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No Duffer: Kazakh Teen Stakes Claim To Being Chess World's Youngest Grandmaster

Zhansaya Abdimalik in her hometown of Almaty on June 27
Zhansaya Abdimalik in her hometown of Almaty on June 27
Kazakhstan's chess body has posited a case for making a 12-year-old Kazakh schoolgirl the youngest female grandmaster in the world.

Zhansaya Abdimalik, sporting a baseball cap and the composure of a veteran, was introduced to the wider public by the deputy head of the Kazakh Chess Federation on June 27.

The official, Erkin Israilov, said an application on Abdimalik's behalf would be sent to the World Chess Federation (FIDE) later this week, according to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

READ RFE/RL's archived interview with Abdimalik from 2011 (in Russian)

The grandmaster criteria include a rating based on relative strength in head-to-head matches and quality finishes over a series of tournaments.

Her grandmother told RFE/RL that Abdimalik earned the title with her results in tournaments in Indonesia, Russia, and Ukraine.

The title of grandmaster is bestowed for life.

Ukraine's Kateryna Lahno, who was 12 years and four months old when she was granted the title in 1992, currently holds the record for the youngest-ever female grandmaster.

It's not so long ago that women weren't even considered for such status by the male-dominated chess elite. The first female grandmaster was Georgian Nona Gaprindoshvili in 1978.

No one can accuse Kazakhstan's braided chess prodigy of failing to plan ahead.

Abdimalik told RFE/RL in an interview last year that being the youngest grandmaster was just one of her two dreams. The other was to become the youngest world champion ever (of either gender). For now, that record belongs to Hou Yifan of China, who was 16 when she won the title in 2010 (she repeated the feat in 2011).

That gives Almaty's most precocious resident nearly four years to work on her game -- an eternity to a 12-year-old.

-- Andy Heil

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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