GM Kirill Alekseenko

Full name
Kirill Alexeyevich Alekseenko
Born
Jun 22, 1997 (age 23)‎
Place of birth
Vyborg, Russia
Federation
Russia
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Bio

Kirill Alekseenko is a young Russian GM who earned his wild card to the 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament after taking third place at FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss in 2019.

Early Life And Career (2006 To 2015)

Alekseenko learned the rules of chess from his grandfather when he was four years old and later received training from Vyborg chess champion Sergey Baliakin. In 2006 Alekseenko's family made a strategic move to Saint Petersburg, the home city of many GMs, from world champions Mikhail Botvinnik and Boris Spassky to contemporary 2700+ club members Peter Svidler, Nikita Vitiugov, Maxim Matlakov and Vladimir Fedoseev.

Alekseenko entered the Olympic reserve school with the Mikhail Chigorin chess club and came under the guidance of IM Vladimir Shushpanov, who helped him to become the U10 European champion in 2007, and IM Andrey Lukin, the former coach of Svidler, the eight-time Russian Chess Champion.

Under this tutorship Alekseenko grew steadily and became the U16 Saint Petersburg champion at the age of 12. In 2011 he won the Saint Petersburg rapid championship among adults. In December 2011, he became the U14 world champion in Caldas Novas, Brazil (ahead of GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda and GM Grigory Oparin).

In 2012 he scored all three GM norms, but his rating was not high enough to get the title, and it took him two more years to complete this step.

Alekseenko in 2013. Photo from his page on VK, a Russian online social media and networking service.

Adult Career (2015-2018)

In 2015 Alekseenko won the 23rd Mikhail Chigorin's Memorial in Saint Petersburg, where he was ranked number 19. As a new GM, he scored 7.5/9 and had better tiebreaks than GM Chanda Sandipan and GM Dmitry Kokarev.

In 2016 the 24th edition of the same traditional tournament was even stronger, and Alekseenko was ranked number 27 on the starting list, but he took clear first with 8/9 and a 2804 performance, a half-point ahead of GMs Evgeny Romanov, Gata Kamsky and Sergey Volkov.

In 2017 Alekseenko was ranked number 16, but won the Mikhail Chigorin's Memorial for the third time in a row with better tiebreaks after sharing first with GMs David Paravyan, S.P. Sethuraman and Alexey Sarana (all 7.5/9). Winning three consecutive times in tournaments where the winner is not a favorite is rare in chess, but as said in a Russian proverb, "At home even the walls help." 

Alekseenko started 2018 by winning the 47th edition of the Rilton Cup in Stockholm and was immediately invited to play for the Stockholm Snowballs in the second edition of the PRO Chess League, where he scored brilliantly +12=2-2. Next year the Snowballs moved to Baden-Baden, and Alekseenko was instrumental in the team's qualification for the Final Four in San Francisco, scoring +15=1-7 in the regular season and the playoff.

At the end of 2018, Alekseenko won the European Club Cup with the "Mednyi Vsadnik" club from Saint Petersburg and scored +3=3 on board six. 

The Road To Candidates

The year 2019 has been the best one in Alekseenko's career so far. In January he was ranked number 28 at the Gibraltar Chess Festival. After eight rounds he shared first with GM David Navara and GM Vladislav Artemiev; however, a loss to GM Maxim Vachier-Lagrave in the penultimate round spoiled his finish, but the tournament was still a success.

In the summer, Alekseenko played well in the Russian Higher League and Turkish team championship, making his first appearance among the top 100 players in the world and being ranked number 72 on the August 2019 FIDE rating list. In August he played for the first time in the Russian Championship Superfinal and scored 5.5/11.

Alekseenko's rise started in Khanty-Mansiysk, where he was ranked 49 among 128 participants. He defeated GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (1½-½) and IM Johan-Sebastian Christiansen (2½-1½) and swept GM Pentala Harikrishna (2-0). In round four he drew both classic games with the first seed, GM Ding Liren, but lost on tiebreaks.

Alekseenko beats Pentala Harikrishna at the World Cup. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

In October at the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss, Alekseenko was ranked number 38 and remained undefeated in this strong tournament: +4=7. He spent the second half of the tournament in the leading group, held GMs Magnus Carlsen, Wesley So, Viswanathan Anand and Vitiugov to draws and defeated GM Sergey Karjakin. Alekseenko finished half a point behind the winners GM Wang Hao and GM Fabiano Caruana and was equal with GMs Levon Aronian, David Anton Guijarro, Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Vitiugov, besting them on better "average rating of opponents" tiebreaks.

During this tournament, Alekseenko met Carlsen over the board for the first time and said: "If I've ever called anyone my chess idol, it was Magnus. After our game I've realized that he is human and playable." 

 

Alekseenko after defeating Karjakin at FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss. Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Shortly after the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss, Alekseenko made his first appearance on the Russian national squad and won gold at the European Team Championship with a decisive victory for the team in the final round of the competition. After this, his rating reached a career high of 2715 on the November 2019 FIDE rating list.

At the end of the year, after Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi qualified for the Candidates via FIDE Grand Prix, Alekseenko remained the only Russian player eligible for a wild card from the organizers (other eligible GMs were Vachier-Lagrave, Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov). The sponsors had made it clear that their wild card would be awarded to a local player and kept their promise

Present And Future

In March 2020, Alekseenko participates in the 2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia, after several months of rest and preparation. Rumors have it that he has been assisted by several friendly GMs, including Svidler himself.

The youngest and lowest-rated at the Candidates, Alekseenko is the wild card both in name and in substance. Whatever his tournament result, he will get the invaluable experience of competition at the highest level. 

On March 26, 2020, the Candidates tournament was postponed due to Russia's travel restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the halfway point, Alekseenko has a 2.5/7 score and is trailing the leaders by two points.

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