Though there can be no doubt of the young Indian-American’s excellence, the events he earned his title at have long been contentious in the chess community.
Who is the youngest chess GM?
Abhimanyu Mishra has officially shattered the record of the youngest Grandmaster title holder in chess history by a margin of 66 days. Previously held by Sergey Karjakin, the 12-year-old chess prodigy hailing from New Jersey, USA completed all the norms required to become a GM at the age of 12 years, 7 months and 17 days.
That the feat is a tremendous one can be gauged by the fact that Karjakin held the record for almost two decades. To provide a bit of contrast, current World number one Magnus Carlsen achieved the GM title at the age of 13 years, 4 months and 27 days.
Abhimanyu achieved his final GM norm at the Vezérképző GM Mix at Budapest, Hungary in June, 2021. The prodigious youngster needed a win in his final game at the event against GM Leon Mendoca, who had a rating of 2549 at the time. Despite the initial calculations signaling a draw, Abhimanyu grabbed the opening resulting from a hurried move from Leon, promoting his pawn into a queen before his opponent and converting the position into a win.
The youngster is used to breaking records from the age of five when he became the youngest USCF rated player in the United States. He also became the youngest to achieve the IM title as well at the age of 10 years, 9 months and 3 days.
His achievement did stir a bit of controversy in the chess fraternity. Candidates winner and Magnus Carlsen’s challenger for the next World Championship, GM Ian Nepomniachtchi propagated for better and more stringent rules for the GM norm fulfillment. Suggestions included the added requirement of achieving at least one norm at an Open tournament while also restricting the impact of results against 2400-rated GMs.
While the timing of Ian’s tweet might be off-putting to many, it is worth digressing from the topic at hand to take a closer look.
Improving GM norms: Ian’s improvements
For all our points of discussion, let us take the Vezérképző (a name that roughly translates to “leader-maker” or “queen-maker”) GM Mix event at Budapest as the corroborating evidence to fall back on. Now, the first point of contention is the fact that the average rating of the attendees was 2360. However, what is even more daunting is the fact that the event featured only 6 GMs out of a pool of 18 players.
As we take a closer look at the 6 GMs playing at the event, only Leon Mendoca (15) is under the age of 25. In fact, every GM except Leon, Gabor Nagy (26) and Milan Pacher (31) attending the event is well beyond their prime chess years. Only Leon and Gabor had a 2500-plus rating, which does highlight Ian’s point.
GM Noel Studer also pointed at the obvious, stating that the tournaments were shady at best and had no other incentive for players apart from achieving title norms. He took a swing at the organizers of such events suggesting that GMs who perform well at these events are normally not invited again as it defeats the sole purpose of the event.
One look at the Vezérképző GM Mix event website and Noel’s point is proven to an extent. The official website announces the purpose of the competition as ”provide an opportunity to achieve Fide norm (GM, IM, FM) and increase live score”.
Ian and Noel are right in suggesting that norms achieved at events where there are no incentives, neither is anything at stake for GMs should ideally not be valid. The timing of the tweet might seem objectionable but it did end up bringing this issue forward on a much grander scale.
As far as Abhimanyu is concerned, there are no fingers being pointed. The 12-year-old has become the youngest GM well within the rules applicable. He deserves it as much as the next GM or any other, perhaps more so given the ongoing pandemic, regardless of who he faced or the stature of the events he achieved his GM norms at, so long as it is permeable in the eyes of FIDE.
As the governing body tries to usher in changes to promote a healthier dialogue between them and the chess community, Ian’s suggestions are something that should be rightfully analyzed before coming to a decision.
Nevertheless, Abhimanyu, who is currently rated 2504, received one of the many wildcards given out by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) for the 2021 World Cup to be held in Sochi, Russia. Abhimanyu’s first-round opponent at Sochi will be GM Baadur Jobava, who has a classical rating of 2603.