The Top Chess Players in the World

IM Zhansaya Abdumalik

Full name
Jansaya Daniyarqyzy Aebdimaelik
Born
Jan 12, 2000 (age 21)‎
Place of birth
Almaty, Kazakhstan
Federation
Kazakhstan
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Bio

Kazakhstani IM Zhansaya Abdumalik is a former child prodigy and one of the youngest rising stars in women’s chess. She has three world youth championships in under-8, under-12, and junior (under-20) girls sections. Her resume also includes a women’s championship of Kazakhstan at the age of 16. Two years later, she completed her final GM norms (now she needs a 2500 rating) and reached the quarterfinals of the 2018 Women’s World Chess Championship.

At the time of publishing in October 2020, Abdumalik sits at the top of FIDE’s top-100 girls list and is already on the women’s top-20 list. Look for her to climb the latter as she transitions from the former due to age. Abdumalik has uncapped potential.

Playing Style

Abdumalik has an aggressive style of play. In the following game, watch how the 17-year-old constantly puts pressure on White’s position, especially down the h-file. Eventually, White’s position crumbles.

And here’s another good example of Abdumalik’s attacking prowess. She plays a quick h4 against the Modern Defense and then, just as the game gets out of the opening, plays a knight sacrifice to take advantage of Black’s undeveloped queenside and weak king. It’s a decisive victory for Abdumalik, who was at the time a 16-year-old playing the 13th highest-ranked woman in the world at the Chess Olympiads.

Early Chess Career (2005 To 2007)

Abdumalik learned how to play chess when she was five years old. At the age of six, she and her brother began attending a chess school. A year later, she began working with IM Nikolay Peregudov.

It’s clear that her training paid off. In January 2007, around her seventh birthday, Abdumalik won her first trophy at a national tournament, according to Kazakhstani magazine EdgeKZ. At the same time, she made a bold prediction to her father: “Dad, I will win the world tournament in one year.

Two World Youth Championship Titles (2008 To 2012)

Her prediction was spot on. Abdumalik took the girls under-8 section of the 2008 World Youth Championships in Vung Tau, Vietnam, with a remarkable 10/11 points. She also won the same section at the Asian Youth Chess Championship.

Abdumalik nearly added a second world youth title to the mix two years later. At the girls under-10 section of the 2010 World Youth Championships, she finished with 9/11 points, sharing first place but ending with the silver medal on count back (tiebreak system: sum of total scores for opponents defeated, plus half of total scores of all opponents tied with). The performance earned the young chess player the WFM title. Later that year, Abdumalik finished 5.5/12 points at a tournament in Moscow where she beat one FM and drew two more with ratings more than 400 points higher—plus five draws against five IMs.

Her second world youth title came one year later. Abdumalik took the girls under-12 section of 2011 with an undefeated 8/9 points. The same year, the 11-year-old had two impressive performances in junior tournaments (junior refers to the under-20 age group), first winning an international junior girls tournament in Indonesia and next finishing in shared first place in the junior division of the ASEAN+ championship. Abdumalik also earned her WIM title that year.

Abdumalik Zhansaya at the 2012 World Junior Championship
Abdumalik Zhansaya at the 2012 World Junior Championship. Photo: A. Kontokanis, CC 2.0.

In 2012, she fared well against strong competition—two GMs, five IMs, a WIM, and a WFM—at the Alushta Summer event. Abdumalik finished in shared second place with an undefeated 7/11 points.

World Junior Girls Runner-Up And National Champion (2013 To 2016)

Abdumalik finished in outright second place to future Women’s World Chess Championship challenger (in 2020) Aleksandra Goryachkina at the World Junior Girls Chess Championship in 2013. The 13-year-old’s performance resulted in her WGM title and her being voted the best girl under 20 years of age at the Annual Asian Chess Excellence Awards. Later that year, she won the Brno Open with an undefeated 7.5/9 points, finishing a full point ahead of seven players, including three FMs and two IMs (one rated 150+ points more than Abdumalik).

In January 2014, all-time great GM Anatoly Karpov visited Almaty, Kazakhstan—Abdumalik’s hometown—to open the Zhansaya Abdumalik Chess Academy. After the opening ceremony, the two played a four-game match. Karpov won the first two rapid games, Abdumalik won the first blitz game, and the second blitz ended in a draw.

The young prodigy managed a solid 5.5/10 points at the Tradewise Gibraltar event in 2014, winning against GM Felipe de Cresce El Debs and drawing against GMs Ziaur Rahman and Anna Muzychuk. Other notable performances that year came at the Qatar Masters, where she defeated three GMs and finished with 5/9 points, and in the women’s section of the Asian Continental Blitz Championship, where Abdumalik finished with the bronze medal.

Zhansaya Abdumalik at the 2015 World Junior Girls Championship
Zhansaya Abdumalik at the 2015 World Junior Girls Championship. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

More bronze medals were in store for Abdumalik at the 2015 World Junior Girls Championship and the 2016 Asian Nations Cup (team event). At the latter competition, she added a silver medal for her performance on board two for Kazakhstan.

Abdumalik captured a national title by finishing with 7/9 points in the women’s 2016 Kazakhstan Chess Championship. Then the 16-year-old WGM went undefeated in the Krystyna Holuj-Radzikowska Women's GM Tournament with 7/9 points and a 2623 tournament performance rating (her rating was 2405 at the time). The field included four IMs and a GM.

World Junior Girls Champion And Pursuing The GM Title (2017 To 2020)

Abdumalik became the girls world junior champion after scoring 9.5/11 points in the 2017 World Junior Championship (Girls). She finished a full point ahead of the field.

The same year, Abdumalik earned her IM title and started the quest for the highest title in chess. Her first GM norm came in sensational fashion at the 2017 World Open in Philadelphia. Abdumalik finished in shared second place, alongside the likes of GMs Le Quang Liem and Jeffrey Xiong, with 7/9 points. With Abdumalik’s first GM norm came her first win against a 2600+ GM, when she beat GM Yaro Zherebukh in the eighth round.

Zhansaya Abdumalik at the 2019 World Team Championship
Zhansaya Abdumalik at the 2019 World Team Championship. Photo: David Llada. 

In 2018, Abdumalik earned the final two GM norms required. She only needs to reach a 2500 rating to qualify for the title. At the Women’s World Chess Championship 2018 knockout tournament, Abdumalik reached the quarterfinals before losing to former women’s world chess champion and GM Mariya Muzychuk.

Present And Future

It seems like only a mere formality for Abdumalik to earn her GM title. All she needs is to reach the 2500 rating to complete the process; look for her to do that once she gets back to playing over-the-board chess (which is currently on hold due to COVID-19).

Another achievement to expect is Abdumalik’s ascension into the elite ranks of women’s chess. Make no mistake that the 20-year-old is already a high-level player, as she ranks 16 on FIDE’s top-100 list (as of October 2020). But more is in store. Consider that at the Lausanne FIDE Women's Grand Prix in March 2020, Abdumalik’s most recent in-person tournament, she finished in clear third place—ahead of top-ranked GMs like Ju Wenjun (the fourth-ranked woman in the world), Mariya Muzychuk (sixth), Anna Muzychuk (seventh), and Harika Dronavalli (ninth).

What is the ceiling for Abdumalik? Remember that at the age of 17, the IM had two youth world titles, a junior world title, and a national women’s championship. The former prodigy and current top-20 women’s chess player could be succeeding against the very best in a relatively short amount of time.

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