Wang Hao has had a strange career, rising to the top only to suddenly disappear from the elite circuit in his mid-20s. It seemed there was no way back but in 2019 he won the Grand Swiss with a 2900 performance to qualify for the 2020 Candidates Tournament.
Wang Hao first shot to international prominence as a
16-year-old, when he finished clear first in the 2005 Dubai Open ahead of 53
grandmasters and 30 international masters, despite holding neither of those
titles himself. Later that year he earned the grandmaster title and he soon emerged as a regular
participant in elite events. He gained a reputation as one of the most creative chess players to be found anywhere, defying any stereotypes about regimented Chinese players.
His victory in the 2012 Biel Chess Festival ahead of Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri showed his enormous potential, and in January 2013 he was 23 years old, rated 2752, world no. 14 and comfortably the Chinese no. 1. There was no reason to think he'd peaked, but shortly afterwards Wang Hao began to stop appearing in big events and by January 2017 he'd dropped to 2670, world no. 75 and Chinese no. 8.
That was rock bottom, but although Wang Hao then gradually reclimbed the rating list with success in opens (winning, for instance, the Al Ain Classic, the HDBank Open, the Sharjah Masters and the Asian Continental) it still seemed his elite days were behind him. He works as a coach and said he was thinking of pulling out of the 2019 Grand Swiss as he was exhausted after the World Cup. Luckily he didn't!
That incredible performance meant that Wang Hao had earned his first chance to play a Candidates Tournament and potentially reach a World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen. Wang Hao has won two (and lost three) classical games against Magnus, but readapting to supertournament life is going to be anything but easy.
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