Grandmaster Chef: Kirill Alekseenko

by Alexey Root
1/10/2021 – Grandmaster Kirill Alekseenko is the youngest participant in the 2020 Candidates Tournament. National Master Mike Walder prepares a dish that Alekseenko might like and annotates one of Alekseenko’s draws from the Candidates. WIM Alexey Root tells why Kirill Alekseenko is a Grandmaster Chef honoree. | Photo: Lennart Ootes / FIDE

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Dark horse

Before the 2020 Candidates Tournament began, Alekseenko was interviewed by the website. According to an English translation of that interview, Alekseenko said, “I am satisfied with the role of a ‘dark horse’ in this tournament, no one expects great results from me and there is no additional pressure.”

Alekseenko learned chess at age 4, from his grandfather, and played in his first tournament at age 7. He had achieved grandmaster norms by 2012 and the rating necessary for the title in 2015. Compared to the seven other Candidates, Alekseenko is a relative unknown. His opponents will have a harder time preparing for him than he will have preparing for them. As he said in his interview, “There is a lot of information about them, the same openings have been played for many years. And I have two times less games, and a few games with strong chess players, and there is no full-fledged repertoire — you can play on this.”


Alekseenko has had great success in Swiss-system tournaments. He is a three-time winner of the Chigorin Memorial. He won the 2017-2018 Rilton Cup. His chance to become the wild card for the 2020 Candidates Tournament happened due to his third place finish, on tie-breaks, in the 2019 FIDE Grand Swiss. Alekseenko had 7½/11 (+4–0=7), a half a point behind Grandmasters Wang Hao and Fabiano Caruana.

Kirill Alekseenko

Kirill Alekseenko during the 2019 Grand Swiss | Photo: Maria Emelianova /


Walder’s Russian Carp recipe was inspired by Alekseenko’s Instagram post, from 2018, showing Alekseenko holding his catch of carp.

Russian Carp by Mike Walder


  • Kirill AlekseenkoCarp, 1 pound (or substitute bass), cut into steaks 3/4 to 1-inch thick
  • Yukon Gold potatoes, 3 peeled and cut in half
  • Onion, 1 medium, diced
  • peanut oil, or other light-tasting oil
  • cilantro, 1 bunch
  • turmeric, 1 Tablespoon
  • cumin, 1 Tablespoon
  • black pepper to taste
  • herb medley as fish spice, 1 Tablespoon
  • water, room temperature


  1. Put the carp in a large bowl, add the turmeric, black pepper, and herb medley and toss.
  2. Coat the bottom of a large coverable skillet with peanut oil, heat to medium.
  3. Once the oil is hot, add the fish and cover the skillet for 4 minutes. Turn the fish over and repeat, removing the fish to a resting plate when the time is up.
  4. Add onion to the oil and bits left from frying the fish in the skillet. Gently stir so the onions get coated with the oil.
  5. Add the cumin and black pepper. Continue to stir the onions for 7 minutes.
  6. Add the potatoes and cook cut side down while constantly stirring for one minute. Cover and continue cooking for 4 more minutes. Uncover and turn potatoes cut side up, cook while constantly stirring for 1 minute. Cover and continue cooking for 4 minutes.
  7. Uncover and stir the onions and potatoes to make bed of onions, with the potatoes evenly spaced in the skillet. Place the cooked fish on top of the onions, in between the potatoes, cover, and cook for 3 minutes.
  8. Add cilantro leaves across the top. Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
  9. Uncover, and, from the sides of the skillet, add enough water to almost cover the onions, which for my skillet was ¾ cup of water. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  10. Serves 3.

Mike Walder

Position after 19...Ne7-c6 next to Mike Walder’s Russian Carp | Photo: Elliott Winslow


Alekseenko was picked as the 2020 Candidates Tournament’s wild card entry. The Candidates was suspended, after 7 of 14 rounds, on March 26, 2020. Alekseenko had five draws and two losses at the tournament’s midpoint. National Master Mike Walder selected the most interesting of Alekseenko’s five draws to annotate.


Fascinated by the French Winawer

The Winawer Variation in just 60 minutes - that can only work by reducing it to a clear repertoire for Black and, where possible, general recommendations rather than variations. Alexei Shirov was surprised at how quickly he managed to make of the French Winawer an opening he himself could play. And now he will let you share in his conclusions.


Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


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