International Master (1992); Grandmaster (1994); U16 World Champion 1996; Candidate 2002 (PCA) and 2007; Classical World Championship Challenger (2004).
Péter Lékó was born in Subotica in Northern Serbia. When he became a grandmaster in 1994 at the age of 14 years 4 months and 22 days, he was the youngest person ever to have become a grandmaster (GM), and the first under 15, eclipsing the records previously set by Robert James Fischer in 1958 and then by Judit Polgar in 1991. In 1996 he won the World U16 Championship. Eight years later in 2004, he contested the Classical World Championship against the incumbent Vladimir Kramnik. He has been a regular participant in the World Championship cycle and in major tournaments since he was 15.
Lékó’s first encounter as a participant in a super tournament occurred as a 15 year old in 1995, when he created a minor sensation by placing 3rd at the category 17 Dortmund event. Between 1995 and 1997, he capitalised on his success and started building his reputation by winning several GM tournaments in Denmark, Cuba and Columbia (Yopal (1997)). In 1998 he came in second behind Viswanathan Anand at the category 18 Tilburg Fontys (1998). Lékó’s first super tournament victory came at the category 19 tourney at Dortmund in 1999. The following year, he placed =2nd with 8/13, a point and a half behind Garry Kasparov at the category 18 Wijk aan Zee Corus (2000), and =3rd behind Kasparov and Kramnik at the category 21 Linares (2000). His form continued into 2001 when he came 3rd at Dortmund, a category 21 event that year, and then into 2002 when he took 2nd place at the category 17 Essen quadrangular, =3rd behind Veselin Topalov and Boris Gelfand at the category 18 NAO Masters in Cannes, and 2nd at the category 16 Borowski tournament behind Vadim Zvjaginsev, also winning that year’s edition of Dortmund, which doubled as a Candidates tournament to select a challenger for Classical World Champion Kramnik. He maintained his good form into 2003 and onwards to the extent that won the Category 20 Linares ahead of Kramnik and Kasparov, placed 3rd behind Nigel Short and Judit Polgar at the Category 17 “Talent and Courage” GM tournament in Hungary, and placed 2nd in the 2004 edition of Linares (also category 20).
Shortly after his near-miss at winning the World Championship match against Kramnik (see below), Lékó came 2nd at the category 19 Wijk an Zee Corus Chess (2004) behind Anand and then won the Corus Chess Tournament (2005) ahead of Anand, Topalov and Kramnik. Lékó thus became the fifth player to win what were then the "big three" annual super tournaments, namely Corus, Linares, and Dortmund. In 2004, he also won the Petrosian Memorial Tournament with 4/6 ahead of Peter Svidler on tiebreak, and half a point ahead of Kasparov, Anand, Etienne Bacrot and Rafael Vaganian. He experienced something of a hiatus in terms of results until 2006, when he won the 1st Tal Memorial (2006). In 2007, he placed =2nd behind Kramnik, while in 2008, he again won at Dortmund, and then came 2nd at Dortmund (2009). There followed a longer hiatus in leader board results, broken only by a medals winning performance at the Russian Team Championships (see below) and 2nd place in the 20th Sigeman & Co Chess Tournament (2012) behind Fabiano Caruana and =3rd at Dortmund (2012), a half point behind Sergey Karjakin and Caruana. Most recently he placed 5th at the category 20 Tata Steel (2013) and =3rd at the category 19 Dortmund (2013).
Lékó’s good form in tournaments did not carry over into his early assaults on the FIDE World Championship. The 19-year old was seeded directly into round two of the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (1999) that was staged in Las Vegas. He won his first match against Christian Bauer, but lost in the 3rd round to Sergei Movsesian. His next attempt was a repeat of the first. Seeded directly into the 2nd round of the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (2000) played in New Delhi and Tehran, Lékó defeated Sergey Volkov, but then lost in an extended tiebreaker to defending FIDE World Champion, Alexander Khalifman. He also lasted the first two rounds of the FIDE World Championship Knockout Tournament (2001) played in Moscow, losing to then-six time Armenian champion, Ashot Anastasian, in the second round.
Under the terms of the "Prague Agreement" facilitated by Yasser Seirawan, and intended to unite the two World Chess Championships that had split in 1993, Leko's 2002 win at Dortmund qualified him to play a match against Vladimir Kramnik. It was intended that the winner of this match would play the winner of a match between Kasparov and the FIDE World Chess Champion (first Ruslan Ponomariov, then Rustam Kasimdzhanov) to decide the undisputed world champion. After several delays, the Kramnik-Leko World Championship Match (2004) was held from September 25-October 18, 2004 in Brissago, Switzerland. Lékó came extremely close to becoming Hungary's first World Champion. Leading by one point going into the fourteenth and final game, he was beaten by Kramnik who thereby tied the match 7-7 and retained his title.
In October 2005, Lékó was invited by reason of his Classical World Championship match with Kramnik in 2004 to play in the FIDE World Championship Tournament (2005) in San Luis, Argentina. He accepted the invitation but only placed fifth out of a field of eight with 6˝/14 points. However, this was sufficient for him to qualify for the 2007 Candidates Tournament to determine the final four qualifiers to the FIDE World Championship Tournament (2007). At the Candidates matches, he won the Candidates Match: Leko-Gurevich (2007) (+3−0=1) and the Candidates Match: Bareev vs Leko (2007) (+2−0=3), to qualify for the eight-player championship tournament in Mexico City, where he finished fourth out of eight.
Lékó placed 7th in the 2008-2009 Grand Prix series, and as he did not compete in the World Cup (2009), he did not qualify for the Candidates tournament of matches that were eventually held in Kazan in 2011. There followed a disastrous result at the World Cup (2011), when he was eliminated in the first round – and from the 2013 World Championship cycle - by the young US GM Samuel Shankland. His 2014 campaign for the World Championship started modestly at the FIDE Grand Prix London (2012) when he placed outright 5th with 6/11, starting his GP points tally with 80 points. In his remaining Grand Prix events, the FIDE Grand Prix Tashkent (2012), the FIDE Grand Prix Zug (2013) and the FIDE Grand Prix Beijing (2013), he scored totals of 5.5/11 (+1 -1 =9) (7th place), 5/11 (+0 -1 =10) (=7th place) and 6/11 (+1 =10) (=3rd place), adding a total of 200 GP points to make a best-of-3-event total of 230, ending his chances to finish in the top 2 and thereby qualify for the 2014 Candidates Tournament. He had a chance to qualify for the Candidates via the World Cup (2013) for which he qualified by reason of his rating; he defeated Norwegian GM Leif Erlend Johannessen in the first round but in one of the shocks of the round, he lost to Peruvian #1 Julio Ernesto Granda Zuniga in the second round.
<Classical>: In 2000, he defeated Alexander Khalifman in match play in Budapest by 4.5-1.5.
<Fischer Random Chess>: In 2001, Lékó narrowly defeated Michael Adams in an eight-game match played as part of the Mainz Chess Classic.
<Rapid>: From 2005 until 2010, Péter Lékó has played a rapid chess match in the Hungarian city of Miskolc:
• In 2005, he drew Leko & Adams (2005) 4–4
• In 2006, he won the Leko-Karpov Match (2006) 4˝–3˝
• In 2007, he lost the Leko vs Kramnik Rapid Match (2007) 3˝–4˝
• In 2008, he lost the Carlsen-Leko Rapid Match (2008) 3–5
• In 2009, he lost the Leko-Anand Rapid Match (2009) 3–5 and
• In 2010, he lost the Leko-Gelfand Match (2010) 3˝–4˝
In 2007, he also played the Ivanchuk - Leko Rapid Match (2007) losing by 6˝-7˝, and then lost the rematch, the Ivanchuk-Leko Match (2009), by 2˝-3˝.
Lékó was somewhat more successful in rapid tournaments. In 1999, he won the Rapid Grand Prix in Bordeaux (France) and two years later (in 2001), he won the Rapid Master Event in Nordhorn. In 2002, he won the Rapid Grand Prix in Dubai and managed to place 3rd at Monaco 2002. In 2007, he took first place at the ACP Rapid (2007) and =2nd at the 16th Amber Tournament (Rapid) (2007). In 2008, he was =3rd at the Amber Tournament (Rapid) (2008) and =5th, a half point behind the four joint leaders, at the Amber Tournament (Blindfold) (2008). In June 2013, he placed =3rd behind Karjakin and Topalov at the Sberbank Rapid Open 2013 held in Ukraine.
<Olympiads>: He represented Hungary in the Olympiads of 1994, 1996, 2000, Bled Olympiad (2002), Olympiad (2008), Chess Olympiad (2010) and Chess Olympiad (2012), winning team silver in 2002 and individual gold for board 1 in 2008.
<World Team Championship>: Lékó represented Hungary at the World Team Championships in 2001 and at the World Chess Team Championship (2011), both times on board 1. On the latter occasion he won individual bronze.
<European Team Championships>: He represented the Hungary 3 team on board 4 in the European Team Championships in 1992, when he was a 13 year old FM, posting a modest +3 =4 -2 result. He again played for Hungary in 1999, this time on board 1 and won team and individual silver. There followed a long absence from the competition until the European Team Championship (2011) when he lead his national team from board 1 to team bronze.
<European Club Cup>: Lékó played for Honved Budapest from 1995 until 1997, winning team silver in his inaugural year in the competition. Lékó’s absence from the ECC since then was also notable for its length as he did not resume until 2012 when he was recruited to play board 3 for DhSM-64 Moscow, winning team bronze.
<Other Team Competition>: He played board 3 for the Rest of the World in the Russia vs The Rest of the World (2002), helping his team defeat Russia with a personal performance of +2 =7 -1. Lékó also played with his ShSM-64 Moscow team in the Russian Team Championships (2012) on board 3, winning individual silver and team bronze.
Lékó has been ranked as high as fourth on the FIDE World Rating List, that ranking first being achieved in April 2003 and from April to December 2005, when he also reached his peak rating of 2763 (April-September 2005). He was in the world’s top 10 for most of the decade until November 2009. As of 1 October 2013, Lékó’s rating was:
<Standard> 2732 (Hungarian #1; world #21);
<Rapid> 2738; and
Peter Lékó married Sofya Petrosyan on September 2nd 2000 and is the son-in-law of Armenian grandmaster Arshak B Petrosian. He is currently living in Szeged in Hungary. His hobbies are football, tennis, bowling and music.
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