Person of day - 25 FEBRUARY 2024
Julio Ernesto Granda Zuniga was born on 25 February 1967 in Camana – Arequipa province in the south of Peru.Julio’s family and their neighbours worked in agriculture and he did not see a single chess book before his first international competitions. How did this talent rise to such a high level? Granda’s phenomenon is often equated with the achievements of the famous Sultan Khan.
At the world U16 championship in 1983, the Peruvian missionary came 5th and made all coaches' eyes turn to him. In 1985, Julio successfully played some tournaments abroad, he won the U-20 Panamerican championship, which brought him the title of international master. At the U20 world championship in 1986, the “Grand Zuniga” – as he was called by Soviet players – led against Anand, Bareev, Piket and Agdestein, but lost four consecutive matches at the finish.
In 1986, he played for Peru at the Olympiad. At the first Tournament of Nations, Julio performed wonderfully, aside from a loss to Garry Kasparov, and his team sensationally won a record 12th place. FIDE immediately rewarded the audacious newcomer with the title of grandmaster.
Soon, Zuniga began to compete in the qualifying events for the world championship: he came second in the zonal tournament in 1987 and shared 4th-6th places at the inter-zonal with Nogueiras and Nikolic. In the additional match-tournament, he came second and Nikolic qualified for the candidates tournament. In the 1990s, Julio won the Peruvian championship five times, triumphed at the super-tournament in Mar del Plata in 1993 and won several South American zonal tournaments on his own. He played in the FIDE and PSA inter-zonal tournaments in 1993 and the FIDE knockout world championship in 1997.
At the end of the 1990s, Julio Granda was among the world’s thirty strongest players, but he unexpectedly quit chess for four long years. During this time, the grandmaster wholly devoted himself to agriculture and religious-spiritual activity.
His return happened in 2002. A 35-year-old grandmaster quickly proved that he remained one of Latin America’s strongest players by qualifying for the World Cups in 2005 and 2007. In 2006, Julio moved to Spain. He won the Iberian-American championship in 2008, defeating Iturrizaga in the final. His one-on-one contest with Nigel Short ended in a loss of 2,5:3,5. He also won several team Spanish championships.
In 2013, the Peruvian became one of the main sensations at the World Cup in Tromso. He consecutively knocked out Melkumyan, Leko and Giri and made it to the 4th round, where he lost to Fabiano Caruana. The aged chess played underwent a renaissance, earning a rating just under 2700 – the highest in his career.
He got through two rounds of the 2015 World Cup (knocking out Fier and Villagra), but went down to Radoslaw Wojtaszek in round three. In 2017, Granda won the World Senior Chess Championship in the 50+ age group.
In 2018, Julio Granda Zuniga entered Arkady Dvorkovich team before the FIDE Presidential elections and did a big job in the countries of the Central and Latin America encouraging chess players to vote for the Russian candidate. Granda became FIDE Vice-President after Arkady Dvorkovich had won the elections during the FIDE Congress in Batumi.