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Nicholas Ernest de Firmian (born July 26, 1957 in Fresno, California), is a chess grandmaster and three-time U.S. chess champion, winning in 1987 (with Joel Benjamin), 1995, and 1998. He also tied for first in 2002, but Larry Christiansen won the playoff. He is also a chess writer, most famous for his work in writing the 13th, 14th, and 15th editions of the important chess opening treatise Modern Chess Openings.

Nick de Firmian
Full nameNicholas Ernest de Firmian
CountryUnited States
Born (1957-07-26) July 26, 1957 (age 62)
Fresno, California, United States
FIDE rating2496 (December 2019)

He has represented the United States at several Interzonals and played on the United States Olympiad teams of 1980, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1996, 1998, and 2000.[1] De Firmian earned the International Master title in 1979 and the GM title in 1985. Beginning in the 1990s, he lived for many years in Denmark. He currently resides in California.

He won the 1983 Canadian Open Chess Championship. In 1986, he won the World Open and the first prize of $21,000, at that time a record for a Swiss system tournament. De Firmian was a founding member of Prochess, a grandmaster advocacy group dedicated to promoting chess in the United States. He has a degree in physics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Grandmaster de Firmian is a noted expert on the chess openings and in 1990 he revised Modern Chess Openings, 13th edition (MCO-13). In 1999 he wrote the 14th edition of Modern Chess Openings (MCO-14), which, along with Nunn's Chess Openings (NCO), is considered an outstanding single volume opening reference in English. He also helped prepare the chess opening book for the IBM Deep Blue team for its successful 1997 match with Garry Kasparov.

In 2006 he revised and expanded the classic 1921 book Chess Fundamentals, by José Capablanca. The edition was harshly criticized by chess historian Edward Winter, who claimed that de Firmian "destroyed" the book by changing Capablanca's writing and removing games from previous editions to include new games not played by Capablanca.[2] De Firmian also wrote the 15th edition of MCO, which was published in April 2008.


  • Nick de Firmian; Korn, Walter (1990). Modern Chess Openings (13 ed.). A. & C. Black.
  • Nick de Firmian (1999). Modern Chess Openings (14 ed.). Random House. ISBN 0-8129-3084-3.
  • Nick de Firmian; Fedorowicz, John (2004). The English Attack. Sterling. ISBN 978-0-945806-14-1.
  • José Capablanca and Nick de Firmian (2006) [1921]. Chess Fundamentals (Completely Revised and Updated for the 21st Century). Random House. ISBN 0-8129-3681-7.
  • Nick de Firmian (2008). Modern Chess Openings (15 ed.). Random House.


  1. ^ Wojciech Bartelski. "OlimpBase Men's Chess Olympiads Nick De Firmian". Retrieved 2012-03-12.
  2. ^ Winter, Edward "Capablanca Goes Algebraic" Chess Notes

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