Marc’Andria Maurizzi has become a grandmaster at the age of 14 years and 5 days, beating Etienne Bacrot’s record as the youngest ever French Grandmaster that was set 24 years ago in 1997. The Corsican’s 3rd and final GM norm at the 2nd Chartres GM tournament took him ahead of Teimour Radjabov to become the 13th youngest grandmaster in history. Sergey Karjakin holds the all-time record at 12 years and 7 months, though US prodigy Abhimanyu Mishra is pushing to break that record this year.
The pandemic has been tough on chess prodigies, starving them of many of the opportunities to face international opposition and chase records, but it hasn’t held back some players. In February we reported on Marc’Andria Maurizzi scoring his 2nd GM norm. He’s now scored a 3rd and final norm by winning another rare over-the-board tournament, the 2nd Grandmaster Tournament in Chartres, France.
With a 2603 performance Marc picked up the ratings points required to cross 2500 and make the title official.
The happy ending was hard to predict early on. In Game 2, against Greek IM Anatole Vlachos, our youngster survived by the skin of his teeth.
Anatole is threatening checkmate on h2, and to win the game all he needs to do is escape his opponent’s checks. There was a way: 46…Kf8! 47.Qb8+ Be8! and it’s game over. Instead, with just over two minutes on his clock, Anatole went for 46…Qf6?!, and although he was still winning, he later lost his way completely until the game ended in a draw by perpetual check.
Things got worse immediately afterwards for Marc-Andria, who went on to lose to 6-time French Women’s Champion Sophie Milliet in the following round. From there on, however, Maurizzi won the next five games in a row, with a fine attack against French IM Quentin Louiseau putting him on the verge of the title.
There are many ways to win, but 24.Kf2!, preparing to bring a rook to the h-file, was the most clinical. Quentin resigned, since e.g. 24…Bxe6 25.Rh1! is mate-in-3.
That win meant Marc’Andria was able to take a 10-move draw in the final round to clinch the grandmaster title and a place in French chess history. He’s also right up there in overall chess history, as the 13th youngest player ever to claim the title.
We’re likely to see the youngster next in action in the French Top 12 Team Championship, which is set to be held in Châlons-en-Champagne from 24 June to 4 July.
Abhimanyu Mishra eyes glory
In the bigger picture what matters most is a player’s ceiling rather than how fast they rise, but great achievements at a young age give a huge boost to a player’s marketability, meaning more invitations and opportunities to grow. The biggest prize on offer is to be able to say you were the youngest grandmaster in history, but for the last 19 years no-one has been able to oust Sergey Karjakin from that spot.
Praggnanandhaa and Javokhir Sindarov (Uzbekistan) came within 3 months of Sergey’s 12 years and 7 months record, while Gukesh fell short by a mere 17 days in 2019. The immensely greater access nowadays to chess training, analysis and play from anywhere around the globe means the record is sure to fall, and it could happen soon.
12-year-old US prodigy Abhimanyu Mishra already holds the record as the youngest ever International Master (10 years, 9 months and 20 days) and is laser-focused on achieving the main title, even using crowdfunding to cover his costs.
This year he’s been in Hungary, an ideal country for chasing title norms due to a series of tournaments designed specifically to meet all the requirements, such as playing at least three grandmasters and facing players from different federations. He scored his first GM norm in the April Vezerkepzo tournament before blowing away the field in the May First Saturday GM tournament.
His 30 rating points gain was perhaps the biggest deal, since Abhimanyu raising his rating to the required 2500 may be more challenging than gaining a final norm. His latest chance to attain that norm was in the May Vezerkepzo event, but although four wins to finish boosted his rating, the loss in Round 5 already left him unable to achieve the 7/9 he required for the GM norm.
Abhimanyu was born on February 5, 2009, however, so he still has until September 5, 2021 to beat Sergey Karjakin’s record. It’s clearly a very achievable goal for the talented kid, but as we’ve seed in the past, getting across the final hurdle to become a grandmaster can be incredibly tough. Watch this space!