Prodigy Watch

The Prodigy Watch is our analysis of young chess superstars, with a particular emphasis on those setting ratings records for their ages (mostly either “youngest player to achieve rating X” or “highest rating achieved by age Y”). The analysis you will see here is powered by a database of players and ratings that I have compiled from a variety of sources. When talking about higher ratings, or older ages, the database is very comprehensive. It includes every player ever rated 2700+, and every player who achieved the GM title before the age of 16, along with many other players as well.

Our listed records in lower age groups are not quite so well vetted, for a few reasons. First: It’s very hard to find birthday data for players under the age of 12, and especially kids under 10. Without knowing a player’s birthday, we have to conservatively assume January 1st, but if they were born in November or December that could be a huge error. 11 months is a massive amount of time for a very young chess player, and so we might, for instance, list a player as the “15th best 9 year old” in our database, when they were actually only 8.1 years old when that rating was published, and it’s really the third highest rating ever for their age. A complete list of all the “unknown birthdays” in our database can be viewed here, and we greatly appreciate any assistance in helping us find these players’ birthdays to improve the quality of our data.

A second reason why our data is less reliable at younger ages is that younger record setters are far less guaranteed to catch our attention with a “notable” achievement that would earn them entry into the data set. I’m quite confident that our list of the top 10 ratings ever achieved at or before the age of 14 is accurate, because they’re all GMs, and as I said before, we’ve added everyone who became a GM at or before 16 years of age. It’s hard to be missing a 14 year old record setter. However our list of the top 10 highest rated 8 year olds of all time may be woefully incomplete. It’s easy for someone to have been the third best 8 year old ever, but quit the game by the age of 12 without ever going above 2200, and for us to miss that player and fail to include them. So again, please assist us, by bringing to our attention anyone who you believe may hold a record, but is not currently included in our data set. A list of all 554 players currently in our database can be seen here.

So within our current database of 554 players, here are the top ten highest ratings ever achieved before various ages, from 10 to 21 (Updated as of the July 2016 rating list). Players who are CURRENTLY below the listed age (and thus could potentially improve upon their listed record before their next birthday) are highlighted in bold. Note that “at or before” refers to the given birthday, so someone’s rating at the age of 10.5 years old is only eligible for the 11 column:

Highest Published FIDE Ratings Achieved At Or Before The Given Birthday:
Rank 10 11 12 13
1 Javokhir Sindarov (2299) Nodirbek Abdusattorov (2465) Nodirbek Abdusattorov (2465) Judit Polgar (2555)
2 Vugar Gashimov (2250) R Praggnanandhaa (2429) Sergey Karjakin (2460) Ruslan Ponomariov (2550)
3 Ilya Makoveev (2249) Javokhir Sindarov (2384) Jonas Bjerre (2439) Sergey Karjakin (2547)
4 Daniil Dubov (2240) Vincent Keymer (2364) R Praggnanandhaa (2429) Hou Yifan (2509)
5 R Praggnanandhaa (2225) Judit Polgar (2355) Illya Nyzhnyk (2428) Illya Nyzhnyk (2503)
6 Nijat Abasov (2210) Alexander Riazantsev (2350) Dmitry Andreikin (2398) Alireza Firouzja (2485)
7 Sergey Karjakin (2206) Illya Nyzhnyk (2344) Samir Sahidi (2396) Nodirbek Abdusattorov (2465)
8 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2187) Sanan Sjugirov (2296) Teimour Radjabov (2395) Peter Leko (2460)
9 Hou Yifan (2168) Maxim Matlakov (2295) Peter Leko (2385) Teimour Radjabov (2459)
10 Ildar Khairullin (2160) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2277) Javokhir Sindarov (2384) Magnus Carlsen (2450)
Highest Published FIDE Ratings Achieved At Or Before The Given Birthday:
Rank 14 15 16 17
1 Magnus Carlsen (2581) Wei Yi (2634) Wei Yi (2721) Wei Yi (2737)
2 Sergey Karjakin (2566) Wesley So (2610) Magnus Carlsen (2698) Magnus Carlsen (2714)
3 Ruslan Ponomariov (2565) John M Burke (2603) Sergey Karjakin (2660) Anish Giri (2690)
4 Judit Polgar (2555) Sergey Karjakin (2599) Wesley So (2646) Sergey Karjakin (2679)
5 Peter Leko (2555) Teimour Radjabov (2599) Anish Giri (2642) Wesley So (2674)
6 Illya Nyzhnyk (2544) Illya Nyzhnyk (2589) Jeffery Xiong (2641) Fabiano Caruana (2670)
7 Jergus Pechac (2540) Leinier Dominguez Perez (2585) Fabiano Caruana (2630) Vladislav Artemiev (2668)
8 Parimarjan Negi (2538) Ruslan Ponomariov (2585) Teimour Radjabov (2628) Teimour Radjabov (2656)
9 Wesley So (2531) Magnus Carlsen (2581) Vladislav Artemiev (2621) Yu Yangyi (2652)
10 Wei Yi (2530) Samuel Sevian (2578) Illya Nyzhnyk (2619) Gata Kamsky (2650)
Highest Published FIDE Ratings Achieved At Or Before The Given Birthday:
Rank 18 19 20 21
1 Magnus Carlsen (2786) Magnus Carlsen (2801) Magnus Carlsen (2826) Magnus Carlsen (2826)
2 Wei Yi (2737) Ruslan Ponomariov (2743) Fabiano Caruana (2775) Anish Giri (2797)
3 Sergey Karjakin (2732) Wei Yi (2737) Anish Giri (2752) Fabiano Caruana (2796)
4 Anish Giri (2722) Anish Giri (2734) Ruslan Ponomariov (2743) Sergey Karjakin (2776)
5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2716) Sergey Karjakin (2732) Wei Yi (2737) Vladimir Kramnik (2775)
6 Fabiano Caruana (2697) Fabiano Caruana (2721) Sergey Karjakin (2732) Wesley So (2755)
7 Richard Rapport (2693) Richard Rapport (2720) Alexander Grischuk (2732) Richard Rapport (2752)
8 Vladimir Kramnik (2685) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2718) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2730) Teimour Radjabov (2747)
9 Ruslan Ponomariov (2684) Vladimir Kramnik (2710) Teimour Radjabov (2729) Peter Leko (2743)
10 Vladislav Artemiev (2676) Teimour Radjabov (2704) Vladimir Kramnik (2725) Ruslan Ponomariov (2743)

16 thoughts on “Prodigy Watch

  1. Great work!!

    Just an idea to help to track the “Newcomers”.
    I would mark the players bold at their actual age, some examples:
    a) Nodirbek Abdusattorov in the (under)”11y” list
    b) Jergus Pechac in the (under)”14y” list
    c) Wei Yi in the (under)”16y” list
    then it is easy to see their actual age,
    and it is easier to understand that e.g. even though a) is still not 11y
    he would even be Number one in the under 12y list …
    If they get older then mark them in the new age list …


  2. thanks for the updates and marking the current age bold !
    Question: as Wei Yi is turning 16 on June,2
    shouldn’t his current Jun’15 Rating of 2021 be reflected already in the “under 16” list ?


    • Oops! My query to find top ratings U16 (or any other age) listed him as 16.01, but that’s because it was erroneously dividing his age in days by 365, rather than by 365.25 (for Leap Years), to calculate his age in years. Of course he’s actually 15.997 years old as of 6/1/15, so should included on that list. I wonder if anyone else mistakenly missed the cuts by a day or two? I’ll double check it all tomorrow!


  3. Just realized that Karjakin is the only one who made it into the Top 10 list for all 12 years!
    His worst being rank #8 at #10 => Average >5


  4. ups… text of my post changed after pressing “Post Comment” …

    Let’s try again:

    Just realized that Karjakin is the only one who made it into the Top 10 list for all 12 years!
    His worst being rank #8 at “below 11years”; 3x #2; 3x #3; 3x #4; 2x #5
    This means an average of rank #3.75 !!

    Even Magnus C. was not that consistent:
    5x #1, 2x #2, 1x #8, 1x #9, 3x not in the Top 10, hence average above 5


    • Cool observation! Carlsen definitely didn’t show his enormous potential as tangibly impressive ratings until a little older than some prodigies, not being among the top ten by age until his 13th birthday, and even then at “just” ninth. I suppose we could say “better late than never”, here, if we wanted to be a little tongue in cheek… though of course it’s a little silly to imply that being the highest rated player ever before the age of 14 somehow qualifies Magnus as a late starter 😉


    • I haven’t been publishing them, because I’m not confident in the completeness of my data at that level. However since you asked, I will give you what I have:

      The ten highest ratings *I am aware of* ever being achieved prior to a player’s 8th birthday are:

      Kumar Gaurav (2080)
      David Felipe Ribero (2050)
      Aryan Gholami (2036)
      Jorian Jared Acosta Cubides (1998)
      Rahman Mohammad Fahad (1973)
      Nodirbek Abdusattorov (1949)
      Sahaj Grover (1944)
      Aices Salvador (1927)
      Daniel Eduardo Padilla (1921)
      Anibal Santiago Cotes Ontibon (1912)

      And the top ten U9 ratings I am aware of are:

      Illya Nyzhnyk (2131)
      Kumar Gaurav (2080)
      Ruben Navarro Bustillo (2064)
      Samuel Sevian (2060)
      Javokhir Sindarov (2054)
      David Felipe Ribero (2050)
      Aices Salvador (2040)
      Aryan Gholami (2036)
      Juan Sebastian Cotes Ontibon (2017)
      Jorian Jared Acosta Cubides (2015)


  5. Vincent Keymer never had a rating of 2364. Also Awonder Liang is missing!? John M Burke is still 14, shouldn’t he be included in the U14-list?


    • Keymer was 2365 not 2364, interesting, I have no idea how I got the wrong number in my database. I’ll fix that and investigate.

      Regarding Burke, the U-14 list only includes ratings achieved prior to a player’s 14th birthday. Burke is 14 as you said, meaning no longer “under” 14. Less than, not less than or equal to.

      Regarding Liang, you’re right again, he’s missing. I’ll have to dig through my database queries and figure out why, and whether anything else is inaccurate for the same reason. Thank you for the comment, I’ll figure out and fix the errors you found for me!

      Edit: On review I believe Liang is not missing. The 10th highest U12 rating is 2358 by MVL, Liang’s peak U12 rating was 2327, not enough to crack the list. He has since gotten up to a peak of 2404, but that’s not yet enough to crack the U13 list. Reviewing the page, I do see how my language is poor and does not necessarily clarify that a 12.2 year old is not eligible for the column headed by the number 12. I’ll consider how better to phrase it, and have an edit within a few hours.


  6. excellent info! I Believe would be interesting to show also the youngest chess players to reach 2200 2300 2400 2500 2600(J. Burke) 2700 (wei yi) 2800 (Carlsen), world champion (Ponomariov 18, Kasparov 22), FIDE N#1(carlsen), and also youngest to win a tournament category 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23(caruana)


  7. Wow. Very well done. Very informative. Most probably without the help of computer apps and programs, putting all these data together could have taken ages to complete and update!


  8. Becoming grandmasters at an early age qualifies these guys as prodigies! However I have noted that there are among them, namely Bu Xiangzhi (China), Jorge Cori (Peru), Yuriy Kuzubov (Ukraine), Bogdan Daniel Deac (Romania), Dariusz Świercz (Poland), Aryan Chopra (India), Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son (Vietnam), and Ray Robson (USA), who have not cracked the top 10 Elo ratings in their age group. Probably most, if not all of them will appear if it would be top 20…just curious.


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