Alireza Firouzja, the teenage grandmaster who quit his native Iran for France due to Tehran’s policy of punishing players who met Israeli opponents, scored his greatest success yet last weekend when the 18-year-old won the 108-player Fide world Grand Swiss in Riga.

Firouzja qualified for the eight-player 2022 Candidates tournament whose winner will play for the global crown later next year.  He becomes the third youngest Candidate ever, after Bobby Fischer and Magnus Carlsen at 15 in 1958 and 2005, and a few weeks younger than Boris Spassky in 1955.

His world ranking has surged to No 5 in recent weeks, two places behind the US No1 Fabiano Caruana, who won the 2018 Candidates, lost the title match narrowly to Carlsen, and has now also qualified for another attempt.

David Howell narrowly missed out on a surprise success. The 30-year-old from Sussex  won four in a row to share the lead with two rounds left but  lost to Firouzja in the penultimate round. It was still a career-best performance for the three-time British champion and internet commentator.

Meanwhile, Carlsen and his current challenger, Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi, are preparing for their 14-game, $2m, championship series which starts in Dubai on November 26. Carlsen is quoted at a prohibitive 1-4 on. He likes to relax with one-minute bullet games, and “adopted” a US speed expert by winning ten in a row.

Puzzle 2444

Gao Rui v Victor Shen, Reykjavik 2015.  Can you find White’s winning move? He has a strong attack, but Black hopes to turn the tables by Qf1+.

Click here for solution

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