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"Going to college gave me a new perspective" - GM Vaibhav Suri

by Nongsha Angom - 28/03/2019

GM Vaibhav Suri has his own ways of doing things. He doesn't follow the trodden path that has worked for others. He puts his mind to work and tries to find his unique solutions. That's the reason why you can see him playing only 5-6 tournaments a year. And things are working out for the Delhi boy. He became a GM at the age of 15 years and 2 months, he now has a rating of 2589 and he recently won the extremely strong Biel Masters. Talking to such a lad who has his own opinions about different things is always very interesting. At the Tripura Open 2019 where Vaibhav was one of the guests, ChessBase India editor Nongsha Angom got in touch with him and asked him views on chess and education!

Interview with GM Vaibhav Suri on chess and education

GM Vaibhav Suri, India no.12, Elo - 2589

ChessBase India caught up with GM Vaibhav Suri right after the opening ceremony at the Tripura Open 2019, where Vaibhav was present for a simul and as a guest, and he happily agreed for a short interview. Here is the transcript of it:


Nongsha Angom (NA): It's so good to meet you Vaibhav. I was really impressed when I read about your game theory concept, the infinite vs the finite and how you got inspired by it. Are you still implementing it in your games?

Vaibhav Suri (VS): It was very stupid to be honest (laughs). The thing was that I was just reading an article and talking with the interviewer randomly and relating chess with education and blabbering some nonsense. Later I found out that there was an entire article on it. I don't even understand what exactly the game theory is all about because the subject is deep and very difficult.

Delhi boys - Rishi Sardana (left) and Vaibhav Suri | Photo: Sagar Shah

NA: In a recent interview with ChessBase India, newly crowned Padmi Shri Harika Dronavalli said that "one should pursue education for knowledge only and not just for the certificate". How much do you agree with her?

VS: See you are confusing education with schooling, it's completely different. For example, everything that we learn in CBSE is not beneficial. There are a lot of things that I have learned from just traveling for chess tournaments that I wouldn't have learned even if I stayed in my school for my entire life. We chess players miss out of our school a lot and I don't want to diminish the kind of social advantages that the school provides which is extremely beneficial but at the same time, you shouldn't confuse formal schooling with education. It's good but it's not enough. In college particularly I got to meet some extremely nice and smart people. My perspective completely changed from school onwards. Luckily I went to college rather regularly and wasn't into chess at that time. It hindered my chess a little but I was quite happy.


NA: You were doing college regularly and your masters in economics. Honestly, did you never feel like my peers are doing great in chess and I should resume my chess career too?

VS: I understand what you mean. Of course there is an opportunity cost to everything. I knew that it might set me back for a couple of years in my professional chess life, but at the same time what I learned there was impossible to learn in the chess world.

Vaibhav slowed down his chess career so that he could attend college and he doesn't regret his decision one bit | Photo: Lennart Ootes

NA: Vaibhav you might have noticed that kids these days are doing full-time chess, some opting for homeschooling while others totally quitting education. What do you feel about it?

VS: Chess is becoming extremely young. If you are not a GM by 13, 14 or maybe slightly later, it will be quite difficult to have a chess career. It is becoming younger and younger every year. Last year by June or July there was only Praggnanandhaa, who was the youngest ever GM in India. But in less than six months, Gukesh broke the record. The thing is that these records are being broken at a very fast pace and probably in a couple of years it will be even lesser than that. I feel that if you are completely sure that this is my life then you should go all in for it.


NA: How does a kid of 7 or 8 years old decide that? Don't you think that they should try to find a balance between the two?

VS: For a 7-year-old kid it is very easy to balance education and chess. They will be like in 2nd or 3rd standard and I think that it is very easy to manage. Probably until the 8th standard you can very easily manage everything but afterwards, you start to suffer so you can make a call at around 13 or 14. Those are the years where you can improve exponentially. These days they become matured by that age or at least have an idea about which area might be right for them.


NA: You have been the National U-17 Champion, won medals at the world youth U-18 and also very recently you won the very strong Biel Masters. Even Anand once quoted that among the upcoming players Vaibhav is very promising. A player of any sport undergoes a lot of changes as they grow up but is there an approach which has stuck with you from the very start?

Finishing ahead of many strong GMs, Vaibhav Suri won the Biel Masters 2018 | Photo: Lennart Ootes

VS: I didn't know about that (Anand interview!) so I will definitely google about it (laughs). One thing which I have always believed in, is to continuously do experiments with yourself. You just can't have a fixed mindset for your training for health and other stuff. You must keep changing and go for regular self-analysis to know what is working for you and what is not. This trick always works for me. I am certain that there is a huge scope for improvement in certain areas, I work on it, experiment, then self analyze and learn.


NA: Is Vaibhav Suri superstitious?

VS: Well there is a very funny story I would like to share regarding this topic (laughs). Back in 2007, I played in the Asian Youth in Al Ain and if I am not wrong and I lost 4 games in a row, which was not a pleasant experience (laughs). This was probably round number 3 to 7 and I was so dejected after the tournament that I made a sort of commitment to myself that I am never playing in UAE ever again. I stuck to my words and didn't play there for 7 and half years missing out a lot of good events like the Dubai Open etc then I finally played in the same place Al Ain in 2013 which was the world youth U-18 and got a bronze medal. What was funny was that I won 3 or 4 games in a row, the complete opposite to the first incident. In hindsight, I find it very funny and once you grow up you start realizing how silly these things are. There are people who have their favourite pants, shoes, t-shirts which probably helps them to concentrate better which is totally fine but at the end of the day, these things are just secondary. Your play matters the most and if it's working then everything falls in the right place.

If your play is working then everything falls in the right place! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

NA: What's next on your agenda?

VS: I am not sure right now. I played a lot recently and want to take a short break. The break is from the tournament play and not chess (laughs). Probably you might see me in May or June, I haven't decided yet.


NA: Recently there are a lot of young players who are turning out to be good coaches, for example, Srinath Narayanan, Swapnil Dhopade, Vishnu Prasanna, Swayams Mishra, Ravi Teja etc. Are we also going to see Vaibhav joining them in the near future?

VS: Not at all. The only reason I came here to Tripura is that Prasenjit Dutta was one of my first coaches and he has been asking me for a long time to visit the place. The two days which I had in his academy was more fun for me and I honestly have no such desire to give training. I don't think that you can manage to play professionally and also train professionally simultaneously. It wouldn't work in my opinion.

Young Vaibhav has stuck to what he excels at right from childhood - playing chess! | Photo: R.R. Vasudevan's blog

NA: Is this your first time here in Northeast?

VS: Not exactly. I went to Dibrugarh in 2017 for the PSPB tournament, the secret tournament (laughs).


NA: What are your thought on the two gold medal winners in the recently concluded world teams?

VS: So for Adhiban I don't have any words (laughs). The way he plays is very difficult for me to comprehend but I think both of them played exceptionally well. The level of their play was awesome, I just couldn't imagine the kind of preparation they went through. Huge congratulations to both of them. I especially enjoyed Ganguly Bhaiya's games since I don't understand Adhiban's games (laughs). Adhiban was extremely solid on-board one. While playing against the US he was losing if I am not wrong but he was able to pull through and reach 2700. This is a huge milestone not only for him but Indian chess in general. Ganguly Bhaiya has a very good track record in chess like being Anand's second, plays exceptionally well and almost always beats me so that's sad (laughs). Huge respect to them.


NA: Thank you so much Vaibhav for this interview and sorry for stretching the time from 2 mins to 20 (laughs).

VS: Not at all, I enjoyed it too. Sagar is doing a great job and my best wishes to the entire team of ChessBase India.


Wishing Vaibhav the very best in chess career! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Previous coverage of Vaibhav on ChessBase India:

Game theory helps Vaibhav win Biel Masters 2019

Vaibhav Suri wins Kunte online blitz

Did you know: Vaibhav became a GM at the age of 15 years, 2 months and 21 days. This was faster than legends like Polgar and Fischer as well!

Knowledge of game theory helped Vaibhav to win Biel Masters 2018 
The reason why Vaibhav plays only 5-6 tournaments in a year

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