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Chess: 18-year-old Alireza Firouzja breaks Magnus Carlsen's record


At the age of just 18, Alireza Firouzja took second place in the world chess rankings. His performance is reminiscent of legendary players. Fans are longing for a World Cup duel with Magnus Carlsen.

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Alireza Firouzja: "Watching him takes my breath away"

Photo: ANP / IMAGO

When Alireza Firouzja was asked to take the stage as the "star of the tournament", it was an understatement.

With a laugh, the slim young man went forward and picked up his medal.

The 18-year-old had the silver medal at the France


led the European Cup.

But that applause was his only.

The chess world looked particularly at his last game against the Azerbaijani Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, because history was made here.

Firouzja won after a strong rook final and ended up with eight out of nine possible points, he did not lose a single game.

Tournament performances are calculated in Elo points, Firouzja scored over 3000 points in Slovenia.

These are spheres in which the best players in history move, for example the legendary Bobby Fischer or the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen.

And now also the 18-year-old Firouzja.

With this performance he shot to second place in the live world rankings, as the youngest player in chess history to date, he has more than 2800 Elo points.

The record was previously held by superstar Carlsen.

With 2855 points, the Norwegian is also the only player who is still ahead of Firouzja - his new crown prince.

"This is absolutely incredible," tweeted Susan Polgar, the former women's world champion.

And the former world-class player Nigel Short wrote that Firouzja claims to be "the greatest French player since Alexander Alekhine," the fourth world champion in history.

Ex-world champion Viswanathan Anand, a thoughtful person who is not prone to exaggeration, was blown away.

“Watching him take my breath away.

That's crazy, ”he said on“ chess24 ”.

Before going through to the European Team Championship, Firouzja had already won the important Grand Swiss tournament in Riga at the beginning of the month and qualified for the next candidate tournament. There the challenger for the upcoming world champion will be determined. "I think people are already impatient," Anand said. A World Cup between shooting star Firouzja and Carlsen is eagerly awaited. And chess journalist Tarjei J. Svensen tweeted the hashtag # CarlsenFirouzja2023 very far ahead.

Carlsen is the former posterboy of chess.

He gave the sport a fresh boost in popularity when he rose to become world champion.

For many people he is still the face of the game.

It is obvious that fans want a World Cup duel between Carlsen and Firouzja.

But there is a catch.

Starting next Friday, Carlsen will have to defend his title against a completely different challenger: Jan Nepomnjaschtschi.

The Russian seems to have moved into the background in view of the Firouzja hype.

He's the outsider against Carlsen, but you shouldn't just write him off.

That Firouzja will win the next candidates tournament and then challenge the world champion is realistic given the current performance.

He could then become the youngest world champion in chess history.

Firouzja is a native Iranian, he was born in Babol in 2003 and was one of the country's greatest chess talents.

At the age of just 14 he became a grandmaster, and at the age of 17 he broke the 2700 Elo mark as the second youngest player in history.

The fact that he did not stay in his native country has to do with the conflict between Iran and Israel.

One who remembers Alireza's experience with this conflict well is Frederic Friedel, the founder of the Hamburg software company ChessBase, whose chess programs Firouzja works with.

In 2019 Firouzja was supposed to play against the Israeli Or Bronstein at the chess tournament in Baden-Baden.

But Iran forbids its athletes to compete against Israelis.

The then 15-year-old Alireza did not sit down at the board and lost without a fight.

The boy was deeply affected by the situation at the time, Friedel told SPIEGEL.

That's why he lost the next game miserably.

"When I saw him, he was so depressed," says Friedel.

That's why he wanted to cancel a dinner with Alireza and his father Hamidreza.

But the father insisted on the food.

After a short time, Alireza was thawed, and the evening was still a happy one.

Farewell to Iran

At the end of 2019, Iran completely forbade its chess players from taking part in the world championships in blitz and rapid chess. The then 16-year-old Alireza no longer put up with it, separated from the Iranian federation, played under the neutral flag of the world federation Fide - and won a silver medal behind Carlsen. Firouzja later switched to the French association and also took citizenship. Today he lives with his family in Chartres, a city with around 40,000 inhabitants southwest of Paris.

With his dynamic and energetic style of play, Firouzja caused a sensation more and more often in Europe. But until a few months ago he was not one of the big stars. At the beginning of the year, the then 17-year-old played at the traditional tournament in Wijk aan Zee. During his last game, he and his opponent were asked to make room in the game room for a game of the final. It's as if tennis players at Wimbledon had to move to the next court when the score was 2-1. A decision that the referees might not make today.

Firouzja likes to take the initiative in games.

Ex-world champion Anand praised him in the highest tones on “chess24”: “He is able to win any kind of position.

He is everything one could want in a chess player.

It's phenomenal to watch him. ”His playing style also reflects his character, the teenager once told the specialist magazine“ New in Chess ”.

The young man, who is a force of nature on the board, is rather calm and reserved away from the 64 black and white fields.

On the way to becoming a world champion?

Firouzja wasn't just the star of the EM.

He is the new star of chess.

It seems only a matter of time before he will play for the world title one day.

So far, the young Frenchman has been able to play without great pressure.

That will change in the future, now it is the focus.

How he deals with it remains to be seen.

It is clear that Firouzja will not give up.

"For me, chess is a game I can never stop playing," he said last after his victory at Grand Swiss: "Once you've learned chess, you can't stop."

The competition can see this as a threat.

Source: spiegel

All sports articles on 2021-11-22

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