Abdusattorov Enters World Top 5 Before Age 20: ‘I Always Wanted To Break Records’


Only a select few in the annals of chess history have broken into the world top-five before their 20th birthday. GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov has now joined that prestigious list, and shares his insights with Chess.com on his rise from prodigy to chess superstar.

The latest FIDE ratings for April, released on Sunday, once again see GM Magnus Carlsen at the top. The Norwegian maestro holds a comfortable lead of 27 points over GM Fabiano Caruana, with another 14-point gap to GM Hikaru Nakamura in third place.

However, stealing the spotlight is Abdusattorov, who not only breached the top-10 for the first time, but takes it one step further to make the top-five, climbing from 11th to 4th. While there is a gap of 24 points up to Nakamura, the young Uzbek is three points ahead of World Champion Ding Liren.

The April list also sees GM Arjun Erigaisi become the official Indian number one and enter the top-10 for the first time.
The April list also sees GM Arjun Erigaisi become the official Indian number one and enter the top-10 for the first time.

Abdusattorov’s entry into the elite circle follows a 17-point gain from his excellent 4th place finish in the 2024 Tata Steel Chess in January. He then added another 15 points by winning the Prague Masters with a round to spare in March.

Research conducted by Chess.com reveals the rarity of Abdusattorov’s achievement, attained at a historically very early age. In fact, only five players have previously made the top-five before turning 20: GMs Garry Kasparov (1982), Alexei Shirov (1992) and Vladimir Kramnik (1994) achieved the milestone in the 80s and 90s, while Carlsen (2010) and GM Alireza Firouzja (2021) round out the exclusive group.

Noteworthy mentions include Caruana who reached seventh as a 19-year-old, GM Gata Kamsky hit eighth at a mere 16, GM Veselin Topalov eighth at 18, while GM Vasyl Ivanchuk was sixth before his 20th birthday.

The highest place a player has reached before turning 20.

Speaking to Chess.com in an exclusive interview, Abdusattorov responds with a smile when informed about the feat:

“I am pleasantly surprised to hear that. I didn’t know. It’s a great achievement, but at the same time, it’s a big responsibility for me as it’s a totally new level. I am really happy to be there.”

Abdusattorov calls it an important step forward in his career, and feels that his jump from 2720 and breaking into the top-10 was a “huge breakthrough.” However, he has always remained firmly grounded, acknowledging that he is just getting started. Nothing is taken for granted:

“I will try my best to push even more, but it will take some time.”

Abdusattorov Wants To Break Records

Abdusattorov has been eating such records for breakfast for quite some time in his short career. The highlight is becoming the youngest-ever world champion by winning the 2021 World Rapid Championship as a 17-year-old, ahead of the entire world elite.

The Uzbek also holds the record as the youngest-ever 2400-rated player, a feat he achieved at the age of just ten-and-a-half. As an 11-year-old he set a record by becoming the youngest player to enter the top-100 juniors.

Youngest Players To Break 2400

Responding to the question of whether he pays attention to such records, he says with a smile:

“It’s been some sort of competition. I have always wanted to break records. It gives me motivation and it’s also a very tough challenge. But if you set a goal, you have to motivate yourself with a tough challenge. When I was a kid, I set myself a goal to become the youngest grandmaster at the time. After I became a grandmaster, I set myself a goal to reach 2700. Then you set new goals every time, and that becomes a motivation.”

It’s been some sort of competition. I have always wanted to break records. It gives me motivation and it’s also a very tough challenge. 

—Nodirbek Abdusattorov

Abdusattorov On Beating Grandmasters As A 9-Year-Old

Abdusattorov’s record-breaking journey started when he became the Under-8 World Youth Champion in 2012. Only two years later, at the age of nine, he caught the attention of the entire chess world by beating two grandmasters in a single tournament. 

His win against 2600-rated GM Andrey Zhigalko at home in Tashkent in 2014, makes him the fifth-youngest player to defeat a grandmaster in classical chess of all time. However, his achievement is perhaps the most impressive of all considering his opponent’s strength.

Abdusattorov during the World U8 Championship, which he won. Photo: Uzbekistan Chess Federation / gazeta.uz
Abdusattorov during the World U8 Championship, which he won. Photo: Uzbekistan Chess Federation/gazeta.uz.

“It was a very special feeling as it was the first time I played against a 2600-grandmaster. I think it was my first open tournament as well, so I had never had a chance to play against s strong grandmaster. And the first time I play against a 2600-rated grandmaster, I managed to beat him. I couldn’t believe it myself! I didn’t understand what I did at the time. It was a special achievement.”

I couldn’t believe it myself. I didn’t understand what I did at the time. It was a special achievement.

—Abdusattorov on his victory against a 2600-rated GM as a nine-year-old

Abdusattorov On Meeting Carlsen: He Was My Idol

He reveals an amusing story about how he at the time had just discovered who the world number one since 2010 was, one he would later be competing against and even defeating.

“I didn’t know Magnus at all. I hadn’t heard about him. First time I heard about him was in the 2013 Candidates. I was like eight years old. At the time I found out that he was the world number one. I just knew the world champion, Vishy, and I only knew Magnus as a famous player. When I found out that Magnus is much stronger and higher-rated, I was kind of surprised.”

“After the match against Vishy, Magnus was clearly stronger and much better. I was just so impressed with him. He was my idol at the time.”

I was just so impressed with him. He was my idol at the time.

—Abdusattorov on Carlsen in 2013

Just two years later, in 2015, Abdusattorov had quite the breakthrough. He catapulted from 2263 to 2465 in a matter of a month. That same year he participated in the Qatar Masters, rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s biggest chess stars for the first time.

Eight years later, he has a confession to make: “I was looking at each player and seeing them for the first time with an open mouth. It was so exciting!”

In Qatar he also got to show off his skills, such as incredible pace and determination on the soccer (football) pitch, as this reporter witnessed first-hand. “I remember I scored a goal,” he says smilingly, adding that he is still a keen player.

He ended up taking a picture with Carlsen, who won the tournament. “I did not talk to him. I was just happy to get the picture!”

During the prize ceremony at the 2015 Qatar Masters, Abdusattorov got the chance to pose with Carlsen. Photo: Tarjei J. Svensen
During the prize ceremony at the 2015 Qatar Masters, Abdusattorov got the chance to pose with Carlsen. Photo: Tarjei J. Svensen.

Abdusattorov has the memory fresh is his mind when now he has become a star himself and fans are chasing after a selfie with him instead. The young Uzbek’s rise has been meteoric. He was barely 13 when he became a grandmaster, the sixth youngest in history, and 15 when he crossed the 2600 barrier. He faced Carlsen for the first time in the 2019 World Blitz Championship, where he held a draw as Black.

In the 2021 World Rapid Championship he won a key game against Carlsen that sensationally secured him the title. After defeating him in their first classical encounter in Tata Steel Chess 2023, Abdusattorov remains the only top player with a plus score against the Norwegian in classical chess.

“After that event, it was obvious that I was going to reach the very top very soon. My childhood time had passed, and I had to grow and take it seriously from that point. Now it’s very, very serious.”

The 2021 World Rapid Championship, where Abdusattorov defeated Carlsen on his way to the trophy. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
The 2021 World Rapid Championship, where Abdusattorov defeated Carlsen on his way to the trophy. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

“Looking back at the time, it was my dream to play even one classical game against him. After some time, I am almost playing against him in every big tournament. It is changing in a very straightforward and unexpected manner. It’s a very pleasant feeling to play against him. I enjoy it, but at the same time it’s some kind of competition.”

Abdusattorov has a clear warning for the world number one.

“Now it’s obvious that Magnus is… despite being the best player in the world, our generation is coming for him. It’s going to be very tough for Magnus.”

Our generation is coming for him. It’s going to be very tough for Magnus.

—Nodirbek Abdusattorov

Carlsen On Abdusattorov: ‘Not Convinced’

Carlsen himself said he feels the youngsters, including Abdusattorov, still have some way to go before they are at his level.

“For the moment, I don’t think any of them are close to being at my level. That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy,” Carlsen said in the recent Sjakksnakk podcast.

The former world champion has previously praised Abdusattorov’s concentration and discipline, and abilities to defend inferior positions, calling him “extremely impressive.” However, the former world champion rates Firouzja higher.

Abdusattorov has an excellent record against Carlsen, and beat him again in the rapid in Freestyle Chess in Germany this year. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com
Abdusattorov has an excellent record against Carlsen, and beat him again in the rapid section of Freestyle Chess in Germany this year. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

“There’s no doubt that Alireza is a bigger talent. Whether he is a more likely pick to have a better chess career than Abdusattorov, I am not sure. But I am not 100 percent convinced by Abdusattorov, still. I am talking in terms of being a clear number one, not whether he is going to be a perennial top player, obviously. But it’s still hard to say,” Carlsen said.

Whether Abdusattorov will make it to the very top one day remains to be seen, but he certainly seems to be in a good place.





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