“In his head, things are going at 100 per hour”: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, new world chess blitz champion

Home »Sport” “In his head, things are going at 100 miles an hour”: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, new world chess blitz champion January 1, 2022

Behind his rectangular glasses spins an extraordinary brain, much faster at analyzing things than any human. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 31, is decidedly not like everyone, as he demonstrated this Thursday in Warsaw during the World “blitz” Championship, a German word which means “lightning” before lightning that the Frenchman has overthrown all his opponents, including the world No. 1. Far from the clichés of the “cold / tormented / cracked” genre like several big names in chess, Ile-de-France is also passionate about the game … and OL.

This is the first time that this international grandmaster, former world No. 2, has lifted a world trophy for seniors. Very badly started with three defeats in the first ten laps, he then chained the quick victories (3 minutes and a few seconds only allowed) against the Armenian Levon Aronian, then the world number 1, the Dane Magnus Carlsen, and finally the Pole Jan. -Krzysztof Duda at the tie-break.

Originally from Val-de-Marne, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (MVL) has traced his route to the top by cultivating a “quiet life” outside of competitions. At 5 years old, Father Christmas brings back under the tree an electronic chess game which will turn his life upside down: “I lost the 1st part and I won the next one”, declared this son of computer scientist, in the Popcorn show, webcast. I then increased the level over the next 24 days. “

His victory in this fast format is obvious for this player who is “very strong in arithmetic” and therefore has an advantage when time for reflection is limited, according to Kevin Bordi, host of Blitzstream, the first French-speaking chess channel, on which MVL intervenes regularly: “He sees very quickly, he is very lively. He is not afraid to play for the initiative. “He has a brilliant mind, things are going at 100 per hour in his brain,” also notes the international grand master Fabien Libiszewski, one of his relatives.

Eric Birmingham, his first trainer when he started at the age of 5 at the Créteil club, remembers a “real sponge” with extraordinary learning abilities, and describes him as “an acrobat” on the chessboard. At 14 years and 4 months, the young Val-de-Marnais becomes international grandmaster – one of the youngest. Graduated in mathematics at the age of 17, he knew then that he could “try the adventure of chess.” It gets intense when you start playing tournaments. “

At such a level, you obviously also need drastic discipline, preparations for fierce games, memorization of endless variations of openings, sometimes at the rate of eight hours of daily training. Not always easy for someone who admits in his book “Chess Player” (Fayard), “a slight tendency to laziness”.

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“Compared to other athletes, I may have a little less ability to injure myself on the job,” he admits. I need to go through the notion of pleasure. I was born with the intelligence of a chess player, but that doesn’t mean you have science in everything. I don’t want to shut myself up (…). If I only saw the game of chess, I would get bored of it ”.

“A real chic guy”

When not in tournaments around the world or online, MVL has an almost mundane life as a 30-something who likes to go to bed late, watch sports (he is an Olympique Lyonnais fan) or jog in the garden. from Luxembourg, not far from the apartment bought thanks to its income (currently around 200,000 euros per year). He also plays a lot, cards (poker, tarot), video and board games. “Maxime is a real chic,” adds Eric Birmingham. Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, they are killers. Not him. “” I can separate things between what happens in real life and the clashes on the chessboard, smiles the person concerned. Clearly, I’m not going to hate everyone now. “

In the long game, MVL is currently the 12th best player on the planet. He narrowly missed his chance to challenge current world title holder Magnus Carlsen, finishing 2nd in the candidates’ tournament in April, behind Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi. Its title can undoubtedly open new horizons: “Here is the road traveled, and the one that remains to be covered”, he concludes.

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