GM Wang Hao

Full name
Wang Hao
Born
Aug 4, 1989 (age 31)‎
Place of birth
Harbin, Heilongjiang, China
Federation
China
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Bio

Chinese GM Wang Hao is an elite player who recently shocked the chess world by winning the 2019 FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss, qualifying him for the 2020 Candidates Tournament. Overall, he’s been a bit up-and-down. Wang had a fantastic youth career that culminated in winning the seventh Dubai Open at the age of 16, when he topped several dozen GMs and IMs as an untitled player. He climbed the rankings and became a top-level player until a drop-off in his 20s. Then everything turned around for Wang with his win at the Grand Swiss event.

At the time of publishing, Wang is currently playing in the Candidates Tournament. With a good showing, he could become the challenger to GM Magnus Carlsen’s world title.

Early Chess Career (1995 To 2004)

Wang has an unusual story of how he learned to play chess. When he was six years old, he showed up at a local youth center to learn Xiangqi, or Chinese chess. However, his instructor didn’t show up. That day, Wang learned how to play chess instead, and within a year, he participated in his first tournament.

In the 1999 World Youth Championships, Wang placed third in the under-10 section. His first success would come three years later at the age of 12, when he won the Qingdao Zhongfand Cup. Just three months later, he won gold playing board four with the Chinese team at the under-16 Chess Olympiad. The following year, in 2003, Wang performed so well that in three tournaments, he added 210 rating points, going from 2215 to 2425. In one of those events, the under-14 section of the World Youth Championships, he beat Carlsen.

In July 2004, Wang took gold again as part of the Chinese national team at the under-16 Chess Olympiad. This time, he played on the first board and scored 8/9 points, earning an individual gold medal with a tournament rating performance of 2577. The same month he won the Children of Asia youth tournament held in Russia.

Topping 83 GMs/IMs As An Untitled 16-Year-Old (2005 To 2011)

Wang made headlines throughout the chess world for his performance at the seventh Dubai Open. Terms like “shocking” and “sensational” were used to describe the young untitled player—Wang turned 16 years old during round five—who won a tournament ahead of 53 GMs and 30 IMs.

He scored 7/9 points and earned a 2731 tournament performance rating in the process. Wang started the tournament with a 2484 rating, but pulled ahead of a field with plenty of 2600+ players.

Wang wasn’t done with his remarkable 2005. Following the Dubai Open in April and, before that tournament, a 6.5/9 performance at the Aeroflot Open A2 group, he needed only one more GM norm. It came at the 2005 Malaysian Open where Wang scored 10/11 points and got a tournament performance rating of 2843. Thus, Wang became a GM in 2005 at the age of 16, leapfrogging the FM and IM titles entirely.

Over the next few years, Wang had several notable performances. In 2006, he placed second in the Chinese Men Selective tournament. Wang won the GACC Tournament held at the University of Malaysia in 2007. The same year he won the Selective Tournament for Asian Indoor Games, finished second at the Asian Individual Championship and came in third place at the World Junior Chess Championship. In 2008 he led China to a gold medal and picked up an individual gold medal for his performance on board three at the 15th Asian Team Chess Championship. He also won the 2008 Reykjavik Open on tiebreak over GMs Hannes Hlifar Stefansson and Wang Yue and topped GM Fabiano Caruana by half a point.

Other highlights in this period of Wang’s career include winning the 40th Bosna International Tournament in May 2010, and then, the following month, winning the Chinese Chess Championship on tiebreak over GMs Bu Xiangzhi and Zhou Jianchao. In 2011 Wang assisted Levon Aronian in preparing for the 2011 Candidate Tournament. He helped lead China to silver with a stunning performance at the World Chess Team Championships, where he scored individual gold on board one with 6/9 points and a tournament performance rating of 2854.

Winning Biel Grandmaster Tournament (2012 To 2014)

Wang scored one of the highest-profile wins of his career by taking the Biel Grandmaster Tournament. It represents perhaps the best moment of his career so far.

Part of the reason why is who he topped in the tournament. Wang scored 19 points—the tournament used a special scoring system that awarded three points per win and one point per draw—one point above Carlsen and two points above GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri.

In January 2013, Wang hit the pinnacle of his career thus far. Rated 2752, he was ranked 14 in the world and the top Chinese player. Later that year, at the 2013 Norway Chess tournament, he finished in seventh place but beat GMs Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand. Unfortunately, Wang was about to enter a difficult part of his career.

Absence From Elite-level Chess (2015 To 2018)

Wang experienced a confusing period of his chess career during these years. A couple of years removed from being a 2750+, top-15 player, Wang saw a steep drop.

In 2015 he hovered just above 2700 and vacillated between 35 and 47 in the world rankings. His drop-off was most extreme in January 2017, when he was rated 2670 and ranked 75th in the world.

During this time, he played in open tournaments with some success. In December 2015, he won the fourth Al Ain Classic tournament with a round to spare, scoring 8/9 points, which was 1.5 points ahead of the field. He then took the sixth HDBank Cup in March 2016 with 8/9 points as well.

Wang started to turn things around after hitting the aforementioned low point in January 2017. From that time, the 2670-rated, 75th-ranked player in the world jumped to a rating of 2711, good for 37th in the world, in January 2018. Two wins helped him return—first at the Sharjah Masters Tournament in April 2017 and then at the Asian Continental Championship (edging Bu again on tiebreaks) the next month.

By December 2018, Wang returned as a top-25 player in the world. He finished the year with a 2730 rating that month.

Qualifying For 2020 Candidates With Grand Swiss Victory (2019 To 2020)

After regaining rating points from an odd point in his chess career, it appeared that Wang was destined for more of the same. After all, in March 2019, he won another open tournament (the HD Bank tournament yet again).

It looked like Wang would play in only open tournaments but that was hardly the case. Later in the year, he not only entered the elite tournament but shocked the world by winning the 2019 FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss. The event included 154 of the strongest players in the world, including GMs Carlsen, Caruana, Nakamura, Aronian and many other elite names in chess. He beat Anand in the second-to-last round in 28 moves with the black pieces, which a remarkable feat in itself.

Wang Hao with Isle of Man chief minister Howard Quayle MHK
Winner Wang Hao with Isle of Man chief minister Howard Quayle MHK. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Wang nearly didn’t even play in the tournament. Chess.com reported how he was close to withdrawing because he was tired from the 2019 FIDE Chess World Cup (Wang lost in the third round in a long tiebreak against GM Leinier Dominguez Perez). The Guardian revealed how he even talked about giving up chess.

Nevertheless, Wang stunned the chess world by topping the best players—including the clear best chess player, World Champion Carlsen. The victory punched Wang’s ticket to the FIDE Candidates Tournament (making it the first Candidates with two Chinese players—Wang and GM Ding Liren). If Wang wins, he’ll get to challenge Carlsen for the world championship title.

Present And Future

Wang began the 2020 Candidates Tournament with a win against Ding. On March 26, 2020, the Candidates Tournament was postponed due to Russia's travel restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic. At the halfway point, Wang has a 3.5/7 score and is trailing the leaders by one point. 

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