Chess Talent: Vincent meets Garry

by Frederic Friedel
10/23/2015 – He comes from a family of musicians: father teaches at the university, mother plays concert cello. Vincent himself is a budding pianist – and a very strong chess player, as became clear in a coaching session at ChessBase. So we took him to meet the 13th World Champion to get a really profound evaluation. Garry Kasparov confirmed: a truly extraordinary talent. Now guess how old Vincent is.

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Chess Talent: Vincent meets Garry

By Frederic Friedel

Here's how it began. Recently – actually at the end of August – we had a very pleasant afternoon with some interesting visitors in our ChessBase office in Hamburg. Our guests were:

Heike and Christof Keymer, both musicians. Heike plays cello in an orchestra, Christof is a teacher of music at the University of Hannover. She is vivacious and full of stories; he is professoral and learned, a concert pianist – as I write these lines Christof is giving a recital in Gibraltar.

They brought along their daughter Cecilia, seven years old and one of the cutest little girls I have met in a long while. We spent quality time bantering and teasing, which was great fun, as she has a keen sense of humour. She plays the cello and piano.

And then there was Vincent, who is intelligent and well-spoken, a budding pianist – but also a very strong chess player. We are talking 2350 rating points on the current FIDE scale. ChessBase had invited him to do a coaching session with one of our most experienced youth chess trainers, Gisbert Jacoby (who has published a number of DVDs for ChessBase, all in German).

After a two-hour session I asked Gisbert what he thought of Vincent's talent and comprehension of chess. "I have never seen anything like it before," said the trainer, visibly shaken. "He is definitely better than his rating." Indeed. "Have you ever played against a grandmaster?" I asked Vincent. He looked slightly baffled: "Sure," he said, "and I have beaten three."

So now it is time to answer your pressing question. Ten. Jawohl, that's right: Vincent is ten years old. And he is being hailed as Germany's greatest chess talent (see magazine cover above) since Lasker.

So it was time to check him out properly. As chance would have it Garry Kasparov was due to attend the Aspen Institute’s 2nd Transatlantic Conference in Berlin and give a keynote speech there. It's a good speech. You should read it.

Now there is this tradition between Garry and me: once a year I am allowed to ask him to check out some (in my opinion) extraordinary talent, which consists of him looking at games, sometimes analysing personally, for an hour, with my candidate, and then giving me an opinion. I have the greatest respect for that: Garry has spotted a number of world class players before anyone had even heard their names.

I had not dragged anyone to him for quite some time now, so I seized the opportunity of his Berlin visit and took Vincent and his father to the beautiful WestIn Hotel to meet the legendary 13th World Champion. I warned them: he will have very little time – he is on a two-day blitz in the city, guest of the Aspen Institute and the German government, giving interviews to news magazines and TV stations, attending dinner banquets. So a handshake and book signing is what you should accept. Christof was perfectly satisfied: "If Vincent just gets to meet Garry Kasparov that will be a great moment for him, it will be a big motivation in his chess career."

Well, Garry walked into the hotel, accompanied by Aspen aides, spotted us and came over. After greeting the grown-ups he turned to the lad and said: "So, you are Vincent?! Have you brought a chessboard with you?" He had, and Garry invited us all up to his suite in the WestIn.

What followed was a thrilling, almost two-hour session of chess analysis and discussion. Garry started off by asking Vincent to show him some of his recent games ("against strong players"), and quizzed him on why he had chosen certain openings and certain moves – and avoided others.

Erich Follath (above middle), a senior editor of Der SPIEGEL, the biggest news magazine in Europe, was present – he had interviewed Kasparov on his new book "Winter is Coming", which is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and IndieBound – as hardcover, paperback, Kindle, Nook and audio book. Read it – it will (appropriately enough) chill your blood. I predict that the next chess story by Erich in Der Spiegel will be about Vincent and this session.

But back to the Kasparov training, which was sometimes extremely intense

Often Garry gave the lad contructive advice – and Vincent sucked it all in

It was a remarkable tutorial at the start of a very promising chess career

After looking at a number of games Vincent had played, Garry switched to something different: he gave the boy three studies to solve. They were all tough and Garry would sometimes provide a little bit of inspiration, explaining the geometry involved.

At one stage, when Vincent had difficulties with a study, Garry did what Bruce Pandolfini did to Josh Waitzkin in the film "Searching for Bobby Fischer": he swept the pieces off the board and told Vincent to look for the solution in his head.

This is a ten-year-old solving a difficult study in his mind

Really, really hard, but the lad never gave up and in the end succeeded!

We are not showing you the studies that Garry gave Vincent to solve – that will come in a separate article some time in the future. And then you will be able to test yourself under similar circumstances.

In the end Vincent got a set of Kasparov books from his series "My Great Predecessors"

After this extensive session I got Garry's assessment. Some of it should not be shared with all and sundry, but this much can be revealed: Vincent is incredibly talented and can definitely make his way to the top of the chess world. But he has not yet started with full, systematic training – of course not, the ten-year-old has a number of interests and talents, and spends just an hour or two on chess per day. "He will encounter the following situation: at big tournaments, like the World Youth Championship in Greece in a couple of weeks, he will be playing against twelve-year-olds from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, wherever, who have been trained for eight years, by professional chess coaches, for many hours a day. Vincent will be running purely on talent. Let us see how he fares. I'll be watching."

Currently Vincent's family is looking for a sponsor to help with the expenses that such a chess talent brings: regular grandmaster training, travel to international tournaments (with a parent), etc. Things are looking good, and I am sure that a major company will jump in to further his career.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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frankiekam frankiekam 6/11/2021 05:38
As I read this in 11th June 2021, Vincent is 2nd placed in a strong field of 12 talented youngsters in the Gelfand Challenge 2021 tournament.
reddawg07 reddawg07 10/24/2015 04:12
Does this talented kid have the focus and discipline to devote a big part of his life to chess? I am sure this wasn't a problem for young Karpov and Kasparov who lived in the Soviet union where chess excellence was encouraged and rewarded.

As Fischer has stressed when talking about his high IQ, he was not a chess genius but a genius who devoted his life to chess. As some psychologists are saying, sometimes it's better to just be above average and have the drive than to be a genius who triumphs easily and gets what he want's without any effort. For in the end
it is the extra effort that separate the champions from the rest. Capablanca was a natural chess talent yet was beaten in the world championship by Alekhine who took the time to study Capablanca's games and prepared himself extensively. And it is known that Capablanca disliked studying chess openings just like players like me. Capablanca probably realized what his weakness was and tried to have a rematch but that
never materialized.
scoobeedo scoobeedo 10/24/2015 03:05
I do not understand some of this comments.

This boy will not need a psychiatrist because it is not a expectation, it is a our wish that he get so far.
We wish him that he come so far as he can, as long as he have fun playing chess. This boy is a multi talent and if somebody expect from him to become world champion, I guess that he will just laugh and say to this person "Lets see, but thank you for your support!"

About the user cyric renner: Before you write a comment, check your facts.

He is now ten years old, he do not need to be the youngest GM ever to go to the Top, but he should be GM with the age of 13 years. He have still 3 years and kids develop very fast. His 2350 seems to be underrated as Gisbert Jacoby said, he solved a extreme difficult study in the head ...

All this are clear indications that this boy have chess in his blood. And that means anything is possible!

Captain Picard Captain Picard 10/24/2015 03:02
gmwdim: Your comment is the most pessimistic comment I have read on the internet in years. That is quite an accomplishment!! I for one wish Vicent the best, and it does not matter if he becomes a chess legend or not. Kids are extremely resilient and adapt to changes and challenges very well. He can only benefit from his experience with Mr. Kasparov!
Mystical Mystical 10/23/2015 10:31
What's his newest book? Gary Kasparov on Gary Kasparov on Gary Kasparov? A book about the book he wrote about himself? lol classic Garry. Can't wait until he sponsors this new book in the third Anand-Carlsen championship match and give a nice inflammatory speech there to spark a fire under Anand's ass.
Cyric Renner Cyric Renner 10/23/2015 07:48
If you are not a GM by 10 you are washed up these days. 2350 is paltry. I eagerly await the first GM not yet out of diapers. It will happen soon.
semprun semprun 10/23/2015 04:36
Let me have a guess. One of them is the study given to Spassky, which he solved with 'Qg2!!' cry. To which Averbakh replied tp the 9 year old boy(10?) 'you may become world champion'. It is the first study of Endgame Challenge by Nunn... If memory serves right, it is actually 9.Qg2!
oputu oputu 10/23/2015 11:35
Yeah, crowd funding for now. Look at the interested chess world before outside companies
Danaus Danaus 10/23/2015 09:39
Nice story and hopefully another one of those where ChessBase spotted a future world class player first. I wish the boy all the best! Concerning funding, Vincent's family should consider crowd funding. Given the high popularity of chess on the Internet these days, I think that this would have a realistic chance of working out.
Denix Denix 10/23/2015 07:03
Speaking about Chess achievements below two are very remarkable
1. Youngest grandmaster @ 12 years, 7 months, 0 days - S. Karjakin
2. Youngest World Champion @ 22yrs-6mos-27days - G. Kasparov

Hope to see you soon on this list!
gmwdim gmwdim 10/23/2015 06:35
"Germany's greatest chess talent since Lasker"

And decades from now a certain Vincent will be explaining to a psychiatrist how he had a happy childhood until the weight of the world's expectations crushed his spirit.
karavamudan karavamudan 10/23/2015 04:14
Recent chessbase articles had become dull and monotonous. Not this one though.

Hopefully these young budding artists will develop on their early promise and potential.

daftarche daftarche 10/23/2015 02:07
wow. i wish him the best.