While there are currently over a thousand grandmasters in the world, only 14 players in history have exceeded the 2800 rating limit. GM Alireza Firouzja is the latest addition to the 2800 club after scoring a sensational 8/9 at the European Team Championship.
At 18 years and five months, he is the youngest to have ever done this. GM Magnus Carlsen was also 18 years old, but reached the 2800 mark shortly before his 19th birthday. With the win on Sunday, Firouzja is also the new number two in the world behind Carlsen.
Firouzja’s extraordinary rise to the top is reminiscent of legends such as GM Bobby Fischer, GM Garry Kasparov and even the current world champion. The Iranian-born and now French number one player won the grandmaster title at the age of 14 and passed the 2,700 mark two years later. That was in 2019. Now, two years later, he’s number two in the world and has already qualified for the next Candidates Tournament after taking first place at the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss. If he wins, he will qualify for the next World Cup game.
Firouzja’s recent dominance in chess is already historic. Even if it’s too early to determine its distinct influence that is still to evolve, let’s Take a look at how he compares to other champions who have stunned the world in the past.
The American child prodigy’s fame skyrocketed after the Game of the Century, which he played at the age of 13. At the age of 14 he became the youngest US champion, at 15 he became a grandmaster and at 29 world champions out of 2785 may seem low today, we must also remember that in the run-up to the 1972 chess championship he was 125 points higher than the then world number two (and World Champion!), GM Boris Spassky.
In his round 10 game against Boris Spassky, Fischer maneuvered positionally until his space advantage led to an initiative and an attack:
Firouzja has a similar style on the white side of Ruy Lopez. With the following recent win at FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss 2021, notice how Firouzja takes a similar approach: gain space from the opening, support the room with slowly building moves, play a pawn break and take the initiative and the. win the resulting endgame.
The “Beast from Baku” was born in 1963 – nine years before Fischer became a master – and is celebrated by many as the greatest of all time. He won the grandmaster title in 1980 and became the youngest world champion of all time in 1985 at the age of 22. Kasparov was the first player to crack 2800 and also hit a high of 2851 (the highest score ever, until Carlsen topped it in 2013.)).
Known as a ruthless attacker who is not afraid of victims, Kasparov has often thrown overboard material for the initiative:
Think of the rook maneuver: Ra4-Rb4-Rxb7. Now check out this game by Firouzja (notes by NM Sam Copeland originally in this article):
Only time will tell what Firouzja’s legacy will be, but we can certainly see a parallel between his and Kasparov’s play in these two games.
The reigning world champion won the GM title at the age of 13, crossed the 2800 threshold at 18, became number one in the world at 19 (where he stayed) and was crowned world champion at 22.
Firouzja and Carlsen have fought countless times online and in over-the-board blitz, but not so much in classic. While the more seasoned Norwegian GM has four wins and two draws in this time control, one of their most recent games at Norway Chess 2021, in which Firouzja sacrificed a pawn to attack from the opening, could be a preview of more coming.
Number two in the world
Firouzja broke an impressive record set by the current world champion. He has proven to be a dangerous attacker, on par with some of the greatest champions of the past. He is currently the second best player in the world. From here the world can only wait.