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Joel Lautier on Vishy Anand

by Sagar Shah - 19/08/2016

"Without having a complicated character like Korchnoi, or without doing anything artificial he is able to maintain a very high level of play. I think he simply enjoys the process of playing chess, he still relishes the joy of the game, no matter how competitive it is. That's one of his unique features and his key to success." These are the words of Joel Lautier who was one of Anand's competitors in the 90s. In this article you can read what Lautier has to say about the Indian Champion and we also bring to you one of the gems of Vishy's career - his blistering win against Joel from Biel 1997!

It was the tenth round at the Candidates 2016 tournament in Moscow. A man in his forties, with a French beard, and impeccably dressed, was standing in the spectator's zone of the Central Telegraph building in Moscow. The corporate appearance along with the fact that he was away from the crowd convinced me that he was not really related to chess and this might be his first appearance at a tournament. But a closer look revealed a well-known face! I walked up to him and said, "Hi! Are you Joel Lautier?" Joel looked at me slightly surprised. "It's good to see people still recognize you even though you have quit chess for ten years now!" Joel knew me from the articles he had previously read on ChessBase. We spoke for quite some time and while he was about to leave, I asked him, "I am in Moscow until the end of the Candidates tournament. Can we do an interview for the ChessBase newspage?" Joel was fine with the idea and on the day after the tournament ended I contacted him. Joel's reply came immediately: "Let's meet at 4 p.m. in the cafe of Hotel Intercontinental on the Tverskaya street." I packed my stuff and took the list of questions with me and made my way to the place of the interview. Lautier entered a few minutes later, ordered a bottle of mineral water and a cup of coffee and we began. After an hour of speaking with him I realized what a versatile man he is! And that's what separates Joel from almost everyone else. He is ready to take on a new challenge and makes sure that he excels in it.


The interview has been published on the ChessBase International newspage and you can read both the parts by clicking on the links below:

Part I of the interview on 

Part II of the interview on


In this article we would like to share with you the words Lautier said about Vishy Anand: 

Lautier on Vishy Anand

Vishy, he is an entire period of chess by himself! He has been incredibly consistent in all these years. I find that truly amazing. And he still manages that at an honourable age [laughs]. I think that's what is truly admirable about him. Without having a complicated character like Korchnoi, or without doing anything artificial he is able to maintain a very high level of play. I think he simply enjoys the process of playing chess, he still relishes the joy of the game, no matter how competitive it is. That's one of his unique features and his key to success. It was clear that Vishy was a rough diamond when he was young. He could do some complicated things with such ease.  He only needed to sit on his hands. Once he got the maturity, which was somewhere in the early 90s, he became a spectacular player. He has had a wonderful career and Vishy commands a lot of respect.

Seated: Mikhail Tal, Joel Lautier, Vishy Anand; standing: Bent Larsen, Viktor Korchnoi, Garry Kasparov, Bessel Kok, Jan Timman, Boris Spassky

I have two little stories to share about him. A long time ago, Vishy and I both played in the GMA open in Belgrade, in 1988. At the time I was friends with an American GM called Michael Wilder, who later stopped chess and went on to become a prominent lawyer. Mike had been witnessing a postmortem by Vishy, and he was absolutely enthralled by Vishy’s tactical skills and speed of calculation. In the middle of his enthusiastic account, he suddenly saw me frowning (remember, I was very ambitious and competitive as a teenager) and he amicably said: “Don’t worry, Joel, you’re also very strong, you’ll be 2650 one day.” But then after a short pause he couldn’t help it and added: “But Anand will surely be 2750!” Well, what can I say, he has been pretty accurate.

The second story took place a few years later, in 1992. Vishy was visiting Moscow, and Evgeny Bareev invited him to join us for a day, at one of our training camps in a Moscow suburb, out in the woods. When you put several grandmasters together in the same room, it often ends up in a blitz contest, and this time was no exception. Vishy was in brilliant form, and he beat the hell out of both Evgeny and me. I was no mean blitz player myself, so this was both a shock and a painful experience, which I still remember today. As Vishy saw our dispirited looks during the ensuing dinner, he said with a smile: “Don’t worry guys, what I did to you today in blitz, Chucky (Vassily Ivanchuk) normally does to me”. The funny thing is, I don’t think he was joking!



The above picture is taken from Dortmund 2004 from ChessBase newspage. The caption to the picture was very interesting:

"On the penultimate day in Dortmund the first game of the final between Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik was ceremoniously started, as is often done in such cases, by a well-known public personality. Except here it was a colleague and sometimes Kramnik second, Joel Lautier. As president of the Association of Chess Professionals Joel has achieved celebrity status. Well, at least there was no problem on his moving the wrong pawn or making an illegal move. And also we love the look on Vlady's face in the picture above."


When we speak about Lautier and Anand, one game does come to mind — Anand- Lautier, Biel 1997. We have the game for you annotated by none other than Vishy himself, but first, we would like to test you a bit:


  Anand (White) dealt a deadly blow to Lautier's position here. Can you find it? 
[Event "Biel Credit Suisse"]
[Site "Biel"]
[Date "1997.07.21"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Anand, Viswanathan"]
[Black "Lautier, Joel"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B01"]
[WhiteElo "2765"]
[BlackElo "2660"]
[Annotator "Anand,V"]
[PlyCount "49"]
[EventDate "1997.07.20"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "10"]
[EventCountry "SUI"]
[EventCategory "17"]
[SourceTitle "CBM 060"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1997.09.29"] 
{At the opening ceremony the previous day, the chess players had to play a
match against representatives from the Swiss skiing federation. Each
participant from the A and B tournaments had to play two moves and if they
didn't mate the skiers within 24 moves, then the skiers won. Funnily enough,
the chess players chose the Center Counter. To my great surprise, this is
exactly what happened in my game!} 1. e4 {Mueller,Ka} d5 {I don't recall Joel
ever having played this before, but he hadn't played in an event since Monaco,
so I assumed this was an opening he had prepared quite well.} 2. exd5 Qxd5 3.
Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 c6 6. Bc4 {Nowadays 6.Ne5 is more popular, but during
my preparations for the World Championship, I noticed that the lines with 6.
Bc4 were very dangerous for Black to navigate. Since Joel didn't have a great
deal of experience with the Centre counter, I decided to test him in this line.
} Bf5 7. Ne5 {The lines with 7.Bd2 leave White with a slight edge, but I
remembered that 7.Ne5 and 8.g4 gave Black more problems.} e6 8. g4 Bg6 9. h4
Nbd7 $1 {The best line} (9... Bb4 10. Bd2 Ne4 11. f3 $1 $14 {Campora-Hansen
Palma 1989. I think that it was after this game that people started to look at
9...Nbd7 more seriously.}) 10. Nxd7 Nxd7 11. h5 Be4 12. Rh3 (12. Rg1 {Mueller,
Ka} Nb6 13. Be2 Na4 14. Bd2 Nxc3 15. bxc3 h6 16. Bd3 Bxd3 17. cxd3 O-O-O $15 {
Apicella,M-Prie,E/Brussels zt 1993/EXP 34/1/2-1/2 (49)}) (12. O-O {Mueller,Ka}
Bd5 13. Nxd5 cxd5 14. Bd3 Bd6 15. c3 g6 16. Bd2 Qd8 17. Kg2 gxh5 18. g5 Qe7 19.
Qxh5 O-O-O $11 {1/2-1/2 Westerinen,H-Prie,E/Andorra op 1994/TD 94\02 (41)})
12... Bg2 {A nice finesse -if White plays Rg3, then Black will gain a tempo
with a later Bd6. Still, if the game continuation is correct, then Black will
have to stick to 12...Bd5} (12... Bd5 {Mueller,Ka} 13. Bd3 O-O-O (13... Bd6 14.
Bd2 Qc7 15. Nxd5 cxd5 16. Qe2 Bf4 17. O-O-O O-O-O 18. Bxh7 Kb8 19. Bd3 Bxd2+
20. Qxd2 Nb6 21. g5 $14 {1/2-1/2 Ochoa de Echaguen,F-Denker,A/New York op 1989/
CBM 12 (41)}) 14. Bd2 Qb6 15. Nxd5 exd5 $132 {0-1 Rublevsky,S-Lastin,A/RUS-ch
Elista 1995/CBM 50 (54)}) 13. Re3 $1 {I had wanted to play 13.Rg3 which gives
White a slight edge even though Black can play Bd6, but a fresh look at a
position during a game can often turn up better moves than those found during
home preparation!} (13. Rg3 {Mueller,Ka} Bd5 {und Bd6 kann mit Tempo folgen
(eine der Ideen von Bg2)}) 13... Nb6 (13... b5 14. Bd3 b4 15. Ne4 {White will
be better after the inevitable Bxe4 due to his two bishops and understandably
Joel didn't want to resign himself to a worse position.}) 14. Bd3 $1 {I found
this at the board and therefore changed my mind about 13.Rg3 and went for 13.
Re3} (14. Bb3 $6 c5 $1 {This gives Black good counterplay}) 14... Nd5 15. f3 $1
{The point, White is willing to jettison a few pawns and/or the exchange, but
snares the bishop on g2. Mueller,Ka: der Läufer g2 ist nun lebendig begraben.
Hatte Anand diese Idee vorbereitet ?} (15. Rg3 {Mueller,Ka} Nxc3 16. bxc3 Bd5
17. Bd2 Qa4 18. Qe2 b5 19. h6 O-O-O $13 {1-0 Bauer,C-Prie,E/FRA-ch 1996/EXP 54
(40)}) 15... Bb4 {Mueller,Ka: sieht zwar sehr logisch aus, aktiviert in der
Folge aber auch den weißen Turm a1. Andere Möglichkeiten:} (15... Nxc3 16. bxc3
Qxc3+ 17. Bd2 Qxd4 18. Kf2 Bxf3 19. Kxf3 $16 (19. Kxf3 {Mueller,Ka} Bc5 20. Kg2
O-O-O $13)) (15... Nxe3 {Mueller,Ka} 16. Bxe3 Ba3 17. Bc1 (17. bxa3 Bxf3 18.
Qd2 Bxg4 19. h6 $15) 17... Bb4 18. Kf2 Bxc3 19. bxc3 Qxc3 20. Bd2 Qxd4+ 21.
Kxg2 $14) 16. Kf2 $1 Bxc3 (16... Nxc3 17. bxc3 Bxc3 18. Rb1 Bxd4 19. Kxg2 Bxe3
20. Bxe3 $16) 17. bxc3 Qxc3 18. Rb1 Qxd4 (18... Bxf3 19. Qxf3 Qxd4 20. Rxb7 $16
) (18... Nxe3 {Mueller,Ka} 19. Bxe3 Bxf3 20. Qxf3 O-O-O $13) 19. Rxb7 Rd8 {
Here I saw the possibility of g6 and when I realized that it didn't work
because at a certain moment Black would simply play Kg8. Then I saw the
possibility of h6 - Kg8 could be met by Rg7+! Suddenly, all that remained was
to check all the details...} (19... Bh3 20. Rxf7 $1 {I stopped here, but Joel
saw two moves further!} c5 {Black simply protects his queen and threatens Kxf7}
21. Rf5 $3 {Lautier} Nxe3 22. Bxe3 Qb2 23. Rxc5 O-O 24. Kg3 $1 $18) (19... Nf4
20. Kg3 (20. Qe1 Qf6 21. Kg3 $16) 20... Qd6 21. Ba3 $1 {Fritz} Nxh5+ (21...
Qxa3 22. Be4 $1 $18 (22. Bb5 {Mueller,Ka} Nd3 23. Bxc6+ Kf8 24. Rxd3 $18)) 22.
Kxg2 Qg3+ 23. Kf1 $18) (19... e5 {Mueller,Ka} 20. c4 (20. Qe1 Bxf3 21. c3 Qc5 (
21... Nxc3 22. Kxf3 Qf4+ 23. Kg2 Qxg4+ 24. Kh2 $18) 22. Kxf3 Nxe3 23. Bxe3 Qd6
24. Qb1 $16) 20... O-O-O (20... Nf4 21. Bb2 Nh3+ 22. Kxg2 Qxe3 23. Kxh3 $16)
21. cxd5 Kxb7 22. dxc6+ Kc7 23. Kxg2 $16) (19... O-O-O {Mueller,Ka} 20. Rxf7 (
20. Ba6 $4 {reizt zu hoch:} Qxd1 21. Rxf7+ Kb8 22. Rb3+ Nb6 23. Bf4+ Rd6 $19)
20... Kb8 21. Qg1 $18) 20. h6 $3 gxh6 $2 {This gave me a chance to have a
really beautiful finish. Black could still fight with Nxe3, but Joel hadn't
seen the idea behind h5-h6} (20... Nxe3 {Absolutely the only move which
doesn't lose} 21. Bxe3 Qe5 22. hxg7 Rg8 23. Qg1 (23. Bh6 Qh2 $1) 23... Bxf3 24.
Kxf3 $16) 21. Bg6 $3 Ne7 (21... Qxe3+ 22. Bxe3 fxg6 (22... hxg6 {Mueller,Ka}
23. Qd4 $18) 23. Bc5 $18) (21... Qf6 22. Bxf7+ Qxf7 23. Rxf7 Nxe3 24. Qxd8+ $1
(24. Qe2 Nd1+ 25. Kxg2 Kxf7 {Is not that clear, although White remains much
better}) 24... Kxd8 25. Bxe3 Bh3 26. Rxa7 $18) (21... Qxd1 {Mueller,Ka} 22.
Rxe6+ Kf8 23. Bxh6+ Kg8 24. Bxf7#) (21... Nxe3 {Mueller,Ka} 22. Bxf7+ Kf8 23.
Qxd4 Rxd4 24. Bxe3 $18) 22. Qxd4 Rxd4 23. Rd3 $1 {Why bother with 23.Rxe6 Rd7
when this wins effortlessly?} Rd8 24. Rxd8+ Kxd8 25. Bd3 $1 (25. Bd3 Bh1 26.
Bb2 Re8 27. Bf6 $18) 1-0

Tryfon Gavriel aka Kingcrusher has the entire game explained in a youtube video

Vishy Anand has recorded two DVDs for ChessBase. You can now get it in the ChessBase India store for just Rs.1799/-.