"With Peter everything is great fun" - an interview with Vincent Keymer

by André Schulz
4/25/2018 – At the beginning of April the 13-year old German talent Vincent Keymer created a sensation by winning the strong Grenke Open in Karlsruhe. In an interview Keymer reveals how he experienced the last day of the tournament, how a positive, optimistic approach helped him to play, and why he likes bike-riding to keep in shape. | Photo: André Schulz

Fritz 16 - He just wants to play! Fritz 16 - He just wants to play!

Fritz 16 is looking forward to playing with you, and you're certain to have a great deal of fun with him too. Tense games and even well-fought victories await you with "Easy play" and "Assisted analysis" modes.


"I like the battle of ideas"

André Schulz: Congratulations to winning the Grenke Open in Karlsruhe! This is probably the biggest success a 13-year-old has ever achieved at an international chess tournament. How do you rate your success? And how did you experience the tournament?

Vincent Keymer: In the first two rounds I already had a good feeling and enjoyed playing. The draw against Korobov confirmed my good mood. When you go optimistically into your games a lot of things are easier. This definitely helped me in the last four games against strong players. For me, this tournament confirmed that I am on the right track in chess.

The last-round-game against world class player Richard Rapport was extremely exciting. Were you nervous before the game because you had a chance to win the tournament by beating Rapport? Did you calculate all the complications or did you also have some luck?

I was relatively relaxed. I knew that I was certain to make a GM-norm, and it would also have been a good tournament for me if I had lost the last round. But I did not think about the rather theoretical possibility that I might win the tournament. That was probably good because it helped me to fully focus on the game. Of course, I calculated a lot of variations during the game but I don't know whether I really calculated all.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen follows the events in the game between Rapport and Keymer | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Do such exciting games stick for a long time in your mind? Do you sleep well after such games?

Well, after this game it anyway took a while before I could go to bed. Up to the prize-giving ceremony I gave interviews and analysed the game briefly with Peter Leko. After the closing ceremony we went home late. At the end of the day I was so tired that I just fell asleep even though it was an incredible day.

At the even stronger tournament in Gibraltar in January things did go not as well as in Karlsruhe. You particularly had problems in your games against grandmasters. What was different?

In Karlsruhe I was healthy and rested. I had a sore throat when I went to Gibraltar. I still tried to give my best but in the crucial games against the strong players the illness took its toll. Before the Grenke Open I was on holidays and could rest. And my whole family accompanied me to Karlsruhe where everything was familiar and I knew that I would feel comfortable. Moreover, the games were short enough to give me time to visit the gym in the evening.

How did you prepare for the Grenke Open?

The week before I was in Berlin to take part in a training session for the U18 European Team Championship which this year will be played in Germany. We paid two visits to the Candidates Tournament and I trained with Alexei Shirov. Both was fun. After that I prepared for the tournament by doing a bit less chess training to be fit and rested in Karlsruhe.

You regularly train with Peter Leko?

With Peter everything is great fun. He is a positive person and radiates his positive approach to chess. The training days with him are very intense, and even during breaks we go biking together or take a walk and talk. I met Peter last autumn during the first two rounds of the Bundesliga - we both played for the SF Deizisau. In November, Peter decided on short notice to support me at the U20 World Junior Championship, and since then I have been training with him. 

Peter Leko, Vincent Keymer, Hans-Walter Schmitt | Photo: Hartmut Metz

How do you cope with your success? You are one of the world's best U14 chess players. Is this okay for you or is it a burden? How do your friends and fellow pupils react? Do they sometimes act weird?

My friends know that I play chess but probably do not follow it closely. For them I am still the same Vincent I was before the tournament in Karlsruhe. Who I indeed still am. Though I am happy about positive reactions to my success in Karlsruhe it is not that important to me. I try to just continue to train and to improve further.

Do you have time for other hobbies besides chess? Do you work out?

Recently, I very much like to go biking. Training for soccer or handball is always on fixed dates. This often did not fit into my schedule. But my bike is always there and I can get going whenever I am in the mood. I like the hilly landscape down home with the vineyards I pass through. But I also still play the piano though I have to admit that I do not practise every day.

Both your parents are musicians. Do you also have a special connection to music - and to which kind of music?

I like classical music, piano pieces in particular. Sometimes, when my mother appears in an opera performance in the evening I manage to join her to follow the opera. But I usually spend my evenings with chess.

The German school system is demanding and often leaves little time for other things. How do you manage to combine that with chess training and tournaments?

Of course, I sometimes wonder what it would do for my chess if I did not go to school at all - or only occasionally - like some good players from other countries who are about my age. But I do not find school that demanding though admittedly you have to be present - in person and mentally. But I like my class in school. Fortunately, I have almost all afternoons and weekends for myself. And as far as learning for school is concerned: I try to organise this properly and up to now this has worked pretty well.

Is chess still fun when it gets more and more serious?

Of course, a lot is about moves or plans that are objectively right or wrong. But with patience you can sometimes come up with really new ideas. I find that very exciting. I sometimes feel that maybe I might be able to play chess on a higher level with my personal style. I would really enjoy that. 

What is the most beautiful for you in chess?

I like the battle of ideas, plans and calculations, which the players carry out. If I can realise my plans on the board I am happy.

Vincent Keymer | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

Chess training and playing in tournaments cost money. Do you get public or private support?

Here things are fine. The Grenke AG supports me financially, and helps me to play in every tournament that I want to play in, and it also covers the costs for training. It is particularly nice to know that people there stick to me and support me. I also receive support from the federation, for example training camps or training sessions.

Do you have a role model in chess? Do you have concrete goals for the near future and later? Did you ever think about becoming a chess professional later? 

I do not have a role model though I do really admire a lot of strong chess players. As far as the next chess game is concerned I do always have concrete goals. I could also imagine to become a chess professional. Of course, I first would have to become strong enough. If not, I would like to have the chance to study after school.

Thank you very much and good luck!

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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