Did you guess who the (future) grandmaster was?

3/12/2010 – A week ago we published a picture of a very young chess player who was destined to become a world class grandmaster. Most of our readers guessed instantly who it was – especially the lips gave him away. But going through the clues we unhelpfully provided, readers had many a doubt created in their minds. Read about it in our feedback and find out what Nigel Short was doing in Hamburg.

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Who is this grandmaster?

We asked you to guess who the cute young child in the photo is.

Once again we provided you with some more or less helpful clues:

  • He started playing chess at an early age – in fact the photo above is probably the first of him with a chessboard. It is the earliest one we could find in his family album.

  • He became an IM at fourteen and a grandmaster at the sensationally young age of nineteen. Until very recently he was the top player in his country. Actually he had been eclipsed for a decaded by Michael Adams, but at the end of last year he overtook his younger rival. In the March 2010 FIDE list Mickey is back in first place in the UK.

  • He is from Europe, and in spite of the fact that his compatriots speak a different language he is perfectly fluent in English. He live in Greece, although he still has his English citizenship. People around him, whom we somewhat carelessly called his "compatriots" (many thanks for the precise definitionthat some readers sent us) do not speak English as fluently as he does.

  • He has travelled extensively as a chess grandmaster, visiting a total of 89 countries. He counted them. Really: eighty-nine in all! Only surpassed by Florencio Campomanes.

  • He has played against and beaten twelve world champions: Smyslov, Tal, Spassky, Petrosian, Karpov, Kasparov, Khalifman, Ponomariov, Kasimdzhanov, Anand, Kramnik and Topalov. He beat Viktor Korchnoi in 1976, Tigran Petrosian in 1978 and drew Sammy Reshevsky in 1986. He beat Korchnoi at the age of ten in a simultaneous exhibition, and Petrosian at the age of twelve, also in a simul. All the others were in classical one-on-one over-the-board play.

  • He has received training from Boris Spassky and Garry Kasparov. Boris is an old friend who has occasionally trained him. Garry gave him the lesson of a lifetime in 1993. Their training session was generally billed as a World Championship match. Sorry for that one, Nigel, but it did throw Garry Kimovich off. He recognised the rest in milli-seconds, but stumbled over this fake clue.

  • Last summer he retired to a plantation where he grows fruit for commercial produce. Actually he has a summer house near a beautiful beach in Greece. There are olive trees in the garden, and the fruit is harvested every year to produce olive oil. He retires to the summer house for a holiday from chess a couple of times a year.

Well, almost all readers guessed who the future grandmaster was. Nigel Short of England. We must confess that this was not the first time we used him to puzzle our readers. And probably not the last.

Frederic Friedel

Nigel Short – Greatest Hits

Nigel spent a week in Hamburg, recording two DVDs for ChessBase, and getting up-to-speed in Playchess lectures. Yes, you can expect to see him regularly on our chess server, commenting on the events in the chess world.


One of the first duties of a prominent visitor of ChessBase in Hamburg...


... signing one of the posters that decorate the walls of the offices


Before the DVD recordings: a little preparation on his new HP notebook


Nigel just before the start of a recording in the ChessBase studio in Hamburg


On Friday evenings we have TV ChessBase – with André Schulz and IM Oliver Reeh


Nigel was one of the most popular guests in the TV show


Certainly one of the funniest and most animated

The ChessBase DVDs "Nigel Short – Greatest Hits" will appear in the near future.


Reader feedback

Once again we can only bring you a selection of the hundreds of letters we received in reaction to our "who is this future GM" puzzle. The selection is done semi-automatically, so if you do not find your letter amongst those given below it does not reflect on our opinion of the quality. Unless your letter was gratuitously rude, marred by adventurous orthography or – always an immediate deal-breaker – written entirely in CAPS.

Kajetan Wandowicz, Wroclaw, Poland
I would think it's Short, if not for a small detail. He was a prodigy, GM at 19, is now English No. 2, has played in many countries, beat Korchnoi as a child in a simultaneous exhibition... Even the boy in the photo looks Short-ish. Since I heard Short had an olives plantation, I could even make sense from "Last summer he retired to a plantation where he grows fruit for commercial produce.", which, given Frederic Friedel's gift for riddles, could simply mean that he spent holidays at his plantation. However, unlike the verb "retire", the noun "compatriot" is not known to me to have a second meaning and that's where I must admit defeat: Short's compatriots speak very fluent English, and his living in Greece doesn't change that. Still, I'll assume my far-from-perfect English is to blame and the sentence actually can mean the Greeks, so I'll go for Short, but I won't bet a penny on it. Waiting for the answer next week!

Gerardo Vázquez, Mexico City, Mexico
It's Nigel Short! He became IM at 14, GM at 19 and beat Petrosian as a 12-year-old! (Apparently, Petrosian got pretty angry)

Jan Olderdissen, Simi Valley, USA
Bah – too easy. The lips are a dead give-away. Also the reference to being a top player in an English speaking country until recently. Just a simple matter to check Wikipedia to confirm that Nigel Short did indeed make GM at the ripe old age of 19. And everybody knows his Greek countrymen don't speak English as well as he does.

Susan, US Virgin Islands
At first glance the picture was a young image of Nigel Short. What threw me for a few moments was your sentence: He has received training from Boris Spassky and Garry Kasparov. But, I suddenly realized that even I have received such training through analysis of their games. Nigel, you were such an adorable child.

Vernon Walker, Canada
Sneaky clues indeed! I'm pretty sure that's Nigel Short. The slightly misleading hints: Until very recently he was the top player in his country – Mickey Adams had surpassed him in rating a while back, but Short's rating briefly rose past Adams' last year. I take it from the clue that Adams has recently regained the lead. He is from Europe, and in spite of the fact that his compatriots speak a different language he is perfectly fluent in English - Well, being English of course he has a perfect command of the English language! The tricky thing is that he has been living in Greece (if I'm not mistaken) for some time, so his "compatriots" are his fellow Greeks. He has received training from Boris Spassky and Garry Kasparov - Had no idea about training from Boris Spassky, and I don't believe him and Kasparov ever collaborated. I'm guessing the "training" received from Kasparov refers to their World Championship match!

Vinod Vishwanath, Bangalore, India
The answer, I think, is GM Nigel Short. It is no surprise he speaks fluent English, despite living in Greece, since he is an Englishman! The clue was a clever one, though.

Kevin Cotreau, Merrimack, NH USA
I know who it is, but when I first looked at the question and picture, I immediately thought "Judit Polgar". Nigel, you made such a cute little girl. :)

Fred Lucas, Netherlands
Hi Frederic, is it this guy?


Photo by Fred Lucas

Osvaldo Téllez Almirall, Edomex, Mexico
I have no doubts, the future grandmaster appeared on photo is Nigel Short, english born and currently living in Greece. btw, a nice man and a gentleman. I respect him as a great player and is always instructive to study his matches.

Stein Kulseth
Surely it is Nigel Short. The misleading fact about his compatriots not speaking flawless English is explained by the fact that Short is currently residing in Greece. (Although, come to think of it, as we are comparing with Short's mastery of the English language, it might apply if he still lived in the UK.)

Bhalchandra Thatte, Oxford, U.K.
Nigel Short? But I must admit that a few of your clues puzzle me. Trained by Kasparov – did Short work with Kasparov for a match with someone? Retired to a plantation, win over Smyslov in 1976 – perhaps in a simul? Short must have been about ten in 1976. But this kid does seem to have the style of Nigel Short.

Brian Hayden,Ireland
Easy peasy (should I say "easy olivesy" instead?) - step forward (what's the Greek word for Mr?) Nigel Short.

Rajesh V, Seattle, USA
compatriot: – noun 1.a native or inhabitant of one's own country; fellow countryman or countrywoman. – adjective 2.of the same country. "As you probably know by now we are a bit sneaky with our hints. Naturally they are all true, but sometimes a little bit misleading." Well, in this case, it is NOT true. Interesting hints, nevertheless. Isn't the picture itself a big give-away? Nigel Short. And "Last summer he retired to a plantation where he grows fruit for commercial produce". Is that retire-retire or a vacation/break at the plantation? And thanks for the great puzzles! Very enjoyable.

Geir Sune Tallaksen Østmoe, Kongsberg, Norway
Recognized primarily by his mouth in the picture: Nigel Short. Knowing he was a prodigy strengthened my suspicion, and I became 100% certain when googling and learning about the exact ages he became IM and GM, and learning that he defeated Korchnoi at the age of ten – in a simultaneous. Sneaky misleading hint about his Greek compatriots!

Ramón Jiménez, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Nigel Short, of course :) Great set of clues there – someone who hasn't fully enjoyed your reports on this colorful GM may forget that he actually lives in Greece these days, growing olives and stunning the world with his penchant for unusual English words, uncompromising comment on the chess world and its inhabitants, and of course, quite enjoyable chess. Everything else failing, the very particular curvature of his upper lip has not changed a bit in all this time (I'm saying this quite literally - no reference to any kind of English saying about upper lips here).

Jonathan Paxman, Perth, Australia
All the obscure clues in the world won't help you when Nigel Short has such distinctive lips! I assumed it was him even before looking at the clues! IM at 14, GM at 19, he defeated Korchnoi in a simul aged 10. I can only assume that the comment about his being "perfectly fluent in English" is a remark about his command of some of the more obscure corners of the English language, and perhaps his impeccable accent.

Casper Dahl Rasmussen, Copenhagen
My guess is Nigel Short. The picture clearly says "Nigel" to me, but the "helpfull clues" were rather disturbing... Beating Korchnoi in '76 was simul I guess, and "training" with Kasparov was the match in '93???

Seena Daneshvar, Tehran, Iran
You guys really think you are clever, huh?! He's Nigel Short! And I don't think the fact that he lives in Greece makes the Greeks his compatriots. He plays with the British flag in tournaments and on the Internet...

Duncan Vella, Swieqi, Malta
Well, it's pretty obvious that it's Nigel Short. The pic was enough of a clue. Although I didn't know that he retired to concentrate on plantation. I hope he is not quitting chess as he is quite a character for the chess scene.

Derek Jones, Aylesbury, England
Too easy. Nigel Short is one of those people whose appearance changed remarkably little between childhood and manhood. You should have produced a photo of Nigel as a baby to make it more difficult. I remembered Korchnoi's 1976 simultaneous exhibition but had forgotten Petrosian's in London in 1978. The comment about Nigel speaking English would have fooled only those who do not know he lives in Greece.

Navin Sawalani, Madison, WI, USA
It's Nigel Short!

Lionel Laffranchise, Bray en Val, France
I guess it is Nigel Short. Thanks for the puzzle.

M Jagadish, Pune, India
Nigel Short, of course! You could add a couple more hints ;)

Wade Caughlin, Grande Prairie, Canada
I think it might be Nigel Short??

Shiv Mathur, Mumbai, India
Surely Nigel Short? After all, he DOES speak fluent English !!

Steve Goodman, Falls Church, VA, United States
This has to be Nigel Short.

Peter Ballard, Australia
Nigel Short?

Elvin Solomon, Australia
Surely, None other than Nigel Short.

Ralvin, Manikam, Selangor, Malaysia
Haha, its unmistakable, Nigel Short, surely!!

John Moncada, Pto cabezas, Nicaragua
Is the picture of Nigel Short

John Moncada, Pto cabezas, Nicaragua
Is the picture of Bent Larsen.

Royce Campbell, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Well, this is obviously a "short" note.

Lu Tahmazyan, Los Angeles
My guess would be Nigel David Short.

Mark Vogan, Houston, TX, USA
This kid so clearly looks like Nigel Short that I will not even research the clues. It must be Short.

Ted Teodoro, River Ege, USA
Nigel Short, kinda obvious...

Alok Nagdev, Los Angeles
He was the top grandmaster in his country for the last but one FIDe list... did I say that was for a very short period of time? He is eloquent in Queens English and contrary to his name has had a long lasting impression on the chess world.

Danny Ramos, Paranaque, Philippines
I would like to guess whose picture it was. It was GM Nigel Short when he was still a kid. Do I get a prize if I got it right? Just asking.

Bobby Bower, Nassau, Bahamas
It's obviously Nigel Short. Our champ!

Zhigen Lin, Melbourne, Australia
The player in "Can you guess who this (future) grandmaster is?" is Nigel Short! I could see the resemblance in facial features.

Wendel Lopez, San Pedro Sula, Honduras C.A.
El nino es Nigel Short de Inglaterra. Espero no equivocarme esta vez... Saludos!!

Benjamin, Brandt, Saginaw, USA
It is Short, but didn't you already do him before? By the way, great site! I check it almost every day.

Aben Rudy, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
That's Nigel Short. No doubt about it!

Colin Reed, Birmingham, England
You asked us to guess who the child is in the photo? I say it is Nigel Short.

Nick Beqo, Vancouver, Canada
Nigel Short?

Markus Bindig, Reinsdorf
Hello there! Your clues are pretty obviously pointing to Nigel Short. Will that insight earn me an autograph?

Shanker Raman, Calgary, Canada
Nigel Short.

Pat Parimi, Boston, USA
No clues are necessary for this puzzle. The boy in the photo is Nigel Short. He hasn't changed much since his childhood.

Jonathan Kenny, Virginia, USA
It's Nigel Short.

Ivan Smilianov, Peshtera, Bulgaria
This is the photo of Nigel Short. Now he is maybe 100 kg, but his mouth is the same as on the photo. :)

Karlo Bala Jr., 21000 Novi Sad, Serbia
Looking at eyes and mouth, I think it is Nigel Short ;)

Lawrence Henderson, Nevada USA
It is Nigel Short

Carsten Hansen, Hackensack, USA
From the text it seems like and from the picture it looks like, it can only be Nigel Short.

Khondakar Dhaka, Bangladesh
He is GM Nigel Short

John Moncada, Pto Cabezas, Nicaragua
Is the picture of IVANCHUCK

Béla János, Putyinger
Short

Flemming Høgh, Frederiksberg Copenhagen
I guess its Nigel Short.

Andra Cimina, Athens, Greece
If it is not Nigel Short it should be his twin brother:)

Alexei Kulashko, Auckland, New Zealand
Alexandr Belyavskiy

Sundararajan Ganesan, Pudukkottai, India
The child in the photo is Nigel Short, former challenger to Kasparov. Nigel now mostly lives in Greece with his family. Greece is after all in Europe and Nigel, being an Englishman, speaks flawless English!

Ed Zator, Toronto, Canada
Nigel Short?

Brian Karen, Levittown, USA
That is GM Ivan Sokolov.

Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Buenos Aires
I think he is Yasser Seirawan...

Fenisevic Dragan, Croatia
Nigel Short

Bona Dilo, Botswana
It looks more like Nigel Short. In fact, it should be Nigel Short. He was top rated Brit before he was surpassed by Adams. Has he retired? This is definitely the misleading part.

Gerald Aycardo, Cebu City, Philippines
That cute short boy is Nigel Short!

Johan Geyser, Johannesburg, South Africa
The photo of the youngster who became a grandmaster and beat 12 world champions must be Nigel Short. I guess he speaks flawless English in Greece!

Yigal Nochomovitz, Ph.D., New York, NY
Appears to be a young Nigel Short

Samuel Stolpe, Falls Church, VA, USA
Mr. Friedel, it is the same GM who you told me last week complained of losing to "some Azeri punk" on Playchess, who later turned out to be Gashimov. You can tell by the shape of his upper lip: it's Short.

Kieran Delamotte, France
Very nice quizz! The boy is in fact Nigel Short who is certainly as outstanding in chess as in English! However, he's still at the top :-) Please keep on providing us with his comments!!

Dag Standnes, Bergen, Norway
I guess the boy on the picture is GM Nigel David Short from England.

William Taylor, Bridgwater, England
I think it must be Nigel Short – although I've never seen pictures of him that young I recognised him. The "fact that his compatriots speak a different language" puzzled me for a moment, before I remembered that he lives in Greece. A quick google revealed that he became a GM at 19, so I'm confident that I'm right without investigating the other clues.

Johan Hut, Baarn, Holland
The child in the photo is Nigel Short. He hasn't changed much, only his hair is shorter now.

John Kunz, Watetown, NY USA
Nigel Short

Alfred Acaling III, Cadiz City
Its easy even if w/o hints, the first time I saw the pic (2sec) I knew that it was Nigel Short, the lips is a giveaway.

Rico Moreno, Honolulu, HI, USA
Nigel Short ...

Gerry Smith, Dublin
Nigel Short, he has not changed a bit!

Manny Balidio, Waipahu, Hawaii (USA)
I would like to guess the name of the grandmaster prodigy pictured as a child in your article. I believe that child is Nigel Short as a child!

Thiamhee, Lai, Penang, Malaysia
The lips, at least, looks like Nigel Short, though the hints of him getting trained by Kasparov is very dubious to say the least.

Pedro Silva, Coimbra, Portugal
It's definetely Nigel Short. The clue that gives it away is the one about his compatriots' language. And after a few reaearch, you can find the simul where he beat Korchnoi and so on. Nice puzzle.

Bolivar Gonzalez, Brazil
GM Nigel Short (ENG)

Cosmin Cretu, Romania
Nigel Short

Jon Crumiller, Princeton New Jersey USA
Nigel Short.

Jamshid Begmatov, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
The photo is enough to identify Nigel, don't you think?

Jacob, Portukalian, Los Angeles, CA
It is clearly Nigel Short. I identified him immediately from the photo. His compatriots are now Greeks, even though he was born in England. All the other facts line up with his wikipedia page.

Natan, Estivallet, Porto Alegre, Brazil
I think he is Nigel Short. The picture very much looks like one that can be found in the book "Play better chess", Leonard Barden, 1980.

Woody Jackson, Kent, UK
Nigel Short

John Rose, Media, USA
Either Nigel short has dual citizenship or his witty vocabulary enables him to fit your description. Such a British face.

Ilya Krasik, Boston, USA
Undeniably the boy on the picture is Nigel Short. The "speaks perfect english" clue sealed the deal there, but anyhow he looks like Short 100%.

Andre, Cardon, S. Paulo, Brazil
Nigel Short is the child grandmaster!

Juan, Beserra, Brazil
He looks a lot like Artur Yusupov! Am I right about my guess?


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