Person of day - 18 JUNE 2023
Alireza Firouzja was born on the 18th June 2003 in Babol, in Northern Iran. His family did not play chess, so Alireza was initially signed up for football, but at the age of 8, he attended a chess class with his friends.
When he was 12, the young talent won the Iranian championship and the Asian championship in his age group, after which he competed in the World championship where he fought for the gold medal against Nodirbek Abdusattorov but lost in the last round. In that same year, Firouzja made his debut in the Iranian championship for adults and immediately finished in the top 10.
The Iranian Chess Federation gave a lot of help to the rising star. The country’s finest trainers were designated to coach Iran’s young stars, with extra attention devoted to the U16 team at the junior Olympiad. In 2016, Parham Maghsoodloo, Alireza Firouzja and Arjan Golami managed to defeat the Russian team that contained Andrey Esipenko, Alexey Sarana, Sergei Lobanov and Saveliy Golubov.
In that same year, Alireza became an international master and won the Iranian championship for the first time, overtaking his partners from the junior team by a single point. Afterwards, he was included in the Iranian team for the Olympiad in Baku. Famous grandmaster Ivan Sokolov began to work with the Iranian team that year and shortly after claimed that Firouzja had the potential to become the world champion and that his style was very similar to a young Vishi Anand’s.
A year later, Alireza came second at the Asian junior championship and the quality of his play rose accordingly as he completed friendly match-tournaments for which he invited different star players to Iran. In 2018, Firouzja attained his third grandmaster norm and had a rating of around 2600.
After this, a rapid rise followed the young man’s career: he won all three disciplines at the Asian games, took 8 points out of 11 at the Olympiad in Batumi and 8 out of 9 between the leaders of the junior Olympiad. At the 2018 world rapid championship in St Petersburg, the star from Iran sensationally took the sixth place and at the blitz world championship, Alireza started out with 6,5 points out of 7, before losing to Magnus Carlsen and failing to recover his form. He ended up finishing in the +3 zone.
In 2019, Firouzja won the Iranian championship by a considerable margin, triumphed at a large open tournament in Tehran, came first at the open Fischer random European championship and lead the national team to victory against a team of invited opponents. At the 2019 World Team Championship, Alireza won a medal on his board, losing only to Vladislav Artemiev.
At a well-attended open tournament in Grenke, Alireza won 7 points out of 9, having missed a match against an Israeli player before losing to an opponent with a rating below 2000. Boycotting matches against Israel is Iranian state policy that all Iranian sportsmen must abide by. The Firouzja family began to consider moving to the West.
Having qualified for the 2019 World Cup from the Asian championship, Alireza knocked out Arman Pashikyan and Daniil Dubov, before losing to the tournament’s eventual winner, Ding Liren.
Before the King Salman Rapid and Blitz World Championship in Moscow in 2019, Alireza made his big announcement: he would no longer represent Iran and his family would move to France. Playing under FIDE’s flag, Firouzja came second at the rapid championship, losing only to Magnus Carlsen. In the blitz championship, the young grandmaster maintained his chances with three rounds to go after defeating the world champion in their individual match. However, when he approached the endgame with several extra pawns, Alireza unexpectedly dropped the flag. Firouzja went on to protest that his opponent behaved inappropriately with the flags, that he cussed in Norwegian and that he pressed the clock’s button too hard. The appeal was denied and the young master finished on the sixth place.
In 2020, Alireza made his debut at the Tata Steel Chess, won a well-attended round-robin tournament in Prague and took his revenge against Carlsen at the final of the Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Firouzja played for the World Team at the Online Tournament of Nations.
The gifted chess player is already among the top 20 players in the world and multiple experts consider him to be a future opponent of the incumbent chess king. Having shown a brilliant performance at the Grand Swiss in 2021, Alireza qualified for the FIDE Candidates Tournament as one of its youngest participants in the history of chess. His rating crossed the 2800 mark after the European Team Championship of the same year. His 19th birthday Firouzja is celebrating in Madrid where he is fighting for the right to challenge the World Champion.