Fluent in at least four languages, Giri appears one of the most well-rounded prodigies to storm the heights of world chess. The son of a Nepali father and a Russian mother, he grew up and first started to play chess in St. Petersburg, but became Russian U12 Champion only when the family was already living in Japan. His father’s engineering job then took them to the Netherlands, where Giri received extensive support from the Dutch Chess Federation and went on to become a grandmaster at 14.
He first won the Dutch Championship as a 15-year-old in 2009 (he won again in 2011, 2012 and 2015) before going on to win the B-Group in Wijk aan Zee four months later, drawing high praise from Vladimir Kramnik among others. Viswanathan Anand must also have admired the teenager as he brought him in to help with the preparation for his World Championship match in 2010.
Giri famously beat Magnus Carlsen in 22 moves with the black pieces on his Wijk aan Zee A Group debut in 2011, while he started 2012 by winning his first supertournament, finishing above Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Vassily Ivanchuk and Alexander Morozevich in Reggio Emilia. The rivalry with Magnus, both off and on the board, has become intense, but supertournament victories haven’t flown as easily as you would have expected. In 2018 Giri tied for first with Magnus in Wijk aan Zee only to be pushed into second place in a playoff. A year later he finished just half a point behind, but later in the year he won the Shenzhen Masters ahead of Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Ding Liren.
Giri’s 2016 Candidates Tournament performance in Moscow was impressive – he was close to winning a number of games – but will go down in history for a remarkable 14 draws in 14 games. Drawing too many games has been the main criticism of the Dutch star, but there’s little doubt he still has the potential to upset anyone in the chess world.
He qualified for the 2020 Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, Russia on account of his average rating for 2019 and immediately ended the sequence of draws. Unfortunately he did that with a loss, to Ian Nepomniachtchi, but by the time the tournament was stopped halfway due to the coronavirus he was back on 50%, a point behind the leaders.
That left him in limbo, like the rest of the players, but he’s adapted to the new reality as well as anyone. As chess moved online, Anish set up a YouTube channel, became a Chessable author…
…and started to take online blitz very seriously. There was an early glory moment in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational.
Magnus would later get his revenge in the final of the Chessable Masters, but it will be exciting to see how that online rivalry develops.