A child prodigy in every sense of the word, Hikaru swiftly knocked down nearly every age record on his way into the elite ranks. He was, at one time, the youngest American Master in history (10 years, 79 days), the youngest American International Master (13 years, 2 months), and eventually broke Bobby fischer’s record by three months when he became the youngest American Grandmaster at the time (15 years, 79 days).
‘Naka’, as his fans affectionately refer to him, has collected numerous titles and championships since the age of thirteen, when he arrived on the national scene by winning the 2001 U.S Junior Championship. He quickly confirmed his place among the elites, shocking the world with a sweet sixteen appearance in the 2004 FIDE World Cup. His accomplishments do not end there. This recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship, Nakamura won the 2007 National Open, the North American Open three times, and was gold medalist on the first board of the 2010 World Team Championship.
Since the advent of published FIDE Blitz ratings, Nakamura has graced the top of the list, demonstrating inimitable acuity and speed. In 2015, the American GM won the Gibraltar Chess Masters tournament, captured his fourth U.S. Championship, place first at the Millionaire Chess Open, and propelled his classical FIDE rating to a career high of 2814. 2016 also proved to be a fruitful year for Naka as he repeated first place finishes at the Gibraltar Chess Festival and the Zurich Chess Challenge. In 2017, Hikaru won his third consecutive Gibraltar Chess Festival. Most recently, he was the 2018 Grand Chess Tour winner.
Leinier is a Cuban born super grandmaster, earning the title in 2001. He is a five-time Cuban Champion, earning the titles in 2002, 2003, 2006, 2012 and 2016. He competed in two FIDE World Championship, reaching the quarterfinals in 2004 where he lost to Teimour Radjabov in tiebreaks. He won the Capabalanca memorial for the first time the same year, and two more times after that in 2008 and 2009.
In 2013, he won the FIDE Grand Prix event in Thessaloniki ahead of the likes of Caruana, Nakamura and Topalov, earning 30 rating points. The following year, he reached his peak FIDE rating of 2768. His current rating of 2739 puts him in the top 20 list of the strongest players in the world. Leinier has represented Cuba on board one at the Olympiad for many years, earning a silver medal in the 2016 Olympiad in Baku. He is also a former World Blitz Champion, winning the title in 2013 in Kazakhstan.
Dominguez is a familiar face in Saint Louis, having participated in previous editions of the Champions Showdown as well as being a wildcard in the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz. He was part of the team that assisted Fabiano Caruana during the 2018 Candidates tournament and the 2018 World Championship Match. He officially switched federations in December of 2018 and this event will be his first appearance under the US flag.
Wesley learned chess from his father at the age of six, and was competing in junior tournaments by the age of nine. When he earned his Grandmaster title at the age of fourteen years, one month, and twenty-eight days, So completed the ‘trifecta’ of being the youngest-ever Filipino National Champion, IM, and GM.
Wesley came to the U.S. in August of 2012, enrolled at Webster University and quickly leapt from being a top 100 player to one of the top ten worldwide, leading his school to back-to-back national titles along the way.
In October 2014, GM So took first place at the inaugural Millionaire Open then returned to Saint Louis to lead the Arch-Bishops to their first ever Pro Chess League Championship. Wesley then participated in his first elite tournament, securing the fourth place prize at the 77th Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Holland. The following year he returned and tied for second place, just a half-point behind Magnus.
2016 saw the American GM earn first place in the Grand Chess Tour by winning the Sinquefield Cup and the London Chess Classic. He represented the US in the 2016 Olympiad, winning team gold and individual gold on board three. In 2017, Wesley won the Tata Steel Masters tournament and became the eleventh player in history to surpass 2800 FIDE. He was crowned the 2017 US Champion after defeating Alexander Onischuk in the playoffs.
At ten years old, Caruana became the youngest American to defeat a GM in a FIDE sanctioned event. By the age of twelve, he had earned his FIDE master title, won several national scholastic championships, and two gold medals in the Pan-American Youth Championships. When it became clear that chess would be his future, Fabiano and his family moved to Europe.
Caruana is now one of the hottest players on the global scene. He crossed the super- elite rating threshold of 2800 after winning the 42nd Sparkassen Chess Meeting in Dartmund, Germany. He was the eighth player in history to pass the 2800 barrier and secured the tournament win in the penultimate round without losing a game.
In 2014, Fabiano achieved two impressive results, he placed second behind Magnus Carlsen in the World Rapid Championship and went on to win the Sinquefield cup with a remarkable score of eight and a half out of ten. In early 2015, after playing as a member of the Italian Chess Federation, Caruana rejoined the United States Chess Federation as one of its strongest members. In the past two years, Caruana has won his first U.S. Championship, placed second at Tata Steel, played first board for the gold medal winning U.S. team at the 42nd Chess Olympiad, and won the 2017 London Chess Classic. He had a phenomenal showing in 2018 winning the Grenke Chess Classic, Norway Chess, and tying for first in the Sinquefield Cup with Carlsen and Aronian. Caruana won the 2018 Candidates tournament thus becoming the first American to challenge the World Champion in a unified match in 46 years.
Veselin Topalov is a chess legend with accomplishments so extensive it is nearly impossible to list them all. A chess prodigy, Topalov earned the title of Grandmaster at the age of 17 in 1992 and ascended the world rankings in the next ten years, being invited to elite tournaments as early as 1996.
The Bulgarian No. 1 became the FIDE World Chess Champion by winning the FIDE World Chess Championship in 2005. He lost his title in the 2006 World Chess Championship unification match against Vladimir Kramnik and was also narrowly defeated by Vishy Anand in their match for the World Chess Championship title in 2010. Topalov has competed at nine Chess Olympiads (1994-2000, 2008-2016), winning the gold medal on board one, with the second best overall tournament performance of 2872 in the 2014 Olympiad in Tromso.
Topalov has won countless super tournaments including in Linares, Corus, Dortmund, Stavanger and Pearl Spring. His most recent super tournament win was the 2015 Norway Chess, ahead of Carlsen, Caruana and Anand. As a father of two, Topalov has been inactive in the recent years and prefers to play in tournaments with faster time controls.
The 20-year old prodigy earned the Grandmaster title at the age of 15 years and 21 days, which made him the second youngest Grandmaster in the world at the time and the second youngest Polish Grandmaster ever.
Duda's career has not been a long one, but what he's accomplished in that time has shown all the earmarks of a top player. In junior events, he has won the World U-10 Championship and the European U-14 Championship. He tied for first in the 2015 World Junior Championship and became the highest rated junior player in the world in July 2018. He is currently the 23rd highest rated chess player in the world.
Known for his creative chess and rapid and blitz skills, it is unsurprising that he won the European Rapid Championship and took silver in European Blitz Championship in 2014 at the age of 16. He first became part of the Polish National Team the same year, scoring 8.5/11 on board three at the 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso. In 2018, he played board one at the Batumi Olympiad, claiming fourth place with his team. He finished second in the 2018 World Blitz Championship, just behind Magnus Carlsen and is currently the highest rated player in Poland.
Vishy Anand caused a huge chess boom in India after he came onto the scene, and currently the strongest Grandmaster from that huge crop of inspired players is Pentala Harikrishna. He was born in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India in 1986. Harikrishna was highly successful as a junior, winning the Indian Championships in virtually every age group available. Pentala also won the World U10 Championship in 1996. He achieved the Grandmaster title at age 15, the youngest from his country to earn the title until the recent rise of GM Praggnanandhaa. He won the Commonwealth Championships in 2001, the World Junior Championships in 2004, and the Asian Individual Championships in 2011. Harikrishna’s biggest tournament victories to date were at the 2012 Tata Steel B Group and the 2013 Biel MTO. A former top 10 player, the Indian GM peaked at 2770 on the December 2016 FIDE list.
Pentala has represented his country at seven Olympiads, his first being at Istanbul in 2000 at the age of 14. He has also participated in several World Team and Asian Team Championships. Harikrishna’s strongest result was at the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar, where the team won gold and he won a silver medal on his board, scoring 6.5/9. The Indian team also won bronze at the 2010 World Team Championships. A member of the world’s elite for the past five years and known for his original style, the Indian #2 will be a great addition to the Showdown.
Hungary is a country with a strong chess tradition that has had its share of prodigies, and this 22-year-old is no exception. Born in Szombathely, Hungry, in 1996, Rapport learned chess from his father at the age of four. He won the 2006 European Championships in the U10 division. His rise was meteoric after that, achieving National Master, International Master, and Grandmaster in three successive years from 2008-2010. His final Grandmaster norm was scored by tying for 2nd at the Gotth’Art Kupa, perhaps fittingly with GM Lajos Portisch, one of the strongest players to ever come out of Hungary. Richard got the title just short of his 14th birthday, becoming the 5th youngest GM in history at that time, which is nearly six months faster than his famous compatriot Peter Leko.
Rapport’s career continued to skyrocket after becoming a Grandmaster. In May of 2013, he tied for first at the Sigeman & Co Chess Tournament with strong GMs Nigel Short and Nils Grandelius, with Richard winning on tiebreaks due to a head-to-head score. The young Hungarian also won the European Rapid Championship and finished 4th in the European Blitz Championship, and is known to be especially dangerous at quicker time controls. Rapport won a match in 2016 against Chinese prodigy Wei Yi, taking it in an Armageddon game after the two elite Grandmasters were neck and neck throughout the match. Richard is also the 2017 Hungarian Champion. Known for his unpredictable openings as well as unpredictable results, when on form, he is truly capable of beating anyone, as shown when he defeated World Champion Magnus Carlsen at the 2017 Tata Steel Tournament. The mercurial Hungarian will be a fun player to keep an eye on at the Champions Showdown.
David is one of the most beloved and good natured players, who is always eager to answer questions and provide game analysis. He is an eight-time Czech Champion (in 2004, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017) and the highest rated player in his country. He has won several medals in youth categories before receiving the title of Grandmaster three days before his seventeenth birthday.
Navara has been board one of the Czech National Team since 2006, showing a great performance with 8.5/12 in the 2006 Chess Olympiad. His introduction to the elite tournaments happened in 2007, when he replaced Alexander Morozevich in Wijk an Zee challengers group. He tied for first in 2011, qualifying to group “A.” The same year he reached the quarterfinals in the World Cup, losing to none other than Alexander Grischuk. Since 2003, David has participated in several matches against top players winning against Sergei Movsesian and Nigel Short and drawing Anatoly Karpov and Boris Gelfand. He reached his peak rating of 2751 in May 2015 and is currently number 18 in the world with a classical rating of 2738.
Born in 1991, in Berkeley, California, Sam learned how to play chess at the age of six but did not become a tournament player until the age of eleven. Even with his relatively late start, Sam rose to prominence quickly, earning the title of the Grandmaster in 2001 and establishing himself as one of the top American players.
After losing his first two games in the 2010 US Junior Championship, he went on to win six out of the remaining seven games. He earned the title of the US Junior champion by defeating Ray Robson in the playoffs and thus qualifying to the 2011 US Championship, where he finished third.
Two years later, Sam won the prestigious Samford Fellowship and made his debut for the US national team in the Pan American Team Championship, showing a performance of over 2800. The following year he returned as part of the Olympiad team, where he took gold for his performance as reserve player. He went undefeated, scoring 9/10, including a last round win over the legendary Judit Polgar. Sam played fourth board in the 2016 Chess Olympiad, winning team gold.
2018 was a breakthrough year in his career. In April, he won the US Championship ahead of Caruana, Nakamura, and So, crossing the 2700 rating barrier for the first time. In the next months, he won the Capablanca Memorial and the American Continental Chess Championship, which earned him a spot to the 2019 World Cup. Since crossing 2700, Sam has reached the rating of 2731 which puts him in the top 25 in the world.