GM David Navara

Full name
David Navara
Born
Mar 27, 1985 (age 34)‎
Place of birth
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Federation
Czechia
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Bio

David Navara may be the strongest Czech player ever. Not only is he the country’s highest rated player, but he has won nine national titles, which is more than anyone in the tournament’s 114-year history. Navara became an IM at 14 and a GM at 16. At Wijk aan Zee in 2007, he beat Magnus Carlsen and Ruslan Ponomariov the first time he faced them. Later, in 2011, Navara split first place in Wijk aan Zee’s B tournament and reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup, where he lost a won position against finalist Alexander Grischuk. Navara remains an active competitor at the highest level and is one of the top 30 players in the world.

Youth and Junior Career

At just six years old, Navara discovered a chess book by accident and taught himself the rules of the game. Soon, he became engrossed in chess and studied heavily. Masters Miroslav Vanka and Josef Přibyl worked with Navara, and later he was mentored by Czech GMs Luděk Pachman and Vlastimil Jansa. Pachman, who is also a prolific chess author, once said that Navara’s devotion and love for chess was rivaled only by Bobby Fischer.

Navara’s accomplishments back up that sentiment. The same year that Navara became a GM (at the age of 16), his first great achievement came at the 2001 European Team Championship. He won his board with seven out of nine points, beating five GMs and earning a performance rating of 2775. Three years later, in 2004, he won his first Czech championship, scoring eight out of 11 points in a field with eight GMs.

Notable Tournaments

Navara’s accomplishments span blitz/rapid, team, and individual events.

2014 was a banner year for his abilities at the blitz/rapid time control. Navara won the European Blitz Championship with an impressive 19 out of 22 points—a full two points ahead of runner-up Jan-Krzysztof Duda. That year he also won the Czech Blitz Championship and scored 8.5 out of 13 points at the European Rapid Championship.

In team events, he has performed extremely well in Olympiads, national team tournaments, and various leagues alike. Featured results include the 2006 Olympiad, when Navara anchored his team on first board with 8.5 points out of 12 and a win over Peter Svidler. In the 2012 Olympiad, he played second board for Czech Republic, scoring 9.5 out of 11, earning Navara individual gold and a performance rating of 2869. At the league level, he helped team Novoborský ŠK to a first place finish in the Czech Extraliga in 2011-12. His 8.5 out of 10 points came against seven GMs and three IMs.

His individual success is highlighted by nine national championships (2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019). Navara’s latest victory in the Czech Chess Championship gives him two more titles than mentor Luděk Pachman, who is second on the all-time leaderboard for the tournament.

Navara has scored well in individual various tournaments over the years, such as a third place finish at the Reykjavik Open in 2012, and a second place finish in the 2015 Tata Steel Challengers event. However, the biggest moment of his individual career was his showing in the 2011 World Cup. Navara lost in a won position against Alexander Grischuk in the quarterfinals, narrowly missing the opportunity to fight for World Championship contention. Notably, however, Navara cemented his reputation as a polite and fair chess player earlier in the tournament. During the third round, he faced time trouble against Alexander Moiseenko, and, according to Moiseenko, Navara touched his knight when he wanted to move his king. Moiseenko didn’t force Navara to move his knight and get a bad position. Then later on in the endgame, Navara had a clear winning position but decided to offer his opponent a draw. In an interview, Navara gave Moiseenko the draw it so he didn’t risk winning the game unfairly. The story made headlines and the two players were awarded a special fair play prize.

David Navara at 2016 Ultimate Blitz Challenge in St. Louis
David Navara at the 2016 Ultimate Blitz Challenge in St. Louis

Present and Future

As of August 2019, Navara is rated 2724 and is ranked 29th in the world for active FIDE players. He has spent time in the mid-2700s, with a peak rating of 2751 in May 2015. And with a best world ranking of 13 in October 2006, Navara has demonstrated his ability to compete on the highest tier of competitive chess. However, it’s unclear whether he will once again make a run at the top 10.

What is clear is how Navara shouldn’t be overlooked as a strong chess player. He continues to compete against the best of the best. For instance, at the 2019 Gibraltar International Chess Festival, Navara finished with 7 out of 10 points. That was good for sixth place on tiebreakers, ahead of the likes of Wesley So, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Hikaru Nakamura.

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