Aviv on Chess – Players Profiles – GM Group B

Name: Fabiano Caruana
Date of Birth: 30/07/1992
Country: Italy
World Ranking: 87
Rating: 2640

US born Fabiano (who also holds an Italian citizenship) left America for Europe in search of a more saturated chess scene. Initially moving to Spain for training, his family then moved to Hungary and is based there. At age 13 he changed his chess affiliation to Italy, where he is now the highest ranked player. A recognized talent the youngster caught fire and in no time fulfilled the required norms for the IM title. By age 14 he was already a Grandmaster – one of the world’s youngest ever, and the youngest either the US or Italy have ever produced.

Caruana is a two-time Pan American champion – in 2002 (boys under 10), and 2003 (boys under 12), and the current Italian champion (a tournament he also won last year, and tied for first in a year earlier). He is now at his rating peak, with even more points to arrive from events yet to register. Fab’s rating chart looks like the route of a ballistic missile: he rose over 600 ELO points in a span of 6 years or so!

The home schooled academically Fabiano is making his second trip to Corus, after a Carlsen-like routing victory in the GM C group last year (10.5/13), which earned him a place in GM group B – a place he could have also earned thanks to his rating. Will he pull another ‘Carlsen’ to advance to the top group in 2010?

Name: Hou Yifan
Date of Birth: 27/09/1994
Country: China
World Ranking:Rating: 2578

The youngest participant in Group B (all GM groups for that matter!) is now a household name in the chess circles. Despite her young age, Yifan already has an impressive resume of achievements and record-breakings. She is one of the world’s youngest to ever achieve the GM title at 14.5 years (she got it this year, not much after she got her IM title), and the youngest finalist to the women’s world championship (she is the sub-champion, having lost to Kosteniuk in the finals). Prior to that she was the first Chinese women’s champion to do it at age 13.

What started at age 3 as a kid’s visual fascination for glass chess pieces she saw at a local library quickly became a lot more than that. As soon as she started playing the game, no one in her family was a challenge, and recognizing her amazing talent she was soon under the care of strong professionals. After winning the world youth girls under 10 section in 2003, she decided to play in the boys/open section of that event from the next year on, winning the bronze on her first try in 2004.

Soon invitations started coming, and the young Chinese girl started playing extensively in women’s events, strong opens, and GM invitationals, increasing her results from event to event. Her first time in Corus in 2007 was a good one, finishing in fifth place in the C group and collecting her WGM title afterwards. Last year in group B she scored –1.

Hou’s rating skyrocketed over 400 points in about 3-4 years, and she is closing in on 2600. Maybe Corus 2009 would put her over?

Name: Henrique Mecking
Date of Birth: 23/1/1952
Country: Brazil
World Ranking:Rating: 2567

The Godfather of Brazil’s chess and its first grandmaster is the elder statesman of the GM B group in 2009. Henrique was a chess wunderkind with unusual talent, who in his teens was already taking part and holding his own in strong competitions such as the Interzonals. He got his Grandmaster title at age 19, and two years later made his first big mark when he won the very strong Petropolis Interzonal with an undefeated score of 12/17 – beating Smyslov and Reshevsky among others. It took none other than Viktor Kortchnoi to eliminate him in the quarterfinals of the Candidates 7.5-5.5.

In the next cycle Mecking repeated his achievement, taking first place in the Manila Interzonal scoring 13/19, and losing only one game (to Spassky). He lost his Candidates match with Polugaevsky by the narrowest of margins, 6.5-5.5 (one win and 11 draws). He reached his rating peak in 1977 with 2635 (when a 2600 ELO was like today’s 2700++!), and was ranked third in the world, behind only Karpov and Kortchnoi. His illustrious career came to a halt due to health issues, and he retired from chess for many years.

In the early 90’s Henrique made a comeback, and although he was past his prime, he proved to still be a formidable opponent. He isn’t very active nowadays, and his latest event was the King’s veterans’ tournament in Romania where he scored 50%. This will be his third visit to Wijk aan Zee, having played in 1971 and 1978, finishing in sixth and seventh place, respectively.

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