Kirill Alekseenko was born in Vyborg, near Russia's border with Finland, but moved to St. Petersburg with his family at the age of 8. By that time he'd already been introduced to chess and went on to pick up a haul of junior trophies, including gold in the European U10 and U16 Championships and the World U14 Championship. He had three Grandmaster norms by 2012, but needed another 2.5 years to bring his rating up to the necessary 2500 to earn the title.
That slow progress continued afterwards, and although Kirill remarkably won the Chigorin Memorial in 2015, 2016 and 2017 it was only during victory in the 2017/2018 Rilton Cup that he finally crossed 2600, at the age of 20. He went on to study at the St. Petersburg Polytechnic University and continued to maintain a low profile, until 2019 became another breakthrough year.
Kirill has been coached by Peter Svidler's former coach Andrey Lukin, and for the GRENKE Chess Classic in 2019 Kirill worked as a second for Peter. Later that year he went on to enter the World Cup as a wild card but reach Round 4, where he came close to knocking out top seed Ding Liren. Then at the Grand Swiss on the Isle of Man Kirill finished 3rd and crossed 2700 for the first time.
Although Wang Hao took the automatic Candidates Tournament qualification spot, Kirill, as the runner-up (Fabiano Caruana didn't count as he already had a spot), became eligible for the wild card spot selected by the organisers in Yekaterinburg. In fact he was the only Russian player eligible and therefore he was granted the place, despite a late appeal by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's manager. Kirill himself later came out in favour of abolishing wild cards.
Kirill also found time to win gold with the Russian team in the 2019 European Team Championship, but the 2020 Candidates Tournament will be by far his biggest challenge yet.
photo: Kirill Merkuryev, 2019 World Cup
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