The Top Chess Players in the World

GM Bu Xiangzhi

Bu Xiangzhi
Photo: Maria Emelianova/
Full name
Bu Xiangzhi
Dec 10, 1985 (age 37)‎
Place of birth
Qingdao, Shandong, China



Bu Xiangzhi is a Chinese chess champion and was for a time the youngest GM in history; as of June 2020, he is still the 10th-youngest player to ever become GM. He was also China’s 10th-ever GM.

Bu has been a member of the 2700-rating club off and on since April 2008 and every month since June 2017. That year he beat World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen in both the World Cup and the World Rapid Championship.

Youngest Grandmaster

Bu was born in December 1985 in Qingdao in northeastern China. He progressed extremely rapidly in the late 1990s. In 1998, at 12 years old, he won the under-14 division of the World Youth Championship in Oropesa del Mar, Spain. (Other under-14 winners include GMs Joel Lautier, Veselin Topalov, and Judit Polgar.) But he did not stop there.

In three tournaments in the fall of 1999, Bu achieved all three of his GM norms, two on a late September/early October trip to Hungary and the final norm in the Qingdao Daily Cup (sponsored by his hometown newspaper) during October 18-23. 

Not yet 14 years old, Bu became the first 13-year-old GM in history. Even as of June 2020, only 12 players have become a GM before their 14th birthday. Bu was the 10th youngest in that group. 

In July 2000, Bu was the seventh-highest rated junior player in the world. On the list for players under 20 years old, Bu was 14 at the time, while everyone else in the top 20 had been born by the end of 1983.


Bu did not stop developing when he became a grandmaster. In 2004, he set two personal firsts by winning his national championship and participating in the FIDE World Championship, where he lost in the first round. By 2006, in his third Chess Olympiad, he had climbed to China’s first board as they finished in second place to Armenia.

Bu Xiangzhi 2008
Bu at the 2008 Chess Olympiad. Photo: Georgios Souleidis/Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0.

Bu’s successes continued into 2007 when he advanced to the third round of the FIDE World Cup and won the Blindfold World Cup. 

The latter of these was a six-player blindfold event featuring Bu and fellow GMs Sergey Karjakin, Carlsen, Polgar, Topalov, and Pentala Harikrishna. Bu won easily with a score of +6 -1 =3, good for 21 points in the scoring format of three points for a win and one for a draw. In second place was Karjakin with 17.

The year 2008 was even better. With a first-place finish in Antwerp and a share of first (second after a playoff against GM Hikaru Nakamura), he passed the 2700 “Super GM” threshold for the first time in his career. At that point, Bu was one of the 25 highest-rated players in the world.

Bu played his second World Cup in 2009 but lost in the first round.


Bu finished an undefeated second place at the 2010 Chinese Championship, his best result since the 2004 victory. He has not played in the event since 2013.

In 2017 Bu impressed by defeating Carlsen not once but twice. In the World Cup, after winning 2-0 over GM Diego Flores and 2.5-1.5 against GM Etienne Bacrot, he faced the world champion in the third round and won their first game. A draw in the second game advanced Bu to round four. Unfortunately, he would lose there to GM Peter Svidler, and it is the farthest Bu has advanced in a World Cup event.

Then in December, Bu and Carlsen faced off at the World Rapid Championship. Bu won the matchup as both he and Carlsen finished the event with 10/15, half a point out of a share of first. Bu did not lose a game in the event.

The 2018 Chess Olympiad was a resounding success for the gold-winning Chinese team, and Bu represented his nation at the Olympiad for the first time since 2012. As in the rapid championship that past December, Bu did not lose. Playing on the fourth board, he won five games and drew five for a 7.5/10 score that won him the individual fourth-board bronze.  

In the 2019-20 world championship cycle, Bu played in two of the three events, scoring 5.5/11 at the FIDE Grand Swiss and was eliminated in the first round of the World Cup. The year 2019 also saw blitz success for Bu as he won the IMSA blitz tournament in Hengshui, China, with 14.5 of 22 ahead of GMs Richard Rapport, Dmitry Andreikin, Wang Hao, Vladimir FedoseevLeinier Dominguez Perez, and others.

Style And Outlook

Like many players, Bu exhibited more aggression early in his career, such as in his 2008 game against Karjakin above, and played increasingly positionally as time went on, such as in his 2017 win over Carlsen.

On the June 2020 FIDE rating list, Bu’s 2705 rating places him in the top 40 in the world, and he also has remained in China’s top five. His 2017 wins over Carlsen, his 2018 Olympiad performance, and continued respectable results in 2019 show a player who is still capable of excellent chess in his mid-30s. And he will always be remembered for his record-setting accomplishment as a 13-year-old.

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