Happy birthday to Grandmaster Nils Grandelius!

by Eduard Frey
6/3/2023 – Today, 3 June 2023, Nils Grandelius celebrates his 30th birthday. Grandelius is known as his country's long-time leading player, an important member of the Swedish team, and has won several major international tournaments in his career to date. Grandelius worked as Magnus Carlsen's second for the World Chess Championship matches in 2016 and 2018, and is also a well-known author and teacher. | Nils Grandelius at the TePe Sigeman & Co. tournament in 2023 | Photo: David Llada

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Nils Grandelius was born in Lund on 3 June 1993 and started playing chess at the age of six. At first his grandfather taught him at home, but when Nils was seven he started playing in a club, as Grandelius pointed out in an interview at the TePe Sigeman & Co. tournament, an annual event which he has now (co-)won three times. Grandelius became an International Master in 2008 and a Grandmaster in 2010.

Great Swedish predecessors

In the Royal Game Grandelius has prominent Swedish predecessors: Ulf Andersson, of course, plus Gideon Stahlberg, Gösta Stoltz and Erik Lundin, who were called "The Three Swedish Musketeers".

They established their names as world players when all three of them competed several times together for Sweden at the Chess Olympiads (held annually) during the 1930s, most notably at the Chess Olympiad in Folkestone in 1933 and in Warsaw in 1935, where Sweden won the bronze and silver medals respectively!

Stahlberg (1908-1967) was historically ranked clearly no.3. He played 13 times for Sweden in the Olympiads between 1928 and 1964, always on the top board, since an explicit order of the boards was introduced. Lundin and Stoltz each played nine times for Sweden at the Olympiads.

The Three Musketeers were prominent on the international circuit from the 1930s until the early 1960s, certainly the best male players Sweden had to offer at that time, until the chess world met Ulf Andersson. He played for Sweden no less than 16 times (15 times on the top board) between 1970 and 2004.

Ulf Andersson was best ranked as clear no. 4 in the world in 1983 (January & July half year lists), with a nominal rating of Elo 2630 and 2640. Andersson was a stable top ten/top fifteen player throughout the 1980s, and was at least in the top forty for three decades in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Nils Grandelius, Sweden's best player today, has by far the highest rating of any Swedish chess player (2694 Elo in May 2019) since FIDE officially introduced its lists, but has never been ranked in the Top Twenty until now. Even his peak rating of 2694 Elo was just outside the top forty.

The chess community applauds the 30th anniversary of Nils Grandelius and the iconic Swedish evergreen Pia Cramling, who celebrated her 60th birthday this April: Ten highlights in the life and career of chess grandmaster Pia Cramling | ChessBase

Medals at Youth and European Individual Championships

He won the bronze medal at the 2010 U-18 World Championship, and a year later Nils Grandelius won the gold medal at the 2011 U-18 European Championship in Albena, Bulgaria.

In 2012, Grandelius finished third on aggregate but fourth on tie-break at the World Junior Championships in Athens: Alexander Ipatov (who retired from professional chess in 2016) triumphed as World Junior Champion, Richard Rapport then won silver, current World Chess Champion Ding Liren took bronze, Chinese compatriot Yu Yangyi finished fifth and went on to win the ultimate junior title the following year.

In March 2019, Grandelius tied for first place with Vladislav Artemiev at the European Individual Championships in Skopje, both scoring 8½/11 points. Grandelius won the silver medal on a lower tie-break (361 players, including Anton Guijarro, Berkes, Bluebaum, Cheparinov, Dreev, Dubov, Eljanov, Fressinet, Fridman, Gelfand, Georgiev, Gledura, Huschenbeth, Jobava, Korobov, Kovalenko, Kozul, Kuzubov, Movsesian, Nisipeanu, Ponomariov, Ragger, Rodshtein, Safarli, Saric, Smirin, Solak, Tomashevsky, Vallejo Pons, Volokitin, Yilmaz, Zvjaginsev and other prominent names from the veteran Beliavsky to the rising youngsters Deac, Esipenko, Keymer, Sarana, Shevchenko or Jorden and Lucas van Foreest).

Last GM norm at Bosna Sarajevo 2010

In 2008 Grandelius took a clear first place at the Olomouc Chess Summer GM-A in the Czech Republic; thanks to this result he also achieved his first GM norm. In the following year's edition, again held as a round robin, he took first place by equal points, second place in the tie-break and gained his second GM norm.

At the 40th Bosna Tournament 2010 in Sarajevo, held for the first time in the Swiss system, he achieved the GM title by gaining the third and final norm.

Wang Hao from China, the top seeded player with Elo 2722, took first place with 23 points (football scoring, with 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, ten rounds) ahead of 2./3. Zahar Efimenko, Viktor Bologan (22 p.), including Ivan Sokolov, Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, Alexandr Fier, the experienced Predrag Nikolic, the young IM Richard Rapport, as well as Chanda Sandipan or Geetha Narayanan Gopal, both leading players from emerging India. Nils Grandelius made his third and last GM norm of the event and a dream came true.

Grandelius in earlier years with his characteristic dreadlocks | Photo: Chess Tigers Training Center

Grandelius in play at the TePe Sigeman & Co. tournament in 2023 | Photo: David Llada, organiser

Winning the strong Abu Dhabi Masters 2015

Grandelius caused a sensation in 2015 when he won the prestigious Abu Dhabi Masters, beating Martyn Kravtsiv, Baadur Jobava, Alexander Areshchenko and Richard Rapport in a tie-break. A win that showed his potential.

Full coverage of the Open and an exciting interview with the winner by young Sagar Shah: Grandelius wins the Abu Dhabi Masters 2015 | ChessBase

Winning the Abu Dhabi Masters 2015, the biggest Swedish men's individual tournament success for many years, was also a major milestone in the training cooperation with Evgenij Agrest. Grandelius started to train with Agrest in 2013, after which there were both "Skype" and "Live" sessions.

In the same year, Nils Grandelius won the 2015 Swedish Chess Championship, defeating his compatriot Emanuel Berg in a play-off match (they were both tied for first place with 6.5/9).

Triumphant at the traditional Reykjavik Open 2023

The Swedish grandmaster was the clear winner of the famous Reykjavik Open this year. He was seeded second in Iceland behind the legendary Ivanchuk, more than 400 players were all in the same group, seven players finished half a point behind Grandelius, Mustafa Yilmaz from Turkey and Abhijeet Gupta from India finished second and third respectively on tie-break criteria.

Full report: Nils Grandelius wins Reykjavik Open with final round victory | ChessBase

Grandelius was already co-winner of the Reykjavik Open 2019 in an eight-way tie (!). Romanian Constantin Lupulescu had the best Buchholz score and was declared the winner, followed by 16-year-old Iranian Alireza Firouzja and Grandelius in third place on a tie-break, with top-seeded Gawain Jones in fourth place. After great battles in Reykjavik, eventual winner Lupulescu had a dramatic win over Firouzja in round 7, but lost to Jones in round 8.

Trivia: Grandelius is the first Swedish player ever to win or co-win the traditional Reykjavik series, which started in 1964 as a biannual international invitation tournament (round robin), became mostly open (Swiss system) in the early 1980s, and has been an annual festival since the late 2000s, always with a large field, with a total of 38 editions in 2023.

Three times (co-)winner of the TePe Sigeman & Co. tournament

Nils Grandelius has won the closed Tepe Sigeman & Co. tournament in Malmö three times, where he has played twelve times per date.

Grandelius won the 2013 Sigeman & Co. tournament (eight players) together with the young Richard Rapport and Nigel Short in a three-way tie, was co-winner in 2017 (six players) together with Baadur Jobava from Georgia and again in 2018 (six players) together with Santosh Gujrathi Vidit from India.

Together with Ferdinand Hellers, Nigel Short, and Jan Timman, he is also the record three-time (co-)winner of this traditional tournament series, which was launched in 1993.

Nils Grandelius, presently the second highest Scandinavian player, at Tata Steel in Wijk aan Zee 2022 (the game in the picture against Carlsen ended in a draw) | Photo: Lennart Ootes, organiser

Having Wesley So's number and other inspiring matches

In the following game from 2011, both players stubbornly pursue their own plans, seemingly oblivious to the other's moves. A tribute to the courage of both players:

Respectful players will honour their opponent's performance by letting him play a short checkmate if the sequence is particularly nice. The loser cooperates by making quick, obvious (forced) moves to end the game. Wesley So saluted his opponent's performance. And Grandelius did it again later at the Gibraltar Masters 2019:

Three more spectacular games by «Grandelicious» Grandelius

Nils Grandelius vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2021)

"As tough as Nils": Nils Grandelius vs Alexander Ipatov (2013)

Benjamin Gledura vs Nils Grandelius (2019)

Sweden's long-time serving player number one

Nils Grandelius has been playing regularly for the Swedish national team at the Chess Olympiads since 2010 (first time on board one in 2012) and at the European Team Chess Championships since 2011. When Sweden took part in the FIDE World Team Chess Championship in 2019, Grandelius naturally played on Swedish board one.

He regularly plays in team competitions in the Swedish Elitserien and the German Bundesliga, with occasional appearances in Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Denmark or Norway, not to mention the European Chess Club Cup. Grandelius is often invited to international rapid/blitz and online events.

Grandelius in action at Astana, World Teams 2019 | Photo: David Llada, via FIDE Facebook

Health and happiness to Grandmaster Nils Grandelius, and many more inspiring games to come!

Eduard Frey was born in spring 1967, is an economist (lic. et mag. rer, pol.) and works as a coach in human resources. He learned the game as a child from his father. Chess is a hobby without rating. He has been a frequent visitor to the Biel Chess Festival since 1976, as well as to Lucerne (1982 Olympiad, and the 1985, 1989, 1993, 1997 World Team Championships), and to the international tournaments in Zurich or the Lugano Open series. Frey spoke with many top players; he knew Viktor Korchnoi, Wolfgang Uhlmann and Mark Taimanov more closely.