On the way to the GM title: Lu Miaoyi, 14 years old

by Thorsten Cmiel
3/25/2024 – A young Chinese girl, Lu Miaoyi, made a big impression in the Reykjavík Open 2024. Her mother, Xu Yuanyuan, is also a Woman Grandmaster. It is already clear that her 14-year-old daughter will soon overtake her and win the IM title and then the title of grandmaster. | Photo: Hallfríður Sigurðardóttir / Reykjavik Open

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Back in 2020, André Schulz put the 10-year-old girl on a par with Hou Yifan. And rightly so. The Chinese kid was halted on her way to the top of the world rankings by the 15-month break from travelling due to the pandemic.

Mother and daughter are currently on tour in Europe, playing one tournament after another. Miaoyi only achieved her first IM norm in Kragero, Norway, in February 2024. Her nine opponents in Norway included six Grandmasters, one International Master and one Woman Grandmaster. In the last round, Miaoyi defeated her mother in a field of twenty players — defeating your own mother or father is an event that many players mention in their chess CV. It is rare to win an important title norm at the same time.

Lu Miaoyi in 2020 | Photo: David Halter

This was followed by a women’s tournament in Belgrade. It began with another victory with the white pieces against her mother. Although the younger Chinese player achieved a sufficient performance (2474), only two IM titleholders played in the tournament (*). In Iceland, another IM norm was now added, and the Chinese player also pushed her rating well above the necessary 2400. In the last two tournaments (Belgrade, Reykjavík), Miaoyi won 45 rating points despite the now reduced factor (20).

A few selected situations from Reykjavík should demonstrate Lu Miaoyi’s outstanding performance and potential.

In the third round, the Chinese player held a draw against an Icelandic grandmaster without any problems in a slightly worse position yet holdable rook ending. That speaks volumes about her good technical training.

This was followed in the fourth round by a draw against Carlsen’s conqueror, Alisher Suleymenov. The Kazakh GM missed the chance to exchange the light-squared bishops, a standard motif in the French Defence. Perhaps he wanted to fight. Perhaps the respect was too great and the time too short — in any case, Miaoyi was able to win in grand style in the end, but settled for a draw by a triple repetition.

In the next round, she faced the legendary Vasyl Ivanchuk. He had no interest in a tough fight, and the game quickly ended peacefully. In the sixth round, Miaoyi played against an underrated Icelander. The opening gave her a clear advantage after an early inaccuracy by her opponent. What happened next can probably only be explained by the approaching time trouble. The Chinese player’s advantage diminished after a strong defence by her opponent — and after a gross mistake that neglected her own back rank, experience was supposed to be the deciding factor. It turned out differently again...

In the seventh round, Miaoyi won a brilliant strategic game against another English grandmaster. The realisation of the strategic advantage took place without any recognisable flaws and included some tactical finesses.

This was followed by a draw against a Turkish grandmaster who played the Berlin Defence. The game was not particularly eventful. The Chinese player secured the IM norm with this result. In the last round, Miaoyi (born in 2010) was even able to achieve a GM norm with a win against the experienced Icelandic grandmaster Hedinn Steingrimsson (born in 1975). Perhaps this fact was the reason why she ultimately overplayed her position and lost.

The young Chinese player Lu Miaoyi seems to be one of the greatest female talents of the last decade. It will be exciting to follow her development and her games. In my opinion, the only question is whether she will follow in the footsteps of Hou Yifan or Judit Polgar and decides to spurn women’s titles.

(*) On some social media channels, it was announced that Miaoyi already has the norms for the IM title. The World Chess Federation (FIDE) is constantly changing its title regulations, and I may have missed a change. In addition, the Chinese player has faced enough IM and GM titleholders in all three tournaments combined. The possible need to achieve another norm is only a matter of weeks and opportunities.

Games (without commentary)


Thorsten Cmiel is FIDE Master, lives in Cologne and Milano and works as a freelance finance journalist.