A polymath from humble beginnings, spiralling. Bit of a wretch.
Abdication by Magnus Carlsen
In 2022, World No.1 and reigning classical World Champion Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen announced that he would not defend his title. Having already won the title five times and still in his prime, Carlsen was on course to beat the record of seven titles held by Anatoly Karpov. However, Carlsen announced that he would not play, expressing his displeasure with the current format.
The 2022 Candidates
Popular chess streamer Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura had an above-average tournament; however, it was not enough to reach the top two spots, which were taken by GM Ding Liren and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi with 9.5 and 8 points, respectively.
It was a closely fought tournament where 19-year-old prodigy GM Alireza Firouzja, already ranked in the top five, struggled to score against a tough field. His aggressive style was not suited for the tournament format, and he finished in the sixth spot, scoring 6 out of 14 points, slightly ahead of fellow Candidates debutantes GM Jan-Krzystof Duda and GM Richard Rapport.
The results, combined with Magnus' announcement, mean that Nepomniachtchi and Liren will battle it out for the top prize.
A Brief Look at the New Superstars of Chess
Chess is increasingly becoming a young man's sport. Even prodigies like GM Viswanathan Anand have suggested that if you're not a Grandmaster by age 14, your chances of becoming a top-class elite chess player are minuscule.
Aided by cloud engines and the online chess boom, a new generation of teenagers have made a rapid ascent to become part of the top 50 chess players of the world. The list contains multiple Indian players, along with a sizable Russian and American presence.
The Next Generation of Elite Chess Players
- Alireza Firouzja
- D. Gukesh
- Nodirbek Abdusattorov
- Arjun Erigaisi
- Vincent Keymer
- Andrey Esipenko
- R. Praggnanandhaa
- Javokhir Sindarov
- Nihal Sarin
- Hans Moke Niemann
1. Alireza Firouzja
- Date of Birth: June 18, 2003
- Classical World Ranking: 4
- Classical Rating: 2785
- Rapid Rating: 2745
- Blitz Rating: 2903
The Iranian-born French Grandmaster took the entire chess world by storm in 2019 by embarking on a run that culminated in a gain of 200 ELO points, making him reach ELO 2804 in December 2021. His aggressive style and exceptional tactical vision made him a monster at the rapid and blitz time controls, and he was even banned (mistakenly) by Chess.com as a teenager due to his incredibly strong play.
He is the flag-bearer of the new generation, and he's a notch above all of his peers. World Champion Magnus Carlsen had announced that he would not defend his title unless Alireza won the Candidates, which further reinforces the fact that Magnus considers him to be his biggest potential threat in the future. If you want to study Alireza's tactics, you can follow along with 17 of his matches in the book Firouzja for Buffs.
Firouzja has already won several super-GM tournaments, winning the Prague Chess Festival in 2020, the Grand Swiss in 2021, and the Sinquefield Cup in 2022. He is expected to perform better in the next Candidates, and he will be the one of the favourites to challenge the next World Champion.
2. D. Gukesh
- Date of Birth: May 29, 2006
- Classical World Ranking: 18
- Classical Rating: 2732
- Rapid Rating: 2632
- Blitz Rating: 2632
Hailed as a potential future World No. 1, GM Gukesh has had a stratospheric ascent to the upper echelons of the chess world, and he has impressed several top grandmasters with his play. His exceptional calculation skills, positional understanding, and willingness to attack with the black pieces have helped Gukesh boost his rating to 2732, catapulting him into the super-GM category in 2022.
A phenomenal 8/8 start at the Olympiad earned him the gold individual medal at the top board, where he beat incredibly strong players such as Fabiano Caruana. Along with the Olympiad, Gukesh also won several open tournaments in 2022, such as the Menorca Open, La Roda Open, and the Sunway Formentera Open tournaments.
3. Nodirbek Abdusattorov
- Date of Birth: September 18, 2004
- Classical World Ranking: 31
- Classical Rating: 2713
- Rapid Rating: 2676
- Blitz Rating: 2665
GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov first made headlines when he beat GM Anish Giri in the World Cup in 2021. He's the reigning World Rapid Champion, having beaten Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi in the World Rapid Championship in 2021. His performance on the top board for Uzbekistan in the 2022 Olympiad ensured that Uzbekistan won the team gold, and Abdusattorov himself won the silver individual medal.
He is known for his ability to capitalize on his opponents' mistakes at the right moments and avoid blunders even under the most severe pressure. Abdusattorov's playing style is most similar to the current world champion, and he is likely to pose a formidable challenge in a match format.
4. Arjun Erigaisi
- Date of Birth: September 3, 2003
- Classical World Ranking: 21
- Classical Rating: 2728
- Rapid Rating: 2628
- Blitz Rating: 2745
GM Arjun Erigaisi has been one of the rising stars of Indian chess, and he was the first Indian to make it to the knockout rounds in a Champions Chess Tour event. He won the Tata Steel Challengers Section in 2022, along with the Abu Dhabi Tournament and the Indian National Championship. Many elite grandmasters, including Magnus Carlsen, have expressed a liking for Arjun's style of play and expect him to reach the 2750 rating mark soon.
Arjun underwent training with the former second of World Champion Viswanathan Anand, FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov. His performances in 2022 earned him a place at the elite Westbridge-Anand Chess Academy, an initiative by Viswanathan Anand to develop potential super-GMs in the country.
5. Vincent Keymer
- Date of Birth: November 15, 2004
- Classical World Ranking: 39
- Classical Rating: 2700
- Rapid Rating: 2600
- Blitz Rating: 2700
GM Vincent Keymer is a German Grandmaster who is coached by former World Championship challenger GM Peter Leko. Keymer has been heralded as a super-GM in the making since his early teens, having won the Grenke Chess Open in 2018 as the 99th seed in the tournament. He holds the record for being the youngest-ever International Master in chess history. He also won the Prague Challengers event in 2022.
6. Andrey Esipenko
- Date of Birth: March 22, 2002
- Classical Ranking: 70
- Classical Rating: 2668
- Rapid Rating: 2694
- Blitz Rating: 2619
Russian Grandmaster Andrey Esipenko is the highest-ranked Russian junior; however, he has fallen below the 2700 super-GM mark from a peak rating of 2723, and he trails behind compatriots Daniil Dubov and Vladislav Artemiev on the ratings list. He's among the players who officially switched to play under the FIDE flag in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Esipenko shot to international fame when he beat Magnus Carlsen in the Tata Steel Masters event in 2021, which was Carlsen's first classical loss to a teenager since 2011. The oldest of the new generation, Esipenko has plenty of time to recover from his plateau this year and challenge for the title in the future.
7. R. Praggnanandhaa
- Date of Birth: August 10, 2005
- Classical Ranking: 52
- Classical Rating: 2687
- Rapid Rating: 2587
- Blitz Rating: 2599
GM Praggnanandhaa is one of the youngest GMs in the history of chess, attaining the goal at the tender age of 12. He surged in popularity after beating Magnus Carlsen thrice in the rapid format in the Champions' Chess Tour. He's coached by elite coach GM RB Ramesh and has become well-known for his tactical accuracy and opening preparation.
Praggnanandhaa won the Polgar Challenge in 2021. He also won the bronze individual medal on the third board in the Olympiad, where his performance—along with his compatriots Gukesh, Nihal and Raunak—earned India a team bronze. Having tasted victory against Magnus Carlsen, Praggnanandhaa has shown that he is a dangerous player who can take any match to the very end.
8. Javokhir Sindarov
- Date of Birth: December 8, 2005
- Classical Ranking: 94
- Classical Rating: 2654
- Rapid Rating: 2554
- Blitz Rating: 2638
GM Javokhir Sindarov is an Uzbek Grandmaster who achieved the GM title at the age of 12. He's one of the youngest players of the new generation, and he has already reached the 2650-level.
Sindarov shot to fame when he beat GM Alireza Firouzja in the Chess World Cup in 2021 and reached the last-32 of the event. Along with his compatriot Abdusattorov, Sindarov also performed admirably in the Olympiad, helping his team win the team gold. He won the Uzbekistan National Championship in 2019 and 2021.
9. Nihal Sarin
- Date of Birth: July 13, 2004
- Classical Ranking: 66
- Classical Rating: 2673
- Rapid Rating: 2616
- Blitz Rating: 2705
GM Nihal Sarin has been one of the biggest stars to emerge out of the online chess boom in 2020. He's currently the highest rated blitz player on Chess.com, ahead of players like Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. Sarin was earmarked as a prodigy since an early age, and he has made rapid strides in his game, especially in the rapid and blitz format.
Nihal won the Junior Speed Chess Championship in 2021, along with the Silver Lake Open and the Serbia Open Masters in the classical format. He was offered a place at the Westbridge-Anand Chess Academy to receive advanced training. You can check out some of his best games in the book Nihal Sarin for Buffs.
10. Hans Moke Niemann
- Date of Birth: June 20, 2003
- Classical Ranking: 40
- Classical Rating: 2699
- Rapid Rating: 2599
- Blitz Rating: 2632
The most notorious chess player to have played the game in recent times, Hans Niemann has risen at a rapid pace and became a 2700-super-GM player in 2022. Hans, however, faces the pressure of being labelled a "cheat" due to several instances of cheating online, which led to him being banned from Chess.com.
After beating Magnus in the Sinquefield Cup, Hans raised suspicions, which ultimately led to the biggest controversy in the history of chess; Magnus Carlsen refused to play against him ever again. Time will tell whether Hans will manage to overcome these difficulties; however, at 19 years old in 2022, he still has a lot of chess to play, and he has shown that he has the ability to play at the top level.
This article mainly focused on the next generation of players. However, some players slightly older than this group still have a chance to become World Champion, but their window is shrinking fast. Chief among them are:
- Daniil Dubov, born in 1996, is one of the most creative players to have emerged in recent times. He was also part of Team Magnus at the 2021 World Championships.
- Jan Krzystof-Duda, born in 1998, who has breached the 2750-mark previously, and has also beaten Magnus Carlsen and won the FIDE World Cup in 2021.
- Richard Rapport, born in 1996, is also an extremely creative player who has breached the 2750-mark, and has the ability to blow elite Grandmasters off the board.
- Parham Maghsoodloo, born in 2000, is already an elite super-GM, and is currently ranked in the top-25 in the world.
- Vladislav Artemiev, born in 1998, is also an elite super-GM, having breached the 2700 ELO mark, and has impressed in several online tournaments against Magnus Carlsen and other elite players.
© 2022 Nelson Wilbury