Faustino Oro, aged 10 and known as ‘the Messi of chess’, advances again

<span>Faustino Oro, 10, is in contention to become the youngest ever international master.</span><span>Photograph:</span>
Faustino Oro, 10, is in contention to become the youngest ever international master.Photograph:

Faustino Oro, just 10 years old, is already known as “the Messi of chess”. The Argentine boy burst on to the record books in 2023 when he became the youngest ever 2200-rated master level player at nine years, three months, followed by passing the 2300 mark just three months later.

Oro’s surge is continuing apace. Last week, at the Continental American Championship at Medellin, Colombia, he secured the second of three norms needed for the International Master (IM) title by reaching the required total of 6.5/9. The event was 11 rounds, and Oro won his final two games to advance into a tie for second prize with 8.5/11.

His final victory, against a 2607-rated grandmaster, was his most impressive of all. Playing White in the French Defence Advance Variation 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 e5, he subtly created a decisive attack on the black king, switching from the h file to the c file at the end.

Oro has another two months to break the age record for the youngest IM, held at 10 years nine months by Abhimanyu Mishra of the US, who later became the youngest ever grandmaster at 12. The Argentine’s next tournament starts on Monday in Madrid, where he will attempt to achieve his final norm and the additional requirement of a 2400 rating.

The 10-year-old is already a celebrity. His parents have moved from Buenos Aires to Badalona, part of the Barcelona metropolis in Spain, to further his chess career. A group of Argentine businessmen have joined the Argentine Chess Federation to provide funds for a team of five GMs to coach him, along with support for his family travel. Half a century ago, when Miguel Najdorf and Oscar Panno were in their prime, Argentina was one of the strongest chess nations, but that has not been so in the 2000s.

Oro has exceptional achievements in online chess, where his blitz rating is close to 3000, and where he has already finished third in’s competitive Titled Tuesday, finishing ahead of the world top three of Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana. He even beat Carlsen in a bullet game.

Oro seems articulate and mature for his age. He told “It’s an effort, you always have to make an effort in any sport. You strive a little more each day, and you can reach your goal. Nothing is impossible in life.”

With less fanfare, England’s talented pre-teens are also scoring significant successes, albeit at a lower level than Oro.

Bodhana Sivanandan, the Harrow nine-year-old who has performed well against the best women in Europe, totalled 4/9 in a strong open at Budapest last week and would have reached a landmark 2200 rating but for a final round loss to Hungary’s No 1 WGM, Thanh Trang Hoang. Sivanandan’s next event will be even harder, a 50-player GM international at Helsinki, Finland, starting on Monday, where she will be one of the lowest seeds.

Last weekend an English junior did pass 2200, the recognised level for a master, and in the process even captured one of Faustino Oro’s world records.

Ethan Pang, nine, is currently England’s fastest improving player, whose Fide rating has jumped more than 550 points in seven months. The Westminster Under School pupil is unbeaten in his last 16 games, and continued his strong run at the East Anglian Open in Newmarket, where he totalled 3/4 before missing the last round due to school homework.

His final game, in which he had the better of a draw with 2429-rated IM Alan Merry, advanced his rating to 2212, beating Oro’s world age record by a month. Pang’s 2212, achieved at nine years, two months, and 13 days, or 9.20, will become official when it appears on Fide’s July list.

Besides Sivanandan and Pang, Kushal Jakhria, nine, Supratit Banerjee, 10, Oleg Verbytski, 11, and Kai Hanache, 12, have all performed well, not just in adult opens, but in international junior events, the latest success being Hanache’s tied second in the world under-12 rapid championship in April.

Related: Chess: Magnus Carlsen loses on home turf in Norway to 18-year-old Indian

Half a century ago, in 1975, England’s golden generation of future GMs, then also mostly aged 11-12, were performing around 2100 level and starting to impress. Within a few years, they were crushing world champions Tigran Petrosian and Boris Spassky in simuls, and scoring IM norms in opens. It proved valuable then to have coaches available for sessions between games at weekend opens, and that is an approach which could be repeated now.

The nine-round Kingston Invitational in mid-August, organised and directed by the Guardian’s Stephen Moss, has a strong IM and FM entry and already includes many junior talents. All the six named above are invited. If the ECF could send two or three strong coaches to Kingston, that would be a step towards the elite training camps envisaged as part of the £500k grant from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The annual World Junior (under-20) Championships have opened in Gandhinagar, India. Half the players in the Open event are from the host nation, as are two-thirds from the girls championship. Mishra, the youngest GM record holder, is the top seed but has made a terrible start, with heavy defeats in the first and fourth rounds.

With one round left in Norway Chess at Stavanger, Carlsen led with 16/27, ahead of Nakamura 14.5, Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu 13, Alireza Firouzja 12, Caruana 10.5, with the world champion, Ding Liren, trailing on 6, despite crushing Nakamura on Thursday.

Ju Wenjun led Women’s Norway Chess with 16/27, ahead of Anna Muzychuk and Lei Tingjie 14.5. The final round will be reported in next week’s column.

3923 1 gxf7 Bxf7 2 Re7! Qxe7 3 Ba6! Kxa6 4 Qa8 mate.