World number-four GM Alireza Firouzja has been mysteriously inactive in the last year with remarkably few tournament appearances. In a rare, new interview, the teenager confirmed rumors about him seeking an alternative career.
Firouzja, the Iranian-born French teenage prodigy hailed as a future successor to the chess throne, has not played a single over-the-board tournament since September. His last event was his impressive double victory in St. Louis, winning the Rapid & Blitz event and Sinquefield Cup, his only classical event since the Candidates, last March.
The 19-year-old had a disappointing result in the Airthings Masters 2023, where he qualified for the knockout stage, but was then beaten convincingly by GM Arjun Erigaisi.
While Firouzja occasionally shows up in Titled Tuesday tournaments, his fans are left mystified as to why the young star has been so inactive. Now the teenager has, for the first time, shared an explanation.
Speaking to chess streamer WFM Alessia Santeramo before an online match against GM Praggnanandhaa R., Firouzja confirmed rumors that have been circulating for a while:
A career in fashion design. Somewhat cryptically, he responded to the rumors:
“Yes, I was in this industry for two years now. It’s kind of a serious thing. It’s improving every day and, yes, it’s kind of a real profession.”
More details on the extent of his new career, or how much this affects his chess, is not yet clear, but Firouzja added:
“It’s taking time from my chess, but I like to have both things together.”
The young star does not intend to end his chess career just yet. Firouzja also revealed that he will be more active in the second part of 2023, playing in the Grand Chess Tour and in Norway Chess, which is set to take place in May. The rest of the field in these events is yet to be announced.
Chess.com reached out to Firouzja for comment but is yet to receive an answer.
It would not be the first time a top chess player has had a career outside of chess. GMs Magnus Carlsen and Alexander Grischuk are among the chess stars playing poker actively.
Several other players have also given up professional chess, either partly or fully, to chase careers in other fields. One example is GM Gata Kamsky, who had an eight-year break from chess starting when he was 22 and was ranked sixth in the world in 1996, taking up law school.
French GM Joel Lautier, who peaked 15th in the world, retired from his chess career in 2006 to become a businessman.