GM Jeffery Xiong

Full name
Jeffery Xiong
Born
Oct 30, 2000 (age 20)‎
Place of birth
Plano, Texas (US)
Federation
United States
Profiles

Rating

Bio

American GM Jeffery Xiong has completed an impressive career as an elite junior chess player. For starters, he’s the third-youngest U.S. player to qualify for the grandmaster title. His array of accomplishments spans winning the world under-10 championship in 2010, taking the world junior championship in 2016, and putting the chess world on notice as the 31st seed at the Chess World Cup by upsetting top-tier GMs Anish Giri and Jan-Krzysztof Duda.

Xiong’s career is just beginning. At the time of publishing in June 2020, he’s still classified as a junior (under 20 years old). And if it’s any indication of Xiong’s potential, he’s the second-highest-rated junior in the world behind only GM Alireza Firouzja. There’s no doubt that Xiong has an extremely bright future.

Playing Style

“He has a very solid style, very mature chess,” GM Garry Kasparov told Chess.com after Xiong took the 2016 World Junior Championship. It’s surprising for a player so young, yet it seems to fit. He’s comfortable in seemingly equal positions, and he makes the most out of them, even against the best players in the world as illustrated in the following game against GM Magnus Carlsen.

“I'm amazed about the maturity of his game,” GM Yasser Seirwan said about Xiong after the 2016 World Junior Championship. “We are all used to associating young players with romantic attacking games. Tactics being the dominant feature. With Jeffery I see a well-roundedness. He enjoys playing long games. He keeps his nerves in double-edged positions.”

A great example of how Xiong maintains his nerves came in a matchup against GM and five-time U.S. champion Gata Kamsky. The 15-year-old manages to defend a dangerous onslaught from the much more experienced player.

Early Chess Career (2005 To 2014)

Xiong learned how to play chess when he was five years old when he noticed a friend playing by himself at a birthday party and Xiong decided to join him. Later he joined a school chess camp to get more involved in chess, and, after beating many of his peers easily, he quickly realized he might have a special talent for the game.

He was right, of course. Xiong played in his first tournament at seven, became an expert when he was nine years old and captured the FM title a year later at the 2010 World Youth Chess Championships. There he narrowly missed winning a world title as the runner-up in the under-10 category.

In 2012, Xiong took part in a new program, Young Stars, which is devoted to help children enhance their skills in chess. Young Stars is run by Michael Khodarkovsky, president of the Kasparov Chess Foundation (he’s also the FIDE Vice President, Presidential Board Member and Senior Trainer), and Xiong is one of the many American chess prodigies who has thrived in the system. He received coaching from Hungarian GMs Alexander Chernin and Gabor Kallai with two training sessions a year from Kasparov himself, who has a strong argument for being the best chess player of all time.

Xiong earned his three IM norms and then reached the required 2400 rating in March 2014 to receive the title. Later that year, he tied for first in the 2014 Dallas Open with 5/7 points.

Becoming One Of The Youngest GMs In History (2015 To 2018)

A year after winning the IM title, Xiong set his sights on the prestigious grandmaster title. The young teenager’s first two GM norms came in 2014 with the final one earned a year later in impressive fashion.

At the Chicago Open in May 2015, Xiong stunned the field—which included 24 grandmasters—by winning first place outright. His final win came against the top-seeded Cuban GM Lazaro Bruzon Batista. It clinched not only the tournament but Xiong’s final GM norm that made history.

Xiong became the second-youngest GM in American history behind GM Samuel Sevian and the 17th youngest GM ever. He’s now the fourth-youngest GM in American history (accounting for GMs Awonder Liang and Wesley So) and 24th on the list of the youngest chess grandmasters in history. Xiong was 14 years, six months and 25 days old at the time he became a GM.

The chess prodigy was the highest-rated player in the world under the age of 16 in 2016, and he wasn’t finished setting records. First, however, Xiong scored two impressive wins by topping both the 2016 U.S. Junior Closed Championships and the Capablanca Memorial (Premier). Later that year in August, the newly crowned U.S. junior champion would again flirt with history.

It happened when Xiong won the World Junior Championship in 2016 and became the youngest player in 28 years to win the event. The 15-year-old simply dominated the field. Xiong scored 10.5/13 points and took the gold medal with one round to spare. GM Vladislav Artemiev came in second a full point behind Xiong.

Jeffery Xiong vs Chithambaram Aravindh
Jeffery Xiong vs. Chithambaram Aravindh. Photo: World Juniors.

“I'm very happy and very proud of Jeffery for winning and for doing it in such overwhelming fashion,” Kasparov told Chess.com. “It's a long and rowdy event, but he showed his best qualities throughout and simply dominated. His progress over the last year or so has been remarkable. He's been part of [the Young Stars] program for four or five years and honestly, I thought he was getting a bit stuck for a while. It sounds silly to call a 15-year-old a late bloomer, but he really exploded last year.”

The next big win for Xiong came when he took the Saint Louis Spring Classic 2018. He went undefeated in the round-robin tournament with 10 GMs and finished one-and-a-half points ahead of the field. His tournament performance rating was an eye-opening 2819.

Finally, Xiong had a strong showing at the 2018 Chess.com Isle of Man International. He finished in a large three-way tie with big names such as GMs Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Grischuk, Hikaru Nakamura and Wang Hao for third behind GMs Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Arkadij Naiditsch. To say it was an elite event would be an understatement. In addition to those players, GMs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Viswanathan Anand and Sergey Karjakin finished behind Xiong in a large tie for 10th place.

Vladimir Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura, Wang Hao, Baskaran Adhiban, Jeffery Xiong, Gawain Jones, Alexander Grischuk and organizer Alan Ormsby
Places 3-10 together. Vladimir Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura, Wang Hao, Baskaran Adhiban, Jeffery Xiong, Gawain Jones, Alexander Grischuk and organizer Alan Ormsby. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Upsetting Elite Players In Chess World Cup (2019 To 2020)

Xiong made it to the finals of the 2019 Junior Speed Chess Championship after beating the number-two seed, GM Parham Maghsoodloo, 14.5-10.5 in the semifinals. That put the number-three-seeded American against the top seed, GM Wei Yi, for the finals. Their match ended in a 13.5-13.5 tie, and four additional overtime games didn’t end decisively. Wei won the armageddon game to win the match and take the junior speed championship.

Still only 18 years old, Xiong’s next surprise following the Isle of Man tournament came at the Chess World Cup 2019. Seeded 31st in the 128-player knockout tournament, he was the lowest seed to reach the final eight players.

His first major upset came in the third round against Giri, who was rated second in the event and has been ranked as high as third in the world. They went to tiebreaks, and the American teenager edged the Dutch superstar in a complicated tactical encounter.

Xiong accomplished another major upset in the next round. He faced Duda, a 22-year-old who has been ranked as high as 12th in the world. Xiong upset the young Polish superstar in tiebreaks, taking down the tournament’s 18th seed. The remarkable tournament came to an end for Xiong in the quarterfinals, however, when he was defeated by the eventual winner, GM Teimour Radjabov.

Present And Future

Xiong's second place at the 2020 U.S. Championship, with a marvelous 8.5/11 score, was a recent example of his incredible talent. He should become more of a household name in the chess world if he keeps progressing. Don't be surprised if he’s a regular at top-level chess events in the future. 

Jeffery Xiong at 2018 Tata Steel
Jeffery Xiong at 2018 Tata Steel. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

It’s clear that Xiong has a lot of potential. After taking the chess world by surprise with impressive performances the past nine years or so, perhaps he can take that next step by entering the world’s top 15 or 20 players. He has plenty of time to get there.

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