Known for an aggressive style of chess, Shakhriyar has, like his compatriot Teimour Radjabov, achieved a stellar rating while so far failing to become a consistent winner of the very best tournaments. His talent was evident in his youth, as Mamedyarov remains the only player to win the World Junior Championship twice (in 2003 and 2005). One of the reasons that feat is so rare is that the best juniors tend to switch to playing the top tournaments as soon as they can, but in this case the second victory helped Mamedyarov to an invitation to the four-player Essent Tournament in 2006, where he finished first above Judit Polgar and Veselin Topalov. Invited back the following year he repeated that success, and soon cemented a place among the elite.
In 2013 Mamedyarov won the World Rapid Chess Championship, perhaps his best individual result to date, closely followed by shared first place at the 2010 Tal Memorial. He often stars for Azerbaijan in team events, where he’s given the white pieces against weaker players and encouraged to go on the rampage. In the 2012 Olympiad, for instance, he finished with the best rating performance of any player.
Mamedyarov finished runner-up in the 2012/3 Grand Prix series to qualify for the 2014 Candidates Tournaments. He eventually finished with 50% for a highly-respectable fourth place, though a disastrous start – he lost two of his first three games – meant he was never in the running for first place and a match against Magnus Carlsen.
Mamedyarov missed out on the 2016 Candidates but was arguably the player of the year in 2017 as he won the Grand Prix series to qualify for the 2018 Candidates in Berlin. He also won the Shamkir Chess supertournament as he climbed to clear no. 2 behind Carlsen in the world rankings.
Mamedyarov comes from a chess family, as his two sisters Zeinab and Turkan are women’s grandmasters.