Vincent Keymer: Germany's youngest grandmaster of all time

by Thorsten Cmiel
10/26/2019 – Germany's long and illustrious chess tradition has been shaped by top players such as Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch, Emanuel Lasker, Wolfgang Unzicker, Wolfgang Uhlmann or Dr. Robert Hübner. However, the youngest German Grandmaster ever is the 14-year old Vincent Keymer who just got the title at the FIDE Grand Swiss tournament on the Isle of Man. Thorsten Cmiel had a closer look at Keymer's way to this historic record. | Photo: John Saunders

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Vincent on his way

Some people may believe that Vincent Keymer (born in 2004) could have become grandmaster earlier... but he still is the youngest German grandmaster of all time. At the Isle of Man FIDE Grand Swiss tournament in October 2019 the 14-year old made his third and final GM norm which brought him the title. The powerful field that guaranteed strong opponents helped Keymer to achieve his goal.

 In round nine Vincent only needed a draw against Russian Grandmaster Vadim Zvjaginsev, who after seven draws in a row had suffered a bitter defeat in round 8 against the young Indian Grandmaster Gukesh (born in 2006).

Video by Jonathan Reichel |

But let's follow the young German step by step on his way to his final grandmaster norm. Keymer began the tournament with a solid draw against the Ukrainian Grandmaster Kryvoruchko. Throughout the game Vincent enjoyed a slight though only rather symbolic advantage. A solid start.


In round 2 followed Ivan Saric who put Vincent's Najdorf Sicilian to the test. Vincent had to withstand considerable pressure and had to give the queen for two rooks while his king was still in danger. After a dramatic fight and with some help of his opponent Vincent managed to draw the game. Incidentally, Saric had a rather peculiar tournament: none of his opponents from the first five rounds was older than 16. Saric drew against Lance Henderson De La Fuente from Spain, against Vincent and Ranauk Sadwhani, while winning against Gukesh and losing against Abdusattorov from Uzbekistan.


In round 3 Vincent had White again. His opponent tried desperately to play creatively and wound up in a bad Benko-position. Vincent showed his attacking and won convincingly. This time Vincent had two rooks and a bishop for the queen – and a lasting attack to boot.


In round 4Vincent faced another heavy-weight: Pavel Eljanov. Eljanov took some risks to create winning chances but failed to have success against a well-prepared Keymer.


In round 5 Vincent had to play with White against his coach Peter Leko who had just won convincingly against Nihal Sarin in round four. The encounter between coach and student ended in a quick draw.


In round 6 Vincent's Najdorf Sicilian was tested again, this time by the Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem. For a long time it seeme as if Vincent might even have a chance to get an advantage. However, he cracked under pressure and wound up in an unpleasant queen endings a pawn down which he lost after missing a chance to try for a more stubborn defense.


After the restday Vincent came to a draw against the Russian GM Alexander Motylev. Vincent again was excellently prepared and for a long time he had the definitely better chances. However, Motylev managed to liquidate into a rook ending with four vs three pawns on the kingside which Vincent could not win.


In round 8 Vincent played against GM Sandro Mareco from Argentina. And once again his Najdorf was put to the test. White castled queenside, Black kingside, but both sides tried to launch an attack. At first, things looked for fine for Vincent who did not play as hesitantly as he had done against Esipenko at the Tata Steel Challengers at the beginning of the year. However, after a somewhat slow move by Vincent in a sharp position the Argentinian really got going. Vincent again got two rooks for his queen but his king was in danger - similar to his game against Saric. Mareco continued his energetic play and finally won convincingly. Despite this loss Vincent at this point in the tournament still had a GM-performance of more than 2600.


In round 9 Vincent had Black against Zvjaginsev – and after drawing a dramatic and difficult game he had secured his third and final GM norm and with that the title.


In round 10 the new Grandmaster played against the reigning German Champion Niclas Huschenbeth who had missed a couple of chances in this tournament. At first, Huschenbeth also dominated the game against Vincent but after the time control it was Vincent who had winning chances in a queen endgame. However, Vincent's 41st move was not energetic enough and the game petered out into a draw.


In the last round Vincent lost rather clearly in a Paulsen Sicilian. With a final score of 4½/11 Vincent reached an Elo-performance of 2593 and gained him 12 Elo-points.


An interview with Fiona Steil-Antoni after round 9 shows how happy Vincent is about his success and the GM-title:


Thorsten Cmiel is FIDE Master, lives in Cologne and Milano and works as a freelance finance journalist.


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