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It’s easy to forget that Radjabov is still only in his mid-20s. He broke onto the world chess stage as a teenager, earning the grandmaster title just after his 14th birthday and scoring a stunning win against Garry Kasparov as a 15-year-old in Linares 2003, the first time in seven years Kasparov had lost a rated game with the white pieces. That game was also symbolic, as Radjabov was born in the same city as the “Beast from Baku” and grew up playing the same hyper-aggressive openings that Kasparov had championed in his youth.
The young star from Azerbaijan struggled,
however, to live up to his early promise. He gradually lost his reputation for
aggressive chess, complained about his tournament invitations being restricted
by Kasparov and despite spending many years in the Top 10 his only major
individual tournament victory to date remains shared first place in Wijk aan
Zee 2007. In the run-up to the 2013 Candidates Tournament in London his rating had
crept up towards 2800 and some considered him a dark horse to win the event. It
wasn’t to be, as a lack of match practice took its toll and Radjabov posted
perhaps the worst performance of his career – suffering seven defeats and
losing over 30 rating points.
Photo: Anastasia Karlovich