MVL on the significance of winning the 2021 Sinquefield Cup

by Dhananjay Khadilkar
9/1/2021 – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave couldn’t have asked for a better time to win the Sinquefield Cup. Scoring six points in nine rounds, he became the only player to outrightly win the event twice. Equally important for him, the win beckons a return to top form. In an interview with Dhananjay Khadilkar, he remarked, “I have absolutely no doubt that I am part of the chess elite”. | Photo: Austin Fuller

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I have no doubt that I am part of the chess elite

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave couldn’t have asked for a better time to win a top-level tournament, such as the Sinquefield Cup. Scoring six points in nine rounds, he became the only player to outrightly win the event twice. Equally important for him, the win beckons a return to top form. “It’s a huge win (for me) as it has given me more comfort and confidence for the next tournaments,” MVL, as he is popularly known, told Chessbase.

The victory also helped him return to the world’s top 10 ranking after recently dropping to number 16 following a slump in form in the first half of 2021. MVL contended that nothing seemed to be going his way at the beginning of the year, which made him lose confidence. 

“It's very difficult to get it back. But I worked a lot on my chess and played many events. My calculations were turning out to be right, and things started to click. I am pleased that I have regained confidence and am back on track. The Sinquefield Cup win was a culmination of that process,” he remarked.

“I have absolutely no doubt that I am part of the chess elite. I want to prove it tournament after tournament,” he added.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Back in the top 10 — Maxime Vahcier-Lagrave | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Despite the significance of this year’s win in Saint Louis, MVL cherishes his 2017 Sinquefield Cup triumph more. “In the 2017 event, Magnus was playing and so were most of the top players. Moreover, since it was my first win, it’s quite special,” he said. 

In this year’s event, MVL scored four wins, four draws and one loss. “The loss (against Dominguez Perez) was unpleasant and annoying, as I had forgotten something in my notes. But I told myself not to get distracted by the loss and maintain the focus.” He bounced back by defeating Darius Swiercz in the next round, a game the Frenchman considers one of his tournament highlights. 

“I was quite happy about the way I reacted to his preparation, and found a way to play that would be most unpleasant for him (like the Nd2, NC4 idea). In general, I played a lot of good games with white pieces. To be playing for a win with white was another feature of my play here,” he says.

His other tournament highlight was the drawn encounter against Fabiano Caruana. Playing black, MVL employed his favourite Najdorf defence. “It was very intense. There was a lot that both of us knew. But these kinds of positions are quite crazy. Even though you calculate well, somehow it’s not always enough. But I was happy at the amount of things I could foresee during the game,” he says.

 

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That he was regaining form had become apparent even before the Sinquefield Cup. The French GM had a good run in the World Cup where he lost to Sergey Karjakin in the quarterfinals in the tiebreakers. “The match was really intense and could have gone either way. But credit to Karjakin for playing close to his best in this match.”

Having achieved the target of making it back into the world’s top 10, MVL has set his sights on qualifying for the next Candidates. “That’s my next and obvious objective,” he said.

He also had a word of praise for the Sinquefield Cup organizers. “They put a lot of effort into making us feel comfortable during the event. It was not an easy task given the pandemic situation and the restrictions associated with it.”


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Dhananjay is a Paris based journalist and a chess enthusiast. While he enjoys playing the game, he is more fascinated by the drama and history associated with it.
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Yasser Seirawan Yasser Seirawan 9/2/2021 12:58
MVL is just a class act. Bravo! Yasser
badbishop9 badbishop9 9/1/2021 10:07
Way to go MVL! from the USA
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