Grandmaster Chef: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

by Alexey Root
10/21/2020 – Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, often referred to by his initials MVL, is the top-ranked chess player in France. To show appreciation for MVL on his 30th birthday, National Master Mike Walder presents a recipe for a dish MVL likes and annotates one of MVL’s wins from the 2020 Candidates Tournament. WIM Alexey Root tells why MVL is a Grandmaster Chef honoree. | Pictured: MVL and fans at the 2019 GCT Finals in London | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


France’s best

Born on October 21, 1990, Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (MVL) learned chess at age six from his father. MVL earned his grandmaster title at 14 years and 4 months old. He was the 2009 World Junior Champion.

MVL has won three French Championships and represented France in the Olympiad seven times. When the 2020 Candidates Tournament was postponed, MVL was in first place, tied with Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi, on 4½/7 (2 wins, 5 draws, and 0 losses). His website covers the Candidates in March 2020 and his return to over-the-board chess in September 2020.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ian Nepomniachtchi

MVL before his game against Ian Nepomniachtchi at the 2020 Candidates Tournament | Photo: Lennart Ootes / FIDE

The recipe

Just as MVL learned chess from his father, National Master Mike Walder learned chess from his father, Stu Walder. Walder writes, “When I was five years old, I learned to play chess by watching my dad win game after game against my 12-year-old sister. Once I knew how the pieces moved, I challenged him to a game and lost quickly. When Stu retired, he thanked my mother for all the years she cooked for him, and said that it was his turn to cook. This couscous became one of their favorite hot-weather dinners.” MVL called one couscous dish a “treat” so couscous is presumably on his favorites list, along with “snails and frogs.”

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Vachier-Lagrave posted this photo on his Instagram account in February 2019

Stu’s Couscous by Mike Walder


  • Couscous, 1 cup
  • Water, 1 cup
  • Cherry tomatoes, 10 ounces sliced in half (or grape tomatoes or small heirloom)
  • Scallions, 1 bunch chopped
  • Italian parsley leaves, ¼ cup rough chop
  • Cilantro, ¼ cup rough chop
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup
  • Balsamic vinegar, 2 Tablespoons
  • Lemon, 1 juice and zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional in couscous or as a side dish:
    1. Feta or goat cheese
    2. Red bell pepper, 1 diced
    3. Olives, your favorite type
    4. Chickpeas
    5. Grilled artichoke hearts


  1. Put couscous in a large bowl and add water. Let sit until water is absorbed, typically 30 to 60 minutes. Fluff with fork when done.
  2. Make the vinaigrette by whisking the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice into the olive oil so it becomes homogeneous.
  3. Season the vinaigrette by stirring in the lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add the tomatoes, scallions, Italian parsley, cilantro, any optional ingredients, and vinaigrette to the couscous.
  5. Gently toss until ingredients are distributed evenly.
  6. Let sit for at an hour.
  7. Takes 45 minutes to make. Serves 3.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Alexey Root

MVL v Nepo after Black’s 28th move with Stu’s couscous on the side | Photo: Alexey Root

The game

In round 7, the last round played before the Candidates Tournament was postponed, MVL defeated Nepomniachtchi. MVL analyzed the game on video, posted at FIDE’s YouTube channel. National Master Mike Walder annotates that win for this article.


Fascinated by the French Winawer

The Winawer Variation in just 60 minutes - that can only work by reducing it to a clear repertoire for Black and, where possible, general recommendations rather than variations. Alexei Shirov was surprised at how quickly he managed to make of the French Winawer an opening he himself could play. And now he will let you share in his conclusions.


Alexey was the 1989 U.S. Women's Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She earned her bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Puget Sound and her doctoral degree in Education at The University of California, Los Angeles. She has been a Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies at UT Dallas since 1999 and is a prolific author.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register