Alireza Firouzja is the player of the moment for many chess fans. The 16-year-old and his father self-exiled from Iran because its policy of barring games against Israeli opponents  threatened to derail his career.

They now live in Paris, and results have justified the decision. He was silver medallist behind the world champion Magnus Carlsen at the world rapids in Moscow in December, led in the early rounds at Wijk aan Zee in January before losses to the top seeds, and last week, despite playing unevenly in several games, took the Prague Masters by a slim margin. He tied with four others on 5/9 then won the speed play-off from the puzzle diagram.

Historic parallels are few. Garry Kasparov trounced his rivals at Banja Luka 1979 when just 16. Bobby Fischer’s first big win came at Mar del Plata 1960 aged 17, while Carlsen was 18 when he won at Pearl Spring 2009 in China, though this has been called the best ever teenage performance.

A caution. The last talent hailed as a potential Carlsen challenger was Wei Yi, at 15 the youngest to reach the elite 2700 rating. Several years on, the Chinese player has yet to reach the next landmark of 2750.


Vidit Gujrathi v Alireza Firouzja, Prague 2020. Victory virtually sealed first prize for the 16-year-old. Can you work out his three-move sequence that led to mate or decisive material gain?

Click here for solution

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article