Erwin L'Ami on the Candidates Tournament

by Arne Kaehler
4/28/2020 – Being the second of Anish Giri, Grandmaster Erwin l'Ami was kind enough to talk about the Candidates Tournament 2020 and how they experienced the whole situation from beginning to end in Yekaterinburg. In spite of wearing a mask in the air plane, to visiting the doctor twice a day, l'Ami and Giri were focusing on the tournament - they did not give in to the fear about the pandemic. | Photos: Alina l'Ami

A Gambit Guide through the Open Game Vol.1 and 2 A Gambit Guide through the Open Game Vol.1 and 2

To avoid them or to play them, you have to know them. In two Volumes we see gambits such as Frankenstein-Dracula Gambit, the Cochrane Gambit, the Belgrade Gambit, the King's Gambit, Marshall Gambit, the Scotch Gambit, the Jänisch Gambit and many more.


"It is remarkable how quickly you get used to being checked by a doctor twice a day"

Arne Kaehler: Hello Erwin, thank you for this interview. How did the coronavirus affect you in the last couple of weeks?

Erwin L'Ami: Thank you for having me. Coming back to the Netherlands from the Candidates Tournament I soon realized that everything has turned around by 180 degrees. Just a few months ago I was discussing with my wife Alina that 2020 will be such a busy year! I told her about the Tournament in Yekaterinburg, being the second of Anish Giri, the Grand Chess Tour and so many other events. Apart from that, I wanted to play in a couple of tournaments myself. Suddenly it went from super busy to staying home and awaiting the development of the pandemic. At least I can work from home and the training, and preparation with Anish can continue, too.

AK: When did you and Anish Giri fly to Yekaterinburg and what was your initial feeling?

EL: We flew to Yekaterinburg five days earlier than the tournament started, to acclimatize, stay relaxed and avoid landing in Russia in the middle of the night. The coronavirus was already spreading everywhere, but we took precautions and rarely went out– if we did it was just for a short walk. With the whole situation affecting our concentration and getting on our nerves we had to try to deal with it in the best way possible. I think we did pretty well to focus on the tournament instead of being concerned all the time. | Photo: Anish Giri and Erwin L'Ami at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament

AK: Well done for keeping so balanced in these times.

EL: It is actually pretty crazy when you think about it, but you get used to new daily procedures very quickly. For safety reasons we had to visit the doctor twice a day. We went there in the morning at a fixed time, and after the game was played as well. That quickly became as normal as brushing your teeth. We were so much in our bubble that it simply didn't matter that much for us. But it might have disturbed the other players.

AK: How was the overall mood regarding the tournament?

EL: Because we were so focused on our thing we didn't concentrate too much on how the other players were doing. Sure, you meet one of them in the elevator at some point, say "hey", and then leave for your room again, but nobody really built up stronger connections in this week. We learned how the other candidates were dealing with the situation from the press conferences and other news sources.

AK: What went through your head once you received the tournament cancellation message?

EL: We were quite annoyed. As mentioned earlier already, we were fine simply doing our thing. So the news about the cancellation broke our balance and preparation. Nonetheless, we always expected it to eventually happen.

AK: The next step was booking a flight back quickly. How did that go?

EL: As soon as we received the message we had mixed feelings of being angry and disappointed for a brief moment, and we also learned that the airspace is about to shut down. We packed our stuff and went to the airport, while booking the flight, all in less than an hour. We were pretty lucky getting this flight, because it was booked out shortly after, and other players couldn't get a seat any more. Wearing masks on our flight back, it was actually a very smooth trip.

AK: Until the Tournament continues, will you still be training with Anish Giri?

EL: Anish has a lot of other tournaments going on, for example The Carlsen Invitational which is running right now. After that we catch up again and take care about his preparation.

AK: You have made eight (!) DVDs for ChessBase so far, and the Benko Gambit Explained just came out in March. Any other plans?

The Benko Gambit Explained

In this DVD, Erwin l'Ami guides you through the fascinating Benko Gambit. As early as move three Black starts a fight for the initiative, a strategy that has proved to be successful in countless amateur and master level games.

EL: I just enjoy doing this a lot. No further plans at the moment, because I just finished The Benko Gambit Explained, but I will never stop with this.

AK: Thank you very much for this interview.

Recently in the TCEC Computer Chess Super Final 17 of Stockfish vs. LCZero, the Dutch Stonewall was played in game 53 and game 54 in reversed colours. Erwin l'Ami has made a DVD about this opening, including 4.Nh3 which was played, so it is definitely worth checking out.

The Dutch Stonewall - A fighting repertoire against 1.d4

In the Dutch Stonewall Black from the very first move fights for the initiative. Let Erwin l'Ami take you on a fascinating journey to the depth and attractions of this unique opening. At the end you will be rewarded with a new repertoire against 1.d4!


Endgame Magic with Karsten Müller and Erwin l'Ami


Arne Kaehler, a creative mind who is passionate about board games in general, was born in Hamburg and learned to play chess at a young age. By teaching chess to youth teams and creating chess-related videos on YouTube, Arne was able to expand this passion and has even created an online course for anyone who wants to learn how to play chess. Arne writes for the English and German news sites, but focuses mainly on content for the ChessBase media channels.


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