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Record-breaking mini-grandmaster?

5/16/2002 – Can you imagine that you may soon have to address the boy in this picture respectfully as "grandmaster"? 12-year-old Sergei Karjakin (learn to pronounce it now: car-yack-kin!) has just gained his second GM norm and looks poised to gain his title well before his 13th birth in January 2003. That would make him the only person in the world to become a grandmaster and second a world champion before reaching his teens! More
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Youngster Grandmasters

Child prodigies are a well-known phenomenon in chess. The great Capablanca learned the game at four, and was one of the strongest players in Cuba in his early teens. Samuel Reshevsky also started at four and was giving simultaneous exhibitions at six.


Four-year-old Capablanca playing against his father,
soon after learning the moves in 1892


Sammy Reshevsky playing Charles Jaffe at 11. He tied for third with Janowski,
Bigelow and Bernstein.

In recent times we have seen the record for youngest grandmaster in the history of the game topple repeatedly. In 2001 the Baku Sun, a newspaper from Garry Kasparov's hometown in Azerbaijan, reports that 14-year-old prodigy Teimour Radjabov had been confirmed as the youngest chess Grandmaster in history. He is being hailed as a possible new world champion – while others think he must be a Kasparov clone.

The Chinese player Bu Xiangzhi achieved his final GM norm at 13 years, 10 months, 13 days, but under suspicious circumstances.


Talking about clones – the British lad Murugan Thiruchelvam was England's youngest ever player to gain an international rating (2020 at the age of nine). Less than a week after his 10th birthday he played against Garry Kasparov in a simultaneous exhibition. Garry singled out his game against Murugan as the best of the day. He told us that he was very impressed by the strategic understanding of the youngster.

Like Vishy Anand Murugan is a Tamil (his parents hail from Sri Lanka) and was born on December 11th – the same day as Anand. Talk about strange coincidences...

Here are the statistics for GM titles so far:

Player Final GM norm at
Bobby Fischer 15 years, 6 months, 1 day
Judit Polgar 15 years, 4 months, 28 days
Peter Leko 14 years, 4 months, 22 days
Etienne Bacrot 14 years, 2 months, 0 days
Ruslan Ponomaryov 14 years, 0 months, 17 days
Teimour Radjabov 14 years, 0 months, 14 days
Bu Xiangzhi 13 years, 10 months, 13 days
Sergey Karjakin 12 years, 7 months, 0 days

The latest candidate grandmaster

The latest wunderkind came to the attention of the international press when it was discovered that Ruslan Ponomariov, who won the FIDE world championship early this year, had an 11-year-old player as his official second. Seriously. It was the Ukrainian IM Sergei Karjakin, who later turned up at the Aeroflot tournament in Moscow in January and dutifully chalked up a GM norm there.

Young Sergei then played at FIDE Grand Prix in Dubai, where he went out in the first round against Veselin Topalov, the world number 8 player. To be fair, his boss, FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov also suffered a similar fate at the hand of FIDE world women's champion Zhu Chen.

On 16.05.2002 John Henderson reported that the Sergei has gained his second GM norm. Playing in the category 8 (2427) Alushta-100 tournament in the Ukraine, he scored 9.5/13 to share first equal in the tournament with GM Evgenij Miroshnichenko.

On August 20, 2002, Ukraine Chess Online reported that Sergey Karjakin has fulfilled his last GM norm. He did so at the international chess tournament in Sudak, a town on the Crimea Peninsula, Ukraine. This makes him the youngest GM in the chess history. His FIDE rating is 2523.

As John Henderson wrote: "There surely can't be many schoolboys out there who can claim to have been a grandmaster and an official trainer to a world champion during a title match before reaching their teens!

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