13-year-old steals the spotlight from Carlsen and co.

by Hartmut Metz
4/3/2018 – On Easter Monday, the GRENKE Chess Open ended with a sensation. Vincent Keymer won Europe's largest open chess tournament with 8.0 points from nine rounds. He started as number 99 in the ranking list, yet left behind 49 grandmasters, including such well-known names as Etienne Bacrot (France), Richard Rapport (Hungary), Alexei Shirov (Latvia) and Anton Korobov (Ukraine). What makes the victory all the sweeter is that it comes with a GM norm and a cash prize of 15,000 euros. | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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Vincent Keymer in Karlsruhe, an historic win

While the German grandmasters in the top tournament in Karlsruhe are sometimes thought of as extras for Magnus Carlsen & Co., 13-year-old IM Vincent Keymer stole the show on Easter Monday, even as the World Champion was up on stage. The native of Mainz won the GRENKE Chess Open with 8 points unbeaten, and a performance rating just shy of 2800, in a field with dozens of grandmasters and 787 players in all — the largest open in Europe.

Keymer previously was the youngest player ever to score an IM norm, at 10 years 3 months, and around the same time was called "a truly extraordinary talent" by none other than Garry Kasparov.

Vincent Keymer with check"Sensational", "unbelievable" or "a fantastic success" were the words that press spokesman Georgios Souleidis and President of the German Chess Federation (DSB) Ullrich Krause, voted for. After Elisabeth Paehtz from Erfurt became European champion in Tbilisi over Easter, the DSB can now dream of an even more golden future. After all, it's been a while since Emanuel Lasker — born 150 years ago — was the last German chess champion from 1894 to 1921.

The fans celebrated with Keymer at the award ceremony with ovations and hope for a "German Magnus Carlsen". Of course, Carlsen already had earned the Grandmaster title at the age of 13 years and three months, a record that the pianist from a family of musicians can no longer break, but Keymer has now managed the first of three required GM norms (which he even earned with a round to spare). Winning the tournament by beating the second seeded Richard Rapport was the icing on the kuchen.

His new coach Peter Leko notes that now he has something even few world champions can match: "It's history to win the A-Open in such a style at the age of 13", the former World Championship Challenger from Hungary gushed.

Vincent Keymer flanked by Peter Leko and Hans-Walter Schmitt | Photo: Hartmut Metz

On the final day, Keymer coped with the pressure against Leko's compatriots Gabor Papp and last year's U21 world ranking champion Richard Rapport. "Against Rapport, Vincent defended himself like a computer", Leko praised his hardened protégé.

The super-talent meanwhile, called the position after Rapport sacrificed a piece for three pawns "very simple", adding, "I had all only-moves to evacuate my king." An important signal for the youngster was when the Open's top favourite meekly offered a draw. "Because now it was clear that I have to stand well".


If only we all could look at such a position and think "very simple"!

Here the computer, in its infinite wisdom, prefers 28.e4 and declares equal (0.00!) but Rapport continued 28.Qg6+ Kd7 29.Qxf5+ Kc6 30.Qxf4 Be6 and already Black stands better.

Keymer manoeuvred with his extra bishop into counterattacking position, and didn't have to wait long for his moment to pounce:


You can move the pieces on the live diagram!

Centralising the queen, but leaving the king with one fewer defender, that allowed Keymer to seize his chance with 43...Bxh3! 44.Kg1 (or else 44.gxh3 would be met by ...Rxh3+ 45.Rh2 Rg3! and mate soon) 44...Rg7 45.Nh4 Rxf2 46.Kxf2 Rxg2+.

That soon forced Rapport to concede, making Keymer the first player to score eight points in the Grenke Chess Open. "It's incredible! That was my best tournament ever", said the winner.

Magnus Carlsen watches the match between Vincent Keymer and Richard Rapport | Photo:  Georgios Souleidis

Here he is going over the key moments of the game himself: 

Korobov above the rest

Anton Korobov, against whom the 13-year-old drew "astonishingly easily" after two effortless first-round victories in round three, ended with the best Buchholz tiebreak score after a quick peace with Alexei Shirov. Shirov finished in fourth place a few tiebreak points behind Dmitry Gordievsky who leapt up to the second place tie with a last round win over Eric Lobron. The former German open specialist, who celebrated his tournament comeback after 14 years, was disappointed by his blunder in the middlegame: 


Black must recapture with the bishop but overlooked that after 17...dxc4 White wins with the retreating move 18.Nd2! — a vicious discovered attack. Black was forced to try 18...Nxf2 but things went downhill quickly. Notice that 18...f5 would lose to 19.Nxe4 fxe4 20.Nc5 Qb6 21.Nxa6 Qxa6 22.Qd5+ Kh8 23.Qxc4.

So fell the 57-year-old who, after his strong performance with 6½ points, was left out of range of the prizes.

Eric Lobron showed why he used to play for the German national team | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

The squad of the 21 players with seven points was led by Frenchman Maxime Lagarde and German Falko Bindrich, and included such elite company as Wang Hao, Dmitry Andreikin and Etienne Bacrot.

With their 6½ points, another German IM, Hagen Poetsch, succeeded in posting a GM-norm-worthy result, while Luis Engel, the former German U14 champion from Hamburg posted an IM norm, narrowly missing a GM norm performance rating. The 15-year-old Engel's score might have been more noteworthy were it not overshadowed by the fantastic result of Keymer.

15-year-old Luis Engel scored his second IM norm in Karlsruhe | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Keymer's nine games "cause an earthquake", according to a Grenke Open press release. In round five, the youngster made his second draw with Black against French GM Jean-Noel Riff. This was followed by four victories in a row!

The eventual tenth-placed Italian Allessio Valsecchi (2510) "ran into my preparation", Keymer explained to Souleidis. "That was pretty mean. I had found that he is tactically very strong but has weaknesses, positionally."


Move the pieces on the live diagram!

Here it looks at first glance like Valsecchi may be able to escape with material parity, but back-rank tactics leave Keymer with all the trumps after 28.Bxb8 Bxd5 29.Bxd5 Rxb8 30.Qa7! when Black can't defend the bishop with Re8 since White would just take it anyway! Instead 30...Qd6 31.Rc6 Qe5 ran into 32.f4! and the queen is out of squares to defend the b8-rook.

By the way, tactics are also the hobby of Keymer's. In recent months, his mother noted again an increased zeal for training, which is why the explosive performance was foreseeable. The training with Leko since autumn also plays a role, underlined Keymer, who had also previously worked briefly with Artur Yusupov.

In the next round, Keymer was lucky against Rainer Buhmann, who passed up a perpetual check opportunity after sacrificing his bishop on g7, believing he had a mating attack: 


But in a "blackout" White played 24.Re5? overlooking the simple saving manoeuvre 25.Bd3 and Bg6, which parried everything.

"During the night and the following morning I was nervous, but once I got to the board, that was all gone", the tournament winner explained his frame of mind before the final double-round day.

Against Papp, Keymer quickly realized that the Hungarian "wanted to win. He sacrificed a pawn with Black", but in vain, as Keymer's defence prevailed, as it would with Rapport.

7...e5 is, surprisingly, a novelty, although one of the engine's first lines: 


The most recent predecessor game is, in fact, Keymer vs Gallagher, Balatonszarszo 2017, where Gallagher stuck with the theoretical move 7...c6.

Papp had sufficient compensation for a pawn for the next dozen moves, but once the queens were exchanged, Keymer's material edge began to tell, as Black struggled to avoid further piece exchanges. Eventually, a tactical opportunity presented itself:


26.Nxb7! Rxb7 27.Bxc6 Bxc6 28.Rxd8+ Bf8 29.Rc8 and soon Keymer's c-pawn was rolling up the board. 

Vincent Keymer gives Gabor Papp a mean stare | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

One thing Vincent Keymer already knows: Of the 15,000 euro prize money, he won't be buying a new bike, because "I've just gotten a new one". Keymer is uncertain only when asked if he expects to use his invitation to participate in the top tournament in 2019 with the likes of Carlsen and Anand. Even after the historic open victory, he says, "I do not know if I should insist. They are so much better".

Perhaps, but he still has a year to work on it.

Vincent Keymer's available games


Final standings

Rank Title Teilnehmer Elo Attr. Club/City FED W D L Points Buchh
1. IM Keymer, Vincent 2403 M SF Deizisau GER 7 2 0 8.0 52.5
2. GM Korobov, Anton 2664 M SC Viernheim UKR 6 3 0 7.5 56.0
3. GM Gordievsky, Dmitry 2630 M   RUS 6 3 0 7.5 54.5
4. GM Shirov, Alexei 2651 M OSG Baden-Baden LAT 6 3 0 7.5 52.0
5. GM Lagarde, Maxime 2587 M SF Deizisau FRA 6 2 1 7.0 57.0
6. GM Bindrich, Falko 2602 M DJK Aufwärts Aachen GER 5 4 0 7.0 54.0
7. GM Sadzikowski, Daniel 2583 M SC Heusenstamm POL 5 4 0 7.0 53.5
7. GM Firat, Burak 2453 M   TUR 5 4 0 7.0 53.5
9. GM Antal, Gergely 2540 M ESV Nickelhütte Aue HUN 6 2 1 7.0 52.5
9. IM Valsecchi, Alessio 2510 M   ITA 6 2 1 7.0 52.5
11. GM Andreikin, Dmitry 2712 M   RUS 5 4 0 7.0 52.5
12. IM Santos Latasa, Jaime 2549 M   ESP 5 4 0 7.0 52.0
13. GM Kollars, Dmitrij 2534 M Hamburger SK GER 6 2 1 7.0 51.5
13. IM Grinberg, Eyal 2448 M   ISR 6 2 1 7.0 51.5
15. GM Wang, Hao 2713 M   CHN 5 4 0 7.0 51.0
15. GM Heimann, Andreas 2574 M SF Deizisau GER 5 4 0 7.0 51.0
15. GM Malakhatko, Vadim 2536 M   BEL 5 4 0 7.0 51.0
18. GM Landa, Konstantin 2613 M SV Mülheim-Nord RUS 5 4 0 7.0 50.5
19. GM Bacrot, Etienne 2718 M OSG Baden-Baden FRA 5 4 0 7.0 50.0
20. IM Lampert, Jonas 2532 M Hamburger SK GER 6 2 1 7.0 49.5
21. IM Noe, Christopher 2494 M SC Eppingen GER 5 4 0 7.0 49.5
22. IM Fedorovsky, Michael 2471 M FC Bayern München GER 5 4 0 7.0 49.0
23. GM David, Alberto 2566 M   ITA 7 0 2 7.0 47.5
24. GM Burmakin, Vladimir 2522 M SF 90 Spraitbach RUS 5 4 0 7.0 47.0
25. GM Mikhalevski, Victor 2557 M SV Lingen ISR 7 0 2 7.0 44.5
26. FM Baenziger, Fabian 2356 M Luzern SK SUI 6 2 1 7.0 42.5

...Total 787 players

All available games


Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson


Hartmut is an editor at Badischer Tagblatt, headquartered in Baden-Baden. He also writes for chess and table tennis among others for the Frankfurt Rundschau and the Munich Merkur. In addition, the FM of the Rochade Kuppenheim regularly writes articles for the chess magazine 64, Chess Active (Austria) and Chessbase.de.


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