GM Alireza Firouzja

Alireza Firouzja. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Full name
Alireza Firouzja
Born
Jun 18, 2003 (age 16)‎
Place of birth
Babol, Iran
Federation
Iran
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Rating

Bio

Alireza Firouzja is an Iranian-born grandmaster, a world-class player and the youngest player in the world rated over 2700. He is a two-time Iranian champion and the reigning European Fischer Random champion. As of February 1, 2020 Firouzja is the only teenager ranked in the top 25 (ranked #23 with a rating of 2726).

In late 2019 and early 2020, Firouzja electrified the chess world with his second place finish in the World Rapid Championship (one point behind World Champion Magnus Carlsen) and his amazing 5/7 start at the 2020 Tata Steel tournament. 


Iranian Champion

Firouzja learned how to play chess at the age of eight, and within a few years it was clear that he was a prodigy. In 2015 he won the gold medal for the under-12 section of the Asian Youth Chess Championship. In 2016 Firouzja became the youngest Iranian chess champion (at the age of 12) and also earned the International Master title.

Alireza Firouzja in 2016
Firouzja in 2016. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the following game the 12-year-old Firouzja calmly outplays the strong and experienced GM Pavel Tregubov (former European champion). After a quiet opening, Firouzja secures a positional advantage with 17. Rc5 and then converts this positional advantage to a material advantage through a small combination. Firouzja displays fantastic technique and wins a second pawn on move 37 to bring home the full point—even at age 12 Firouzja made extremely difficult tasks look easy!

Grandmaster

In February 2018 Firouzja earned his final GM norm at the Aeroflot Open and became a grandmaster at the age of 15. At the 43rd Chess Olympiad, he played board four for Iran and scored 8/11. Firouzja won the gold medal for the World Youth Under-16 Chess Olympiad and scored 8/9 with a performance rating of 2736. 

Firouzja at 2018 Aeroflot blitz tournament
Firouzja at 2018 Aeroflot blitz tournament. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In the following game from the 2018 Chess Olympiad, Firouzja conducts a devastating attack. After he finds a wonderful tactical resource with 21.Rxh7+!, the black king has nowhere to hide. Firouzja can even make extremely difficult attacks look easy!

The World Stage

At the end of 2018, Firouzja entered the World Rapid Championship as the 169th rated player out of the 206 participants. He astonished the chess world with his sixth place finish behind Daniil Dubov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Hikaru Nakamura, Vladislav Artemiev and Carlsen. He scored 10/15 with a performance rating of 2848. 

A few days after the World Rapid Championship, Firouzja had a blistering 6.5/7 start in the World Blitz Championship (a full point ahead of the field)! In round eight, he lost to Carlsen, and his performance came back down to earth. At these two events the 15-year-old GM began making his mark on the world's stage.

In the following game from the 2018 World Blitz Championship, Firouzja again displays his attacking abilities. After a relatively quiet Catalan opening, he gives up the bishop pair to double Black's f-pawns. He conducts the attack so clearly and decisively that his opponent must resign on move 27! Another stunning game from Firouzja:


The year 2019 was an important and active one for Firouzja. He began by winning his second Iranian Championship with a score of 9/11. He continued his impressive results with a score of 7/9 at the World Team Championship and tied for first at the Sharjah masters tournament. In April 2019 playing in the 2019 Bullet Chess Championship on Chess.com, Firouza lost a close match to Nakamura (the winner of the event).

Firouzja in 2018
Firouzja in 2018. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In April 2019, Firouzja placed second on tiebreaks in the Reyjkjavik Open with a score of 7/9 and won the European Fischer Random Championship with a score of 8/9. Firouzja defeated Jose Martinez Alacantara and Samuel Sevian in the Junior Speed Chess Championship hosted by Chess.com before being defeated by the eventual winner Wei Yi. In May 2019, Firouzja won the French Rapid Championship (he currently resides in France).

In another fantastic attacking example Firouzja employs a somewhat strange (yet memorable) exchange sacrifice in the early middlegame. He then sacrifices his knight on d5, and the kingside attack begins with 16. Nf5.  Firouzja's play over the next six moves is swift and vicious, forcing resignation on move 22!

World's Youngest 2700-Rated Player

In June 2019 Firouzja's performance at the Asian Chess Championship earned him a spot in the 2019 FIDE World Cup. In July Firouzja scored 11.5/13 in the Turkish Super League. This performance raised his classical rating to 2702—making Firouzja the second youngest player in history to achieve a 2700 rating, at the age of 16 years and 1 month. As of February 2020 he is the youngest player in the top 25 and the youngest player rated over 2700.

Firouzja played well in the 2019 FIDE World Cup. He defeated GM Arman Pashikian in the first round and Dubov in round two. In the third round he drew both standard games with the number-one seed Ding Liren (the eventual World Cup champion) but lost in the rapid tiebreak. 

Here is a remarkable attacking win by Firouzja from the 2019 FIDE World Cup. After a quiet opening and middlegame maneuvering, Firouzja lands a knight on f5 on move 23, and the fun begins. Using the bishop pair and an exchange sacrifice, he rips open Black's kingside by move 32, and it was all over.

Nationality Change And The 2019 World Rapid and Blitz Championships

In December 2019, Firouzja informed the Iranian Chess Federation that he wanted to change nationalities. This decision came as a response to the federation's banning their players from participating in the World Rapid and World Blitz championships (done to maintain Iran's stance to avoid playing games against Israeli competition). Firouzja played in the World Rapid and Blitz championships but under the FIDE flag.

He is currently not a member of a chess federation, although the Iranian Chess Federation president has suggested that Firouzja may play under the U.S. or French flag in the future.

Firouzja in 2019
Firouzja in 2019. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Firouzja had a fantastic performance at the World Rapid Championship, scoring 10.5/15 and placing second behind Carlsen—the best result of his young career. He did not disappoint in the World Blitz Championship either, scoring 13.5/21 and placing sixth in the prestigious event.

In the 19th round of the blitz championship Firouzja faced Carlsen, and an unusual situation occurred: Firouzja ran out of time while up three pawns. In the final position Carlsen had only a bishop left. In an online game this would have resulted in a draw, but according to FIDE rules as long as the possibility of a checkmate is present, then the game is not a draw but a loss for the player who has run out of time.

In this controversial blitz game, Firouzja was clearly winning at multiple points. Despite the result, Firouzja outplayed the world champion in this game.

2020 And Beyond

Firouzja ended 2019 with a bang and left the chess world wanting more. At the beginning of 2020, Firouzja played in the Tata Steel Chess tournament as one of 14 world-class participants (including Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Viswanathan AnandAnish Giri, Jorden Van Foreest, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Vladislav Artemiev, Jeffery Xiong, Vladislav Kovalev, Yu Yangi, Nikita Vitiugov and Dubov). Firouzja was leading out of the gate with 2.5/3 before losing round four to Wesley So. Firouzja came back with victories over Giri in round five and Xiong in round seven.

Firouzja in 2020
Firouzja at Tata Steel 2020. Photo: Alina L'Ami/Tata Steel Chess.

In Firouzja's victory over Giri in round five, the game eventually reaches a rook-and-pawn endgame after a very interesting opening. On move 40, Giri decides to exchange one of his doubled h-pawns for the passed e-pawn (trading rooks to achieve). In the resulting king-and-pawn endgame, Giri miscalculates and plays 44...Kf6? instead of 44...Kd6, and Firouzja brings home the full point!

Firouzja was setting the pace with five points after seven rounds. After a draw with Van Foreest in round eight, the chess world's eyes were fixed on the round-nine encounter between Firouzja and Carlsen. This game did not go as well for Firouzja as their previous encounter, and the result was the same—Carlsen won.

The loss to Carlsen was the first of three consecutive losses as Firouzja lost to the eventual winner, Caruana, as well as to the former world champion Anand. He drew his final two games with Vitiugov and Dubov and posted a more than respectable score of 6.5/13, tied for sixth place.

In February 2020, Firouzja entered the Prague Chess Festival's Masters tournament as a last-minute replacement for Wei Yi, who couldn't travel due to the coronavirus. Firouzja played a number of exciting games, finished in the group of players with 5/9, and the defeated GM Vidit Gujrathi in a blitz playoff to clinch the first prize. It was his first major tournament victory, and possibly the first of many to come.

The 16-year-old super GM certainly has the attention of the chess world at this point, and it has been some time since chess has seen such a young talent burst onto the scene.

It is clear that Firouzja's young career is just getting started, and perhaps the most exciting aspect of his accomplishments is the well-rounded nature of his success so far. He is the reigning European Fischer Random Champion and has shown great skill in all competitive time controls. Only time will tell what dazzling future awaits the young super grandmaster.

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