Prodigies In Action – Asian Youth Championships!

Many elite youngsters just finished competing in Korea at the 2015 Asian Youth Chess Championships. Some of the names in action included players we are keeping a close eye on, in our current prodigy watchlist. Since the tournament was divided into age groupings, we’ll take a look at each age category one by one. Any mention we make of ratings will be from the August, 2015, rating list and any ages we mention will be as of August 1st, 2015. Note that players only had to meet the age requirements as of January 1st, so players could be up to eight months older than implied by their age category.

Remember also that for many of these young players I don’t know birthdays, just birth years, so must assume they were born on January 1st. These players will be listed in this article as being X.58 years old, but could in actuality be up to a year younger than that if they were born near the end of December (which would greatly improve their listed prodigy ranks).

Under 8:

The top two seeds in the U8 division were Borsa Taslimi (Iran, 8.58 years old, 1640 FIDE, #71 prodigy rank) and Bharath Subramaniyam (India, 8.58, 1637, #73). Less than half the players in this section were rated, so these results are volatile, but it’s a fun look into the distant future to see players so extremely young competing. Unfortunately for Taslimi, the highest rated player in this field has far underperformed, scoring just 4.5/9 and shedding over 100 points from his rating. Subramaniyam on the other hand played extremely well, winning the section with a convinving 8/9 score (just two draws). He didn’t clinch victory until the final round, in which he faced (CM Islombeck Sindarov, 8.50, Uzbekistan, 1551, #103 – remember that surname for the under 10 section). Sindarov remained within a point of Subramaniyam in the standings entering their final round contest, but Subramaniyam dispatched him like all the others, to win the event. Despite his excellent performance, chess-results only estimates Subramaniyam to have gained 23 rating points – although I am uncertain how accurate these estimations are in a field with many unrated players.

Under 10:

Things heated up in this division with two players from near the top of our prodigy watchlist! CM Javokhir Sindarov (Uzbekistan, 9.65, 2198, #3) and FM R Praggnanandhaa (India, 9.97, 2104, #17) headlined the group (which did still also include 7 unrated players).

Praggnanandhaa finished with a disappointing 6/9 score, extending a ratings slide over the last few months. The youngster’s rating originally rose to 2104 last November, then continued to spike to 2203 in February and climbed as high as 2225 by May. An event included in the June rating list, though, cost him 122 of those rating points, and while he then managed to hold steady through his next four events, he appears to have lost an additional 62 points here, and his live rating is now back down to 2042. He has shown enough strong results, and enough ~2200 performance ratings, though, that it would be premature to write him off. There’s a fine chance that he will bounce back soon.

Where the two seed struggled, the top seed cruised. In round 8 they faced each other, and Sindarov won the showdown, clinching the championship by building a two point lead with one round left to play. Sindarov ultimately achieved a dominant 8.5/9 score! Of course by rating, this was expected. He lost almost 17 rating points from his one draw, and gained just 23 ELO net in his romp.

We may pause, here, to ask a logical question: what does it actually mean for Sindarov to be rated 2221 (live rating) and not yet 10 years old? Is he an inevitable future GM, or is there risk of him peaking before he turns 11 and never really progressing further?

Unfortunately I don’t yet have the data I need to answer that. I initially populated my database with players who “succeeded” (all 2700+ players in history, all players who earned the GM title as teenagers), and still need to spend a lot more time searching for players who achieved high ratings at young ages but perhaps didn’t reach the same heights. This means that the data I currently have available will be extremely optimistic in predicting Sindarov’s future, if we compare him to other players who achieved similar ratings at his age. It’s a severe case of confirmation bias. It’s also fun!

So with a giant grain of salt, here are the 15 highest published ratings ever achieved before the age of 10, and the current ages and peak ratings of the players that achieved them:

Player Name Highest U10 Rating CURRENT Age Peak Rating
Vugar Gashimov 2250 Deceased 2761
Daniil Dubov 2240 19.29 2661
R Praggnanandhaa 2225 9.97 2225
Nijat Abasov 2210 20.22 2536
Sergey Karjakin 2206 25.55 2788
Javokhir Sindarov 2198 9.65 2198
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2187 24.78 2775
Hou Yifan 2168 21.48 2686
Ildar Khairullin 2160 24.94 2662
Samuel Sevian 2144 14.60 2578
Abhijeet Gupta 2141 25.79 2667
Peter Prohaszka 2141 23.55 2613
Illya Nyzhnyk 2140 18.84 2639
Wei Yi 2138 16.16 2725
Luke J McShane 2130 31.56 2713

Pretty good company! 5 of the 13 (ignoring Sindarov and Praggnanandhaa) went on to be 2700+, and several of the others may still get there (Sevian, Dubov, Yifan, and Nyzhnyk are all still young enough that they’re probably strong favorites to eventually exceed 2700, and a few others could get there as well). Abasov and Sevian are the only two not to at least reach 2600 yet, and Sevian at least is clearly still rapidly improving and should get there (and beyond) soon!

Does this mean Sindarov is a lock? Well, nothing is guaranteed of course. There is also the case of Kumar Gaurav. In October, 2008, his rating reached 2080 (tied for the 22nd highest U10 rating I am aware of – and the second highest U9 rating I know of). He played 13 more rated games in 2008, his rating fell slightly to 2056, and he hasn’t played a FIDE rated chess game since. That’s the highest U10 rating I’ve found so far that didn’t pan out. However Sindarov is already over 100 points higher than Gaurav’s peak, and probably more importantly has demonstrated much more activity: he has now played 150 rated games, including this current event. Again, I don’t yet have the data I would need to predict a given prodigy’s odds of continuing to progress versus stagnating, but my instincts are that Sidnarov is in as good a position as anyone under the age of 10 can be for future success.

Under 12:

The highest rated player in this group was one we’ve written about before, Alireza Firouzja (Iran, 12.12, 2309, #22). The top prodigy in the section, though, was the #2 seed who also happens to be over a full year younger: CM Nihal Sarin (India, 11.05, 2259, #10). Just like in the U10 division, the Indian youth seeded second in the section struggled while the top seed lived up to his hype and won the section. Sarin drew too many games, plus lost his showdown with Firouzja, and scored just 6/9, tying for fourth place and losing 51 rating points.

Firouzja, on the other hand, allowed his opponents just two draws, winning the section with a strong 8/9 result, and adding 14 more rating points to his name (despite no longer benefiting from the high K factor afforded to juniors rated under 2300, after popping back over that threshold last month). Now at a live rating of 2323, Firouzja still hasn’t quite gotten back to his peak, but is knocking on the door and is currently the 4th highest rated player in the world under the age of 13.

Under 14:

The prodigy rank values weren’t quite as high in this section, but we would be remiss if we didn’t at least mention FM Aryan Gholami (Iran, 14.02, 2392, #68). He entered this event as the top seed in his section, scored 7.5/9 with no losses, and won the section. His rating gain of 13 points will bring his live rating above the 2400 mark. He may not quite be setting historical records for his age, but he’s definitely an elite youngster worth paying close attention to!

Under 16:

This group included as its top seed the only Grandmaster in the competition. GM Aravindh Chithambaram (India, 15.89, 2505, #54) started atop the table. He lost to a 2134 rated FM in the first round, though, and never really recovered, losing twice more and finishing with a score of just 5/9 – tied for 8th place. Instead, the section was won by the #2 seed: IM Shahin Lorparizangeneh (Iran, 16.54, 2427, #194). I will admit, Lorparizangeneh was not in our database before this event; we had to add him to calculate the prodigy rank. And admittedly, it’s less impressive than some others who we’ve discussed so far. That said, he scored 7/9, including a win over GM Chithambaram, and added 10 points to his rating, while emerging victorious from the section. This certainly deserves mention and kudos!

Absent With Cause:

Finally I also want to highlight two other Iranian youngsters who certainly would have had a place at this event, but had a good reason for not attending. Parham Maghsoodloo (Iran, 14.97, 2416, #107) and IM M.Amin Tabatabei (Iran, 14.48, 2458, #46) are both instead competing at the Asian Continental Championships! This is an elite event, with 36 GMs in the field, including top seed Le Quang Liem. So how are the teenagers faring? With one round left to play, both boast 5/8 scores and are among the large group tied for 11th place! Both have defeated two GM opponents, and both have gained rating points. They each get a shot at a potential third GM scalp in the final round, as they seek to finish off their impressive results. I would say they made a good choice in skipping the youth event!

UPDATE: Parham Maghsodloo won his 9th round game, giving him three straight victories over GM opponents in the final three rounds. With the win, the untitled underdog who celebrates his 15th birthday in three days, finished with a 6/9 score and tied for sixth place overall! That’s the same result (and with better tie-breaks) as Le Quang Liem! The result earns Maghsoodloo 25 rating points, and while I haven’t verified it yet, I believe should also earn him his first GM norm. Far more important than either of those things: it also earns him a spot in the upcoming World Cup! Congratulations to the young man!

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5 thoughts on “Prodigies In Action – Asian Youth Championships!

  1. Aravindh Chithambaram terrible performance might be attributed to playing in and winning the Indian Junior (u19) championships just a few days before. He’s much better than that.

    Nihal Sarin also played in the Indian Junior championships, so maybe his lukewarm performance can also be attributed to mental fatigue. He really is an extremely highly rated talent in India (I once heard an Indian IM commentator say he was the new Anand and their biggest talent since the legend himself), so I’m sure he’ll bounce back.

    Sindarov and Firouzja’s performances were impressive but somewhat to be expected. Also, thanks for showing the highest rated u-10’s and their current standings on the chess Olympus. I’m not surprised to see virtually all of them have gone on to achieve great things in chess. When you’re so good so young, and your parents and close relatives know they have something special on their hands, they push their kids in that direction.

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    • I hadn’t known about the Indian Junior Championships, but fatigue from that could definitely explain why those two struggled a little in this tournament.

      Really the bigger factor, though, in my opinion, is just that it’s a lose-lose proposition to face a field where most of your opponents are rated well below you. In a tournament with this structure it’s inevitable that several of the highest rated players will underperform, and just a question of who that will end up being. Since India sent more top seeds than any other country, it was predictable that a couple Indian prodigies would likely be among the underperformers.

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