“It’s always interesting to watch his games because he always goes for it, he never plays for a draw,” said World Champion Magnus Carlsen of his young Polish rival.
Duda was a prodigy who learned to play chess at the age of 5 and announced himself on the world stage when he won the 2008 World U10 Championship in Vietnam with an unbeaten 9.5/11. He went on to claim the U14 European Championship in 2012, the same year he finished 4th in the U18 World Championship.
He became a grandmaster just after his 15th birthday and looked set to win the 2014 Polish Championship before he lost his final two games. At 16 he scored 8.5/10 for Poland at the Tromsø Olympiad, while later that year he won the European Rapid Championship and finished runner-up in the blitz.
Jan-Krzysztof Duda won the 2018 Polish Championship, held in the Warsaw Stock Exchange building | photo: 2018 Polish Chess Championship Facebook
Duda missed out on winning the 2015 World Junior Championship by the slimmest of tiebreak margins, but his focus had already switched to adult events, and by 2017 he’d broken into the 2700 club. In 2018 he finally won the Polish Championship and climbed above his great Polish rival and mentor Radek Wojtaszek. A glimpse of Duda’s potential was given as he chased Magnus Carlsen all the way in the World Blitz Championship, winning 11 of his last 13 games to finish a full 2 points ahead of Hikaru Nakamura but half a point behind Magnus.
Duda at the 2018 World Blitz Championship | photo: Lennart Ootes, official website
In 2019 Duda rose as high as world no. 12 after beating Dmitry Andreikin on the way to Round 4 of the World Cup and then overcoming Ian Nepomniachtchi, Yu Yangyi and Daniil Dubov before losing to Alexander Grischuk in the final of the Hamburg Grand Prix.
When chess moved online in 2020 Duda impressed in the Nations Cup and the Online Olympiad, but his most memorable result was perhaps beating Magnus Carlsen in the Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge. That was a rapid game, but Duda repeated the trick in the over-the-board classical Altibox Norway Chess tournament. After starting the tournament with three losses in a row, he won the game that will likely be remembered most from the event, since it ended Carlsen’s record 125-game unbeaten streak.
Duda still remains on the edge of the elite rather than an established top player, but that could change as he finally finishes his university studies in 2020 and can focus 100% on chess.