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Firouzja Is Number 2 In the World. We Just Have to Deal With It

Prior to 2020, there was only one star in chess — Magnus Carlsen. The main plot of the chess world for years has been to sarcastically watch who out of the top players will manage to win the Candidates tournament to collect a sizable prize after losing to Carlsen again, likely on tie-breaks.

Photo: Anna Shtourman, FIDE: Firouzja during Round 10 of the Grand Swiss in Riga

But over the course of the pandemic, the new star appeared in such a meteoric way that the World Chess Championship Match that starts this week (Carlsen is facing his Russian nemesis Nepo) is probably already outmoded. All eyes are on Firouzja.

Alireza Firouzja, an 18-year old chess prodigy who escaped from Iran and now represents France, just moved up to number 2 in live ratings and became the youngest player in history to reach the 2800 ELO level, following his spectacular performance in Riga and at the European Team Championship.

Nigel Short, the former championship challenger and chess version of the enfant terrible said on Twitter: “I have long been aware that the only way I was ever going to maintain my 100% record against Alireza Firouzja was if I never played him again. His play is so brilliant, it is scary.”

FIDE, the chess governing body, is trying to organize the next Candidates Tournament in 2022, pushing for an accelerated championship cycle in an effort to make up for the time lost during the pandemic, and this time it’s probably warranted. Firouzja has already secured his spot at the table by winning the Grand Swiss, and now the real chess drama is whether he will be able to bulldozer his way through a list of seasoned opponents to face Carlsen (or Nepo!) in 2023.

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