At just 18 years old, Vincent Keymer is part of the world chess elite. At the World Rapid Championship, he finished second to superstar Magnus Carlsen. With ntv.de he talks about the hours of training, why his sport is so exhausting and why the world title is not his goal.
“Bravo to Vincent. He played a great tournament and showed great class.” Vincent Keymer deserved the congratulations after the rapid world championship. The 18-year-old returned from Almaty in Kazakhstan as vice-world champion. But those congratulations are actually something special, they come from dominator Magnus Carlsen. Only the Norwegian was better than Keymer on his fourth World Cup success. The youngster from Saulheim near Mainz was half a point away from being able to challenge Carlsen in the playoffs for the title.
On his way to the title of vice-champion, he won among others against the American Fabiano Caruana, who ranked third on equal points, and against the Russian Jan Nepomnjaschtschi, Carlsen’s last two challengers for the classic world title. “The result was so good that I was very, very happy with it,” Keymer said in an interview with ntv.de. “But when you miss an opportunity, you are never 100% satisfied.”
The 18-year-old has the chance to do even better on January 13. Then one of the big chess tournaments starts in Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands: Tata Steel Chess. In the 14-man Masters group, five players from the top ten meet the world juniors. Carlsen had already boasted on Twitter in late November that there was a wide selection of young talent. “Only Aronian (Lewon, Armenian chess grandmaster, editor’s note) prevents me from being the oldest player on the field.” At 32, Carlsen looks almost old compared to Keymer, who passed his Abitur in March 2022 with an average of 1.7 and has been a chess professional ever since.
First German championship at the age of six
When he was only five years old, Keymer accidentally discovered a chessboard, he really wanted the rules explained to him, and his passion was awakened. “At the time, curiosity was the driving force and there was really nothing else. No one could have guessed it would develop like this,” he says in retrospect. His parents could teach him the rules, but soon he was better than them. “After a few weeks, after one, maybe two weeks,” he had already beaten her, he told ntv.de. “I played my first German championships at the age of six,” he says, thinking back to the start of his career.
Despite his young age, Keymer already has a lot of experience. He therefore knows how to classify his title of vice-world champion – rapid chess is something completely different from classical chess. “I can’t assume that my next tournaments will go so well. But it’s a nice feeling to know that something like this can be achieved.” The fact that he lost to Carlsen in both rapid chess and the ensuing blitz world championship doesn’t sadden him much. “It actually went really well against the other players and it definitely gives you confidence.”
Respect for Carlsen is high, the Norwegian won both world titles in Almaty, according to Keymer he still has a lot of work to do to get as close to his playing strength as possible – “and maybe even be even better ” . Keymer is already part of the world elite. He is the youngest German grandmaster and has even been a “super grandmaster” since October 2022. He belongs to a small world selection, only 130 players in the world can adorn themselves with this title, only nine were under 18 when they obtained this prize, and Keymer is the only German in this elite circle. Since July 2022, he has also been part of the top 50 best players in the world.
Eight hours of training per day
To do this, he trains with his coach Peter Leko for up to eight hours or even more on certain days. The Hungarian is a grandmaster himself and has been training the young German since 2017. But Keymer also knows that rest is also important, as the level of concentration in chess is incredibly high. “Obviously it takes a lot of strength for hours. It’s the same in tournaments, also in tournament matches and also in training. At some point you just feel like you can’t maintain that anymore. concentration”, he explains on ntv.de. This becomes clear when it recognizes fewer variations in a game or becomes more error prone. “And then you have to take a break to regain strength or to train again at the same level.” To regenerate, he goes cycling, walking or jogging, and sleep is also important. In general, chess occupies a large part of his life, but he says clearly: “You must not forget that even if you are a chess player, you are still a normal person.”
However, Keymer is someone with enormous talent and ambition – and clear principles. He doesn’t think much about doping or cheating. “It can do a lot of harm to sport,” he said. “No matter how good the player is, the engines are simply much, much more powerful than the people. So you don’t have a chance.” Keymer recently explained to “Zeit” that the possibilities of cheating in chess are still “relatively unknown”: “That’s why there are no real countermeasures yet. It’s time to think about what you could It would be a task for associations, organizing tournaments, chess platforms and of course the World Chess Federation.”
It is also about his own future. “First of all, I think it’s good if I can show myself that I’m clean,” he told ‘Zeit’. “And I want to protect the sport. I don’t want to imagine there’s a lot of cheating at the grand grandmaster level.” At 18, he has long since risen to the top of the world. He doesn’t see his young age as a disadvantage. There is no definite perfect age for a chess player: “Magnus Carlsen was world number one very, very early and some players, for example Viswanathan Anand, were still the best in the world at 40 or 45. “
Calculate up to ten moves in advance
Keymer does not want to talk about a possible world title. “It’s an incredibly tough road, even for people who have been in the top three in the world for ten years, it’s a very, very bumpy road.” He underlines: “It’s a dream, but I wouldn’t say it’s the goal.”
Above all, it is important that he trains a lot in the near future. “Since I also went to school, I lost a lot of training time.” It is therefore more realistic for him to enter the top ten. According to the world association FIDE, his Elo rating is 2700 points, which he would like to raise to 2750. “But nobody is sure of anything”, he underlines calmly. In general, he sometimes feels that the Elo number “doesn’t necessarily reflect what you’ve achieved”. When he was younger, he often felt like he was improving, but the Elo rating hadn’t changed or was even falling. “And then, at some point, the jump will come back.”
It’s the anticipation that makes the game of chess so complicated for laymen. “If it’s a very tactical position, you may need to calculate seven, eight, or even ten moves ahead to figure out which variations work and which don’t.” His goal for this year is therefore easily explained: “Just play good tournaments, play well, learn a lot, take a lot of experience with you.
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