16-year-old Daniel Dardha from Belgium with a fantastic performance becoming national champion for the third time. | photo: Dardha's Facebook
Belgian grandmaster Daniel Dardha is one of Europe's most promising juniors. This weekend the 16-year-old crushed all opposition to become Belgian champion for the third time.
The list of the world's top 20 ranked juniors is dominated by players born in Asia or the Eastern part of Europe, but there are a few notable exceptions. German 17-year-old Vincent Keymer, coached by Peter Leko, has been well known for years and is now closing in on 2700.
Another rising star from the West, is US grandmaster Hans Niemann, who lived in the Netherlands in his childhood and shot up from around 2500 to 2650+ after a remarkable rise in less than a year.
Much less known is Belgian grandmaster Daniel Dardha who is currently 16th on the list of the world's top juniors, but the only one besides Keymer born in Europe. This week the 16-year-old, of Albanian origin, broke 2600 for the first time by winning the Belgian Championship in Bruges.
The Antwerp teenager didn't just win the event, but did it in a dominating fashion three full points ahead of his closest rival, scoring an incredible 8.5 out of 9.
Dardha commented on his Facebook account:
Won the Belgian Championship for the 3rd time with 8.5/9, exceeding the 2600 mark and becoming nr° 1 Belgium. On to the next goal!
And it wasn't even the first time for the teenager, He became the youngest ever national champion as a 13-year-old in 2019, won again in 2021 and his victory in 2022 is actually his third.
Admittedly, the event wasn't particularly strong, with experienced Georgian-born Alexandre Dgbuadze the only other grandmaster in the closed 10-player field, but Dardha exceeded expectations and earned 9 rating points through his 2776 rating performance.
Final standings in the 2022 Belgian Championship. | photo: Screenshot www.frbe-kbsb.be
Dardha is coached by his father, but has previously received training by none other than Ivan Sokolov. In 2019 he told ChessBase:
I have worked with Daniel for the last few years and he is the first Belgian-born player who has a real chance of becoming a 2600+ player. Despite his young age, Daniel already has a "good hand", as he rarely makes positional mistakes. In order to develop further, Daniel will need a personal sponsor — so far the financial support has been mostly 'family effort'. I hope that the Belgian chess community helps Daniel on his journey.
His work with the star coach, appears to have paid off. Earlier this year he scored some spectacular wins in the Tata Steel Chess Challengers group.
And it wasn't the only beautiful tactical blow during the same event.
The future looks bright for Daniel Dardha.
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