Chess: Adams wins seventh straight first prize as England’s girls set records

Michael Adams has now won seven major tournaments in a row without loss of a game.

The eight-time ­British champion trailed the leaders in last week’s ­Cambridge International Open all the way until the ninth and final round, but surged when it ­mattered and won the £1500 prize for the second year in succession.

The Cornishman, 52, had already completed a sequence of Cambridge 2023, the English and British Championships, the World 50+ team and ­individual, and the London Classic before his latest triumph. He has proved a photo-finish specialist, twice edging victory by the ­narrowest of tie-break margins, while his ­current unbeaten run of tournament games stands at 39 wins and 24 draws.

In the decisive encounter Adams outplayed Jonah Willow in a game which the Nottingham master, 21, needed to win for his first GM norm, but was steadily worn down by “the spider’s” subtle skills.

3909: White mates in three moves (by Fritz Giegold, Die Welt 1965). Just two lines of play to find, but still not easy.

Sergei Tiviakov had looked like winning the event, but the Dutch and former Soviet GM, 51, spoilt a winning endgame in the penultimate round with the tournament at his mercy. Other England ­players also missed their chances. GM ­Daniel Fernandez could not handle Adams, while Shreyas Royal, 15, had an off tournament and lost ground in his quest to become England’s youngest grandmaster.

The star performers apart from Adams were both pre-teen schoolgirls. Ruqayyah Rida, 12, of Colchester County High School, won the top women’s prize with 5.5/9 and a near-2200 rating performance.

By defeating GM Mark Hebden, one of the legends of the 1970s English Chess Explosion, in the sixth round, Rida became probably the third youngest female player ever to defeat a grandmaster, outpaced only by 10-year-old Carissa Yip (now the US women’s champion) against GM Alexander Ivanov at the 2014 New England Open, and by 11-year-old Judit Polgar against GM Lev Gutman at Brussels 1987.

What ­followed was even better, as Rida drew her round-seven game against the popular chess author GM Peter Wells to become most probably the youngest female player ever to score against two GMs in successive classical games. Wells wrote: “Very impressed with Ruqayyah – not just her sendible play, but her reaction afterwards and contributions to the commentary. A fantastic achievement.”

Rida said that Bobby Fischer is her chess hero, John Nunn her favourite English player, and Glenn Flear her coach. Her ambition is to continue playing for England in the next biennial under-16 Olympiad in 2025.

Bodhana Sivanandan continued her outstanding recent run by finishing second woman with 4.5/9. The eight-year-old shone at blitz against the top women in Europe at Monaco in January, then scored well in the 4NCL League and the Gonzaga Open.

Fide’s March classical rating list ranks Sivanandan as the top under-10 in the world after her result in Cambridge, with 2088 rating points, 97 ahead of her nearest rival. Two English boys, Kushal Jakhria and Ethan Pang, rank fifth and 10th.

It is at blitz that Sivanandan’s performances are truly out of this world. On the newly published March Fide blitz list of the top 100 girls born after 2003, she already ranks 20th with a 2185 rating, despite being the youngest player on the entire list by at least four years.

That statistic reflects her sensational performances in the European Blitz at Warsaw and the European Women’s Blitz at Monaco. In the first, she was top woman as well as top junior and top English player; in the second, she finished 15th out of 105, won or drew against several elite players, and defeated the 2023 World Cup finalist in the final round.

The all-time top two women, Polgar and Hou Yifan, never played competitively at eight, although there were reports that Polgar was beating masters at blitz at home. ­Polgar had a record 2555 classical ­rating at 12, and Hou played a women’s world championship match at 14, so 2185 performances for both at eight would probably have been achievable, though difficult.

The best of the new wave of eight-year-olds, who learned and got involved in chess during the pandemic lockdown, are probably Singapore’s Ashwath Kaushik, the youngest ever, at eight years six months, to beat a grandmaster, and Roman Shogdzhiev, the Russian who beat five GMs at the World Rapid and Blitz in December.

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Both have played fewer classical tournaments than Sivanandan, and their ratings still lag behind their true strength. Kaushik already drew with the Australian GM Moulthon Ly in Thailand in July, reportedly has a photographic memory, is sharp on tactics, solves endgame studies fast, and works on chess from two to seven hours a day.

The Singapore boy sounds the real deal, as does Shogdzhiev, who was competing against masters in Moscow for two years before his World Rapid/Blitz success. In the just published March Fide blitz list players aged nine or younger Shogdzhiev is rated first on 2198 ahead of Sivanandan on 2185. Argentina’s Faustino Oro, who at nine already has the youngest 2300 rating and the youngest IM norm, is the other talent who stands out.

Realistically, it will be hard for others to compete with this nascent super-GM trio, but the advance of Sivanandan and now Rida still opens up a different opportunity. Continued rapid improvement could make them serious contenders for the England women’s team by the time of the 2026 women’s Olympiad in Uzbekistan.

The action moves to Peterborough this weekend for the annual British Rapidplay Championship, 11 rounds of one-hour games spread over two days.

Four GMs and 13 IMs are in the field of more than 200, and top seeded GM Daniel Gormally’s new book Chess Analysis – Reloaded is proving popular. Sivanandan is seeded 66th overall and seventh among women. A question this weekend will be whether she can transfer her superlative skills at five-minute blitz to the slower pace of one-hour rapid.

To spectate the British Rapidplay live, go to, click on watch, then click on broadcasts. Games start at 12.30pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday.

3909: 1 Qa4! If c3 2 Qe8 c3/cxb2 3 Nh3 mate. If cxb3 2 Bg1! Kxf4 3 Be3 mate.


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