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Alireza Firouzja Turns 19 During the Dramatic Tournament

Today, GM Alireza Firouzja turns 19 and his birthday finds him at the 2022 Candidates Tournament! The young GM – the youngest to participate in this year’s Candidates – is Carlsen’s favorite to win the tournament as he might not even defend his title otherwise.

Photo: Maria Emelianova

“He’s the French favourite, he’s the fan favourite, and he’s Carlsen’s favourite. He’s the Alireza of Alirezas.” Mr. Dodgy says, who gives Alireza a 5/5 on his meme appeal as “Once assaulted a water bottle. Complained about Carlsen swearing in Norwegian. Yelled at an arbiter. His brother is fun. A WC match would have some incredibly enjoyable press conferences.”

Besides his likeability, Firouzja’s chess performance has by far exceeded expectations with his rating climbing to 2804 in December 2021 making him the youngest player in history to reach the 2800 ELO level, and No.2 in live ratings.

Before Firouzja’s rating skyrocket and attract all medias attention, his achievements were also remarkable. He is a two-time Iranian champion, the reigning European Fischer Random champion, second at the World Rapid Championship (one point behind World Champion Magnus Carlsen), and winner of the 2021 Riga Grand Swiss, which put him through to the 2022 Candidates tournament.

Right before the start of the Candidaes, the World Champion Magnus Carlsen gave his predictions referring to Alireza as “the dark horse”. Carlsen wrote: “Tier two: the dark horses. Firouzja and Nepomniachtchi belong here. Neither of them has the consistency to be in the top tier, but they both have a ceiling that gives them a smaller, but still quite realistic chance of winning.”

The 2018 Challenger Fabiano Caruana also made a comment on Alireza at the Opening Press Conference of the Candidates. “He is not a very experienced player. He is super gifted and super strong, but he hasn’t played in this event before, and it is a different event from the ones he’s played in. [...] So, I don’t think it’s impossible for a first-timer to potentially win a [Candidates] tournament. I think he is also quite smart in his approach to chess and how he prepares. He has chances for sure. His ascent to World No 2 position was a little bit of momentum. I don’t think it fully conveyed his level compared to other top players in the world, but momentum carries you far, and I’ve experienced this myself” Caruana said.

Chess fans are following Firouzja’s success with huge interest and some look forward to him becoming the next World Champion. He has all chances to celebrate his 19th birthday in style.

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