Friday, April 1, 2011

The seven wonders of the chess world

LIKE the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse at Alexandria, the Temple of Diana at Ephesus and the Colossus of Rhodes, chess has its own wonders.

I am referring to children who play chess so well that they become grandmasters at a very young age and go on to greater excellence.

The magnificent seven are Paul Morphy, Bobby Fischer, Judit Polgar, Sergey Karjakin, Magnus Carlsen, Hou Yifan and Wesley So.

When Fischer became a grandmaster in 1958 at 15 years 6 months and 1 day, experts predicted at that time that the record would not be broken in 50 years.

It wasn’t to be as 33 years later, a girl, Judit Polgar of Hungary, achieved full GM status at 15 years, 4 months and 28 days .

Since then, due to GM title inflation, it has become less difficult to achieve it. Now, 29 children, and counting, have beaten Fischer’s record.

According to one researcher, ratings inflated by about 100 points between 1985 and 2000 and it is still growing.

This means that if Fischer would be rated today, he would be kissing 2900. On the other hand, Paul Morphy’s rating was not officially listed as the rating system started in 1950 and Morphy was playing a century before.

Nevertheless, Morphy is listed as the unofficial World Champion during his time and Fischer considered him to be the greatest player of all. Coming from the supreme egoist in chess, it sure means a lot.

Judit Polgar is a phenomenon. She is undeniably the best women’s player in history and at one time was rated no.8 in the world. Motherhood has drastically cut her playing schedule but she is the only woman in the top 100 now at no.51.

Judit could have become GM much earlier as her rating was already a whopping 2555 when she was 12 (after her unbelievable 2694 performance in the 1988 Thessaloniki Olympiad). She is also the youngest top 100 player in history.

The official record for the youngest GM belongs to Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine at 12 years and 7 months. His FIDE rating at the time was 2523. Today (March 2011) Sergey is a top grandmaster, ranked sixth in the world, with a 2776 rating that is climbing steadily.

One extraordinary chess prodigy came close to breaking Karjakin`s record. In 2004 Magnus Carlsen of Norway completed his GM norms, eight months later than Karjakin.

Carlsen, at 18, went on to become the top-ranked player in the world, crossing the magic 2800 mark--the youngest player by far to achieve these feats.

Carlsen was the highest ever rated player at the age of 15, while Karjakin is the third strongest among 16 year olds.

Where does Wesley So come in?

Wesley was the strongest 14-year-old in history!

He achieved the GM title at the age of 14 years, 1 month and 28 days, making him the seventh-youngest person to achieve the GM title.

Wesley is a diamond with some edges that needs cutting and polishing from a good tutor.

Wesley’s world ranking now is 64th. He also previously was the strongest Under-16 player in the world. He is currently ranked the sixth highest junior (Under-20) in the world. His current FIDE rating is 2665.

Hou Yifan is the youngest ever female player to qualify for the title of Grandmaster.

At the age of 12, she became the youngest player to participate at the FIDE Women’s World Championship (Yekaterinburg 2006).

In 2010, she became the youngest World Chess Champion in history (men’s or women’s) by winning the Women’s World Championship in Hatay, Turkey at 16.

Lapu-Lapu Chess Club. The club held a tournament among its members last weekend and the champion was Henry Infante followed by Aldwin Daculan and Allan Pason.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 01, 2011.

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