grischuk’s wins came on tiebreaks, where he was able to rely on his rapid/blitz abilities to take out two favorites rated 2780+. Later in the same year, Grischuk reached the FIDE World Cup final, beating Alexander Morozevich, Vladimir Potkin, David Navara and Ivanchuk on his way, but he lost to Svidler in the final. This is his best performance in World Cup format. This success allowed Grischuk to qualify for the 2013 Candidates Tournament in London, where he shared places 5-6 with Gelfand.

Grischuk broke the 2800-rating barrier in 2014 after finishing ahead Kramnik, Gelfand and Aronian in the 2014 Petrosian Memorial Tournament. His peak rating was 2810 in December 2014. Earlier that year, he achieved his peak world ranking of No. 3.

In 2017, Grischuk and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov finished on top of the FIDE Grand Prix cycle, qualifying them for the 2018 Candidates’ Tournament. Grischuk had a disappointing showing in the tournament, however, finishing sixth.

Present and Future

Grischuk qualified for the 2020 Candidates tournament by winning the FIDE Grand Prix 2019. On March 26, 2020, the Candidates tournament was postponed due to Russia's travel restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the halfway point, Grischuk has a 3.5/7 score and is trailing the leaders by one point.

Kasparov and Grischuk at 2019 Paris Rapid & Blitz
Kasparov and Grischuk at 2019 Paris Rapid & Blitz. Photo: M. Emelianova.

Grischuk is among the world’s best players and continues to be a threat in major tournaments. That’s especially the case as many events have introduced blitz tiebreakers and armageddon games to decide winners of matches. Grischuk may soon add to an already decorated chess career that includes three world titles in blitz, 11 team medals across the Olympiads and World Team Chess Championships, four Candidates’ Tournaments appearances and several elite tournament wins.

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