The world’s newest – and youngest – grandmaster hails from Tashkent in Uzbekistan. Thirteen-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov clinched his third and final GM norm at the just-concluded Mikhail Chigorin Memorial tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia, and he did so with a mature performance that belies his youthful age – and already there’s speculative talk that the Tashkent prodigy could emerge from a newer generation of chess stars to take Magnus Carlsen’s world title.
Scoring 6.5/9, Abdusattorov, at the official age of 13 years, one month and 11 days old, now becomes the all-time second-youngest grandmaster in chess, as he pushed Carlsen down into fourth place in the age-ranking records behind India’s Parimarjan Negi – but Russia’s Sergey Karjakin still holds the all-time #1 spot at the phenomenal age of 12 years and seven months, a record that many in the game believe will never be broken.
Nowadays it’s hard to imagine in a computer generation filled with pre-pubescent stars who cut their competitive teeth (and milk ones, at that!) on freely available high-level playing engines and multi-million game databases, but back in 1950, when Fide first introduced official chess titles, David Bronstein, at the tender age of 26, was the first player to set the record for being the world’s youngest grandmaster.
He was then followed by three future world champion who each lowered the threshold further: Tigran Petrosian, who was 23 in 1952; Boris Spassky, 18 in 1955; and Bobby Fischer, who hit the headlines in 1958 by smashing Spassky’s record at the the age of 15 years, six months and one day. There was then a 30-year hiatus before Judit Polgar sensationally broke Fischer’s record – and especially as she was a girl!
(Photo) Abdusattorov made a big impression with the American chess fans by top-performing for the Rest of the World during their upset victory over the USA in the “Match of the Millennials” in St. Louis in June | © Spectrum Photos for CCSCSL
One of the hallmarks of Abdusattorov’s game is his playing style, as he’s not the sort of tactical beast you come to expect from a young player. Instead, he has a more mature playing style, specializing in slowly squeezing his opponents, which is reminiscent of the legendary Anatoly Karpov – and this was evident in his crucial win in St. Petersburg over a more experienced Russian GM in today’s game.
IM Nodirbek Abdusattorov – GM Evgeny Levin
Chigorin Memorial, (6)
Sicilian Defence, Canal/Moscow Variation
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4 It looks a bit funny to defend the bishop this way – but there is a method to the madness, because if 4…Bxb5 5.cxb5, the pawn prevents the knight from developing on its natural square of c6 which will allow White to get a speedy d4 in, opening up the game – and also, more importantly, the pawn on b5 will hinder Black’s queenside pawns. 4…e6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 In essence, the game is going into a Maróczy Bind formation, with White’s pawns on c4 and e4 preventing Black from freeing his game with …d5. 7…Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Be3 Nc6 10.Bxc6 This is a positional call from Abdusattorov, who aims to show that, with his grip on d5, Black’s d-pawn will be a long-term target. 10…Bxc6 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Qe2 The queen makes way for Rd1 to ratchet up the pressure on d6. 12…Qa5 Black can’t rid himself easily of the d6 weakness with 12…d5, as after 13.Rfd1 Qa5 14.exd5! exd5 15.cxd5 Nxd5 16.Nxd5 cxd5 17.Bd4 Rfe8 18.Qg4! Bf8 19.Bc3! White not only has a strong kingside attack, he’ll also soon be doubling rooks on the d-file to put unbearable pressure on the now isolated d-pawn – and something will then have to give. 13.Rfd1 Rfd8 14.Rac1 Rd7 15.b3 Rad8 16.h3 Qa6 17.Kf1 For one so young, Abdusattorov is showing a maturity that belies his age with a useful waiting move. Realising that for now there’s no immediate breakthrough, he’s patiently building his position in readiness for the endgame, showing no immediate rush in trying to find a breakthrough that might not be there right now. 17…Qb7 18.Rd3 Kf8 19.Rcd1 Kg8 20.Bd4 Ne8?! This looks wrong and plays right into White’s hands, as, eventually, he will find a certain position that will have a bit of bite in it that will provide the breakthrough. I think now was the time for Black to be bold and play 20…d5!? and ask White what he really has here. 21.Na4 c5 Now Black gets a bit paranoid about White playing c5 and a firm hold on the queenside, so prevents this – but in doing so, he just further weakens his d6-pawn that now cannot push forward with the freeing …d5. 22.Be3 The point is that 22…Qxe4 loses material to 23.Nxc5! 22…Qc6 23.Qf3 Abdusattorov is extremely patient, and just continually reinforces his now iron-like grip on d5 – and with his opponent unable to do anything other than keeping the status quo, this gives the young Uzbek ace the time he needs to probe further for a breakthrough weakness. 23…Nf6 24.Nc3 a6 25.Bg5 Qc8 26.R1d2 h6 27.Bf4 Qc6 28.Ke2 Kf8 29.Kf1 Abdusattorov is again showing signs of maturity by freely ‘wasting’ some moves by shuffling his king to get closer to the time control at move 40. 29…Ke8 30.Rd1 Kf8 31.Bg3 Ke8 32.Bh4 Qb7 33.Bg3 Qc6 34.Qe2 Kf8 35.f4! Abdusattorov now puts his breakthrough plan in operation! He’s going to push forward with f5, and that will either create a new weakness on e6 and a kingside attack or force Black to chronically weaken the d5 square – and perhaps even all of the above. 35…Kg8 36.f5 Re8 37.Qf3 Red8 Black is in a fix, as after 37…exf5 38.Qxf5 White has total dominance of the d5-square and will follow up with Kg1 to make way for Rf1 and Rf3 and an almighty kingside attack looming. 38.Ke2 Qc8 39.Kf1 Qc6 40.Kg1 Time control safely reached, now Abdusattorov can relax with the extra time to push through with his final breakthrough plan. 40…Qc8 41.Bh4 Qc7 42.Ne2! The idea is simply threatening fxe6 and Nf4 winning. 42…exf5 43.Qxf5 Qc6 44.e5! [see diagram] The winning breakthrough! 44…Qe4 Black can’t play 44…dxe5 as White easily wins, because when the dust settles, Black will be losing a piece after 45.Rxd7 Rxd7 46.Rxd7 Qxd7 47.Qxd7 Nxd7 48.Bxe7 etc. 45.Qxe4 Nxe4 Black may have swapped off the queens and saved himself from losing a piece – but it comes at the cost of losing pawns heading into the endgame now. 46.Be1 Rb7 47.Ng3! Forcing the exchange of even more material, and ultimately dooming Black’s d-pawn – the rest of the game is now a technicality for Abdusattorov, as clinically now finishes off his opponent. 47…Nxg3 48.Bxg3 Kf8 49.exd6 Bf6 50.Bf2 Ke8 51.Bxc5 Kd7 52.Bd4 Bxd4+ 53.Rxd4 Re8 54.Kf2 a5 55.Re1 Rxe1 56.Kxe1 a4 57.c5 axb3 58.axb3 Rxb3 59.c6+ Kxc6 60.d7 1-0