A 16-year-old prodigy has upended the chess world by beating world champion Magnus Carlsen in the final of the Banter Blitz Cup.
Alireza Firouzja defeated the Norwegian in the final of the online quickfire knockout contest to claim the $14,000 prize. Carlsen, 29, had been the heavy favorite in the 7-month series that began with 128 contestants. He has been the world champion since 2013 and dominates in the rapid format.
Firouzja, an Iranian now living in Paris, is is the second-youngest player to reach a rating of 2700 from FIDE, the body that governs international chess competition. He is ranked 21st in the world.
Before the clash, Carlsen didn’t underestimate Firouzja, calling him “by far my biggest challenge.” On the livestream after his loss, he praised his opponent:
“Good game, Alireza! That was really horrible, I just was way out of shape, but he deserves full credit. I’ve just got to be better, but yeah, he’s amazingly strong! Full credit.”
Each match in the Banter Blitz tournament was 16 games in which each player had a limit of 3 total minutes of playing time. The “banter” part was the requirement that each player comment out loud on each of his moves. Carlsen, who is fluent in English, was more vocal, but English-learner Firouzja held up his end.
Chess fans might not have to wait long for a rematch. Both are among the eight contestants in the $250,000 Magnus Carlsen Invitational, which starts Monday. As was the case with Banter Blitz, it will be played online rather than in-person.
Earlier this year, Carlsen made history as he extended his unbeaten run to 111 classical games, breaking the 110-game streak set by Sergei Tiviakov in 2005.
Firouzja initially rose to fame when he came in second to Carlsen in the Moscow World Blitz in December.
He plays under the flag of FIDE, the global chess organization, after leaving his native Iran to avoid government restrictions. Iran strongly discourages its citizens from competing against Israelis. (Courtesy: CNN)