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Exclusive interview with World Junior Chess Champion Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

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Written by Natalia Pogonina   
Saturday, 19 June 2010 is proud to introduce to you our special guest - GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.


Maxim Vachier-Lagrave a top French grandmaster, reigning Junior World Champion.

Born on October, 21, 1990

Highest FIDE rating achieved 2730 (Jan 2010).

Winner and medalis at junior championships at France, Europe, World.

Became a grandmaster at age 14 and 4 months (one of the best results in chess history)

Most notable tournament victories:

2006 Lauzanne Young Masters

2007 champion of France

2008 Georgy Marx Memorial

2009 Biel, World Junior Championship

Maxime was kind enough to answer my questions very promptly and in a great style. See for yourself:

1.            A recent respectable vote at ChessPro for the Game of the year-2009 ended with a few grandmasters (Grischuk, Timofeev, me, Zhukova, Alexandrova) giving Morozevich-Vachier-Lagrave the #1 spot. The game finished #5 overall. If you were to name the three best chess games of 2009, what would they be?

Alexander Morozevich (2751) - Maxim Vachier-Lagrave (2703)

Actually Grischuk talked to me about this game when we were just getting eliminated at the same time in Khanty :) This game was of course epic, but also full of mistakes, even if none of them were at all obvious to the human eye. So of course it's hard to be objective with your own games, but while Alexander put it an "indiscutable #1" I think it fits more 4-5th place, or maybe a "special out-of-contest prize" :)

From all the games played in 2009, somehow I feel attracted to the game Polgar-Gelfand played in Khanty, because Judit actually managed to do something no one, including myself, managed in Khanty, meaning putting fire over Boris' King when he was black, and she won in brilliant style (even if not faultlessly of course) in a must-win situation, you have to admire that.

2nd would be Ivanchuk-Alekseev, a brilliant creative play from Chucky, don't see something else to say :)

3rd would be either Ivanisevic-Postny, with a brilliant sacrificial play by white, or Topalov-Wang Yue which was also an impressive achievement from Topalov. In fact what's the most impressive about all of these games is the way white managed to unbolt some of the best rock-solid players, especially when those guys are black :)

And well, if this game had been played two weeks before, Gashimov-Grischuk would be an obvious #1 : really epic game, with the king going to b1, and very very few mistakes in such a complicated position is a big achievement from both players, that's why having to come with a winner and a loser at the end is a heartbreaker. For sure THE game of 2010 :)

2.            A lot of young chess players are getting addicted to poker & computer games. What do you think about it? Do you like these activities yourself?

As to computer games, I can't say I'm addicted, but I enjoy them a lot, even if all my games were created before 2003 :) But this really doesn't matter when I am of lazy mood :)

I also like poker, but I'm kind of a too bad player, I don't have the pokerface ! Still I can have some fun with it.

3.            Are you keen on chess politics? Whom would you rather support: Karpov or Ilyumzhinov?

I'm not really keen on chess politics, especially because sometimes you see things you don't like to see... Obviously the current situation has pros, with some money coming for free to the players, but big cons, with the pretty unclear vision we have for the WC cycle, while this should be the event that brings medias, and Kasparov has a big point when mentioning Elista, Nalchik... as the new places for chess instead of London, Paris...

I obviously don't know if Karpov is the man of the situation, but anyway maybe this would be a good time for a change, and also Karpov has some credit, like Euwe in the past :)

4.            In an interview for Chessdom in 2007 you mentioned that you spend only about 2 hours on studying chess per day. Has entering the 2700+ (instead of 2600+, as at that time) group made you change your preparation, act more professional?

Well I was still in university till June, and as I am still as lazy as before, I was not acting professionnally. But I just finished university, so I will get more time for both my laziness and chess :)

5.            Do you rely on computer programs and humans only when studying chess, or also read books?

I very occasionnally read books now, but I used to, because some things you can't learn only with programs :) But now I feel my learning of chess is more or less finished, even if there are obviously things I still don't know or understand very well :)

6.            Do you have a permanent coach and/or seconds (unless its a secret)? :)

As a permanent coach, I can name Arnaud Hauchard who is often with me in tournaments, as useful for chess as for moral support, because a tournament is long so you need someone to help :)

I have also some other people helping, and I'm grateful because without them I would be kind of late, because of my laziness...

7.            What is your favorite time control? I am under the impression (thanks to ICC) that you love bullet and blitz. Is this so? :) Do you view it as pure fun or as a way of training?

I like bullet and blitz, but that's more for fun than anything, but of course it helps anyway for the real chess if done properly, but I too rarely do it properly :)

Else I prefer long time controls for big tournaments, even if I know that it is probably doomed in a not so far future. But for instance I really feel unappropriate that we can now get a WC with rapid tiebreaks...

8.            Could you name a few of your favorite chess portals (free PR for them)? Are you planning to launch your personal website one day?

I'm kind of visiting a bit of all chess sites, of course chessbase, chessvibes, chessgames,  chessbomb, twic also, also some blogs... I feel aware of everything happening in the chess world, and for the gossips I have my coach :)

Maybe I'll do a website, but probably later, because it seems a too big amount of work for me :)

9.            As a top player, you must have nice earnings. However, its very hard to become rich by playing unless you are top-10 in the world. Do you have any sponsorships/advertisement contracts to support you?

Yes, I've just got a sponsorship very recently from the company "AOS Studley" (real estate), and it will probably help me to improve my chess more and more, so I would like to thank their CEO who is really supporting me, as a passionate chess player.

10.          Whom do you consider to be the most promising young players (U20) apart from yourself?

Well the thing is that for instance Magnus Carlsen is still U20, but I find it hard to qualify him as a "promising young player" :) So probably the ones I can see getting to the highest level are Anish Giri and Wesley So, but of course it's hard to predict what will happen with them, except that they will get 2700 for sure...

11.          Do you enjoy studying at the university or view it as a social liability?

I enjoyed studying math, not that it was such a more social occupation than chess (well the percentage of girls was a bit stronger, around 30% :)) but I always enjoyed math and there was the big advantage that the people there were not treating me as a very strong chess player, so friendships were probably more honest than some in chess :)

12.          If you could play a chess match against any living person, who would it be?

I'd first think of Jessica Alba (I really don't know why, but many guys immediately think of her when it comes to this stuff) :) Else Kasparov, because he's retired so I guess I won't get so many occasions to play against him.

13.          Do you like sports (if yes, what kinds?). Do you practice any of them?

I like watching all kind of sports (well except things like Tour de France, too long and boring...), but I especially like practising tennis and also table tennis.

14.          What do you think is more important in chess: talent or hard work?

You always need to work to improve at some point, but of course if someone is not talented enough he won't manage to improve also, so I guess that both are necessary, and then you need to find how much you should work to manage to improve :) (of course taking into account that MANY chess players are as lazy as I am, many people don't work enough :))

15.          While in some countries chess and the occupation chess player is respected, in others things are totally different. What is the attitude towards chess and chess players in France?

There's no special interest for chess players.

16.          How are your relationships with Etienne Bacrot, your main competitor for #1 in France and (potentially) in the world?

I think we have normal relationship, even if he tried recently to screw me at checkers, but he had underestimated my power, so our game ended after two draws while I was the one pressuring :) But anyway I think it's good to have some player to be in close contention with you, so that we get motivated, it's especially noticable on Etienne's side :)

Also we can hope to do something good in Khanty, especially after some disappointments from France, we still have a good team and if we're motivated enough (this I don't really doubt) and get a bit lucky we will have a reasonable shot at the first three places :)

17.          What was your most memorable tournament victory? Not necessarily the most prestigious, but the one you cherish the most.

I hope it's still to come, but for the moment I'd still say Biel, not only because it was my frist very big victory but also because I was feeling really well there.

18.          Talking about 1990s-born players: do you think you and Nepomniatchi could beat Carlsen and Karjakin at bughouse chess? :)

Training me to bughouse is part of Arnaud Hauchard's job :) So I think we would have some chances, and after a special training session with Arnaud we would be huge favourites for sure :)

19.          Have you ever played strip-chess? :)

No, but thanks for this great idea :)

20.          Do you follow womens top chess events and the games played there?

Only under torture :) More seriously, I watch many many games so also "women chess", it can be interesting :) And it can't be worse than some football matches we got now, or women tennis in 2009 (now it gets much better)

Related materials:
Interview with GM Evgeny Tomashevsky
Interview with GM Susan Polgar
Interview with GM Sergey Shipov

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Comments (1)
1. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 11:19 27 2012 .
my fav. board game is chess cause it requires you to think for a while and you feel proud of yrslueof when you win. your board game should have some kind of mental thinking to make you look smart. and if its for school, it will get you a better grade cause school requires u to think, and how many times have u seen a regular dice board game for school??? for me its almost every time so yeah if you have some sort of thinking in your board game ur good. analizing and thinking ahed is a great way to make a board so try that in ur board game

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