From 2013 World Junior bronze medallist to World Top 50!
Vidit Gujrathi won his third round at the Isle of Man International against Benjamin Bok. With this win his live rating propelled to 2693 and he now enters the top 50 players in the world. We thought this would be a nice time to acquaint our readers with an interview that Sagar Shah did with Vidit exactly three years ago. The boy from Nashik had just won the bronze medal at the World Juniors 2013 in Turkey and did so in style by scoring 3.5 points in the last four rounds. This light hearted interview will surely leave a deep impact on you about Vidit's personality.
Three years Ago - 3rd October 2013
He is one of the brightest hopes of Indian chess. At the age of 19, he already boasts of an astronomical rating of 2582. He has to his credit many achievements, but the most notable of all was the bronze medal at super strong World Junior Championships at Turkey in September 2013.
Yes friends, I am talking about the lad from Nashik, the one and only, Vidit Gujrathi!
On the afternoon of 3rd October 2013, I did an interview with this prodigious talent, that I now present to you, so that you can get a better idea about Vidit, who is sure to make India proud on many more ocassions in future.
Sagar Shah (SS): What were your expectations when you went to World Juniors 2013?
Vidit Gujarathi (VG): My aim was definitely to come in the top three of the tournament. I think in general it's better to go with an aim to the tournament, because previously I used to play events without an aim and it never worked out so well. And I felt that it was a realistic aim considering the way I was playing prior to the event. I was playing good chess.
SS: One of the games which impressed me a lot from the World Junior was when you made a novelty on the 20th move against Dastan Batuhan in the 7th round and then you played the best computer moves upto almost the end of the game. Please tell us something about this phenomenal preparation?
VG: I had infact revised my analysis the day before the game because my opponents always plays exactly this opening, the Semi Slav. During the game too I took a lot of time to recollect all my analysis. But in general it's not easy to remember such deep analysis. I think the only way to remember it is "Repetition!"
[White "Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi"]
[Black "Dastan, Batuhan Muhammed"]
[SourceTitle "CBM 156 Extra"]
dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5 10. Be2 Bb7 11. e4 e5 12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Nh4 b4 14. Nf5 bxc3 15.
Rd1 Ne8 16. Qxc3 Qf6 17. f4 Bc7 18. fxe5 Qxe5 19. Qxe5 Bxe5 20. Be3 Nf6 21.
Rac1 Rfe8 22. Bf3 c5 23. Bxc5 Bxe4 24. Ne7+ Kh8 25. b4 a6 26. a4 g5 27. Re1
Bxf3 28. Rxe5 Nd7 29. Bd4 f6 30. Re6 Bg4 31. Rxf6 Kg7 32. Rff1+ Kh6 33. Rc6+
Kh5 34. Bg7 1-0
SS: After losing to Ipatov in round 9, you were 6/9, had you given up all the hopes of winning a medal by then?
VG: To tell you the truth, yes, I had given up all hopes. To score 4.0/4 or even 3.5/4 in the next four games was not at all realistic. But at that point a very wonderful thing happened. I lost all the worries and tensions and started playing freely which is not at all my style! I just started to enjoy chess! Maybe this attitude comes only when you have nothing to lose!
SS: You played the Dutch Defense against Debashis and also the h4! line in Grunfeld against Cori Jorge. For you it must really have been going outside your comfort zone! (Incidentally Vidit beat Benjamin Bok, today, on 3rd October 2016 with the h4 line in the Grunfeld!)
VG: Yes, exactly. But as I said I had nothing to lose at that point. And usually the lines I play offer a solid position but nothing special. Against Debashis I realised that playing the Nimzo wouldn't give me enough practical chances. So I went for unconventional positions in the Dutch. Carlsen played the Dutch some time ago and that was quite reassuring!
And as for Cori who plays the Grunfeld, players all around the world have been banging their head to find an advantage against Grunfeld unsuccessfully! I just decided to play something complicated that put the weight of the game in the middlegame.
SS: So does that mean we can expect some fireworks in future tournaments from the super solid Vidit Gujarathi?
VG: (Smiles) Maybe! This time it was the tournament situation that demanded this approach, but in future I would really like that I am known as an aggressive player! It always pays to be flexible. One thing is sure I dont regret my decision of being aggressive in the World Juniors! (laughs!)
SS: What was your feeling after winning the Bronze medal?
VG: I was definitely ecstatic but my happiness was doubled when I came to know that Garry Kasparov was coming to the Prize Distribution Ceremony. It was really a great bonus!
SS: So does Garry Kasparov know who Vidit Gujarathi is?
VG: Hopefully! He retweeted my tweet where I wrote that I met Garry Kasparov! So I think he now knows me vaguely! But of course I still have to do a lot more to be known personally!
SS: Moving on from World Juniors, my next question is very important for our readers to know you well. What do you think is your biggest strength as a chess player?
VG: Well I think my biggest strength is that I can handle any middlegame position pretty well. It doesn't have to be a quiet position or a complex one. I can put my mind and find the best way to play. So in that sense I have a universal style which is my biggest strength.
SS: So can we expect you to switch to 1.e4 now?
VG: (smiles) I guess it's better to keep my future opponents guessing!
(Ed - Vidit has played 1.e4 only once in his lifetime! And he won that game against Murali Karthikeyan in 2014!)
[White "Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi"]
[Black "Karthikeyan, Murali"]
[SourceTitle "CBM 160 Extra"]
cxd4 9. cxd4 d5 10. e5 Ne4 11. Nbd2 Nxd2 12. Bxd2 Bd7 13. h4 Rc8 14. Rfd1 Qb6
15. Bc3 a5 16. Ng5 Na7 17. Qd2 a4 18. Bf1 Bb5 19. Bd3 h6 20. Nf3 Qa6 21. Qe3
Bxd3 22. Rxd3 Nb5 23. a3 Rc6 24. Be1 Rc2 25. Rd2 Rfc8 26. Qd3 R8c4 27. Rad1 Bd8
28. Qe3 Rc1 29. Kg2 Rxd1 30. Rxd1 Rc2 31. Bb4 Qc6 32. b3 axb3 33. Qxb3 Qc4 34.
Qxc4 dxc4 35. Ne1 Ra2 36. d5 Bb6 37. d6 Rxf2+ 38. Kh3 Nd4 39. Bc3 Nc6 40. Rb1
Ba5 41. Bxa5 Nxa5 42. Rb5 Nc6 43. Rxb7 Kh7 44. d7 Rd2 45. Nf3 Rd3 46. Kg2 c3
47. Rc7 Nb8 48. Rxc3 Rxd7 49. Kf2 Rd5 50. Ke3 Nd7 51. Rd3 Nxe5 52. Rxd5 Nc4+
53. Kd4 exd5 54. a4 f6 55. h5 g6 56. g4 g5 57. Nh2 Kg7 58. Nf1 f5 59. gxf5 Kf6
60. Ne3 Ne5 61. Kxd5 g4 62. a5 g3 63. a6 Nd7 64. a7 1-0
SS: You are an extremely difficult player to beat. Is it true that you haven't lost a game with white pieces since two years?!
VG: Well I lost one in Greece two months ago. But prior to that I had been unbeaten with the white pieces since Feb 2012! So not two years, but, yes, I was unbeaten with the white pieces for nearly one and a half years!
SS: Phew! Thats just Phenomenal! How do you manage it against strong 2600+ players!
VG: Everyone knows that I am solid. Of course I dont lose easily but at the same time my victories against strong players aren't too many!
SS: So Vidit, what is your daily schedule like when you are working on chess and also otherwise?
VG: Chess preparation is not easy! It requires a lot of time and effort but fortunately I am interested in chess and half of the battle is won there! I read a lot of books, solve lot of studies and tactics, and work on my openings. I dont have a fixed schedule as such but I like to work in the evenings and at nights. You can say that I am an Owl. I like working late in the night!
As for the days when I am away from the chess board, I try to hang out with my friends, play basketball and watch a lot of TV shows! American sitcoms! Friends and Big Bang theory are my favourites!
SS: What do you do for physical fitness?
VG: I am a very lazy person! So I dont really indulge much in physical activity but I play basketball and also football to stay fit.\
SS: 2582, you are close to being a 2600 player now. What do you think is the difference between you and a 2700 player and how do you intend to bridge this gap?
VG: I think in general 2700 players are very tenacious. It's very difficult to beat them. Even if you have an advantage against them they resist very strongly. Usually that's not the case with 2500-2600 players. So winning a game against 2700 players is extremely difficult.
As for my personal improvement, I think I will play more tournaments now. I will try to gain more experience in one to two years and in order to become more tenacious I think good books will come to my rescue!
[Site "Abu Dhabi"]
[White "Wei, Yi"]
[Black "Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi"]
[SourceTitle "Mega2016 Update 27"]
Nbd2 Nb6 9. Bb5 Bd6 10. Re1 Bg4 11. h3 Bh5 12. Ne4 f5 13. Ng3 Bxf3 14. Qxf3 Qd7
15. a4 a6 16. Bxc6 bxc6 17. c4 Rab8 18. a5 Nc8 19. c5 Bxc5 20. Rxe5 Bd4 21. Re1
Nd6 22. Ne2 Rfe8 23. Bf4 Bxb2 24. Rab1 Nb5 25. Ng3 Bc3 26. Rxe8+ Rxe8 27. Be3
g6 28. Qd1 Bxa5 29. Ra1 Bb6 30. Bxb6 cxb6 31. Rxa6 f4 32. Ne2 f3 33. Nf4 Nd4
34. Ra1 Rf8 0-1
SS: What is your opinion about reading chess books? Is it a good way to improve?
VG: I think it is one of the best. For me at least! I have really benefited by reading chess literature. I learnt how to make good quality analysis, learn about classical games, come across interesting positions only through books. I know many 2500+ rated players who are not interested in reading books, but I think they are very useful. In general I read a book, take the important broad points from them and try to think as to how I will make use of them in my games.
SS: So which are your favourite books?
VG: Well,it's easier to quote the authors than specific books. I think Garry Kasparov series is one of the most well written books with mind boggling analysis. Usually I enjoy reading best games books of modern players like Anand, Gelfand, Carlsen etc. And of course, in contemporary authors Dvoretsky and Aagaard are the best!
SS: Do you think chess coaching is important for a player?
VG: Of course! Chess coaching is quite essential because the players are often biased about their games. Having a second opinion from a qualified player is always a good idea! Coaching is important in all the sports and I think chess is no exception. I recommend that every upcoming player should have a good coach for rapid progress.
SS: How do you think that a player should improve in the following departments:
VG: Solving positions is the key. He must solve many positions from as many books as he can. And also a lot of studies. It is one of the best ways and also the easiest way to improve. Easy because a lot of material is already available. And you dont even need a coach for it. You can do it regularly on your own. At every stage the student must solve tactics which make him stretch a little. Not always the ones which come to him very easily!
2. POSITIONAL PLAY
VG: One has to improve his strategic thinking for this. And I feel the best way is to read Dvoretsky's books. They are excellent. They have been very helpful to me.
3. ENDGAME SKILLS
VG: Very difficult according to me! But I guess knowing basic theoretical positions is a good start. And secondly one must see a lot of top level games as to how they convert their advantage. Once in between I tried to play pawn up endgame positions against the computer. But it would defend so tenaciously that I finally gave up on that idea! I wouldn't recommend that to anyone! (laughs)
SS: One particular player from India has been doing excellently recently - B.Adhiban. He is almost same age as you are, maybe a little older, and he performed exceedingly well in World Cup 2013. What is your opinion about him?
VG: He is an excellent player. I have played him many times and I know that his main strengths are his calculations and playing complicated positions. Also he has some great opening preparation.
SS: What is it that you love about chess the most?
VG: It's the struggle. It's so difficult to win. That's why chess is so interesting to me! We play for 70-80 moves, taking small advantages and then converting it. Its very interesting.
Also, I try to keep a balance between enjoying the game and enjoying the results.
SS: And, a question that is a hot favourite nowadays! Anand-Carlsen! What do you think?
VG: Many people have predicted that Carlsen is the favourite and I think he has more supporters, but it won't be easy because Anand is an excellent match player and he has proved it again and again by beating the likes of Kramnik, Topalov and Gelfand. So it will be a close match. And of course I will be rooting for Anand!
SS: A hypothetical question. If Anand were to ask you to join him in his team of seconds right now for the World Championship Match, would you be ready?
VG: Of course It would be an honour!
SS: Do you think chess will come to an end someday?
VG: I fear that! (laughs) Mainly because that's what I have spent doing my entire life until now. Opening advantage is becoming difficult to achieve. But we are still humans and majority of the battles are fought in middlegames and endgames. So not such a huge issue! Chess is safe for at least five years.
SS: 5 years?! I thought you would say until your lifetime!
VG: (laughs) I am not really sure! But in an interview in 2008, Anand said that during his match against Kasparov in 1995 things were getting difficult. It was not easy to find new ideas. Anand further added that it's now 2008 and chess is still fresh with new ideas. Thus I feel that chess will survive and with the advent of computers it has become even more interesting now!
SS: One very interesting question that I want to ask you is: You see your friends hanging around, having fun, being in relationships with girls. Do you miss that part of your life?
VG: This is off record right! (laughs) Well I do miss my college life every once in a while but you must also see the things that chess players gain. We get to travel so much, see new countries, make international friends and know about different cultures. So I don't think I regret my decision of playing chess and missing out on other things.
SS: Thats a very nice answer but you conveniently avoided the question regarding relationships and girls! So let me rephrase it. Is it a distraction for chess players to be in a relationship?
VG: (laughs) You might be able to answer that better than me! (laughs heartily) But on a serious note I really don't know about it.
[Ed- Maybe we should ask this question again to Vidit after a gap of three years!]
SS: How do you think chess will become more popular in India?
VG: This year we had the Maharashtra Chess league and there are Chess in school programs. But most importantly the Anand-Carlsen match will give a big boost to chess. Cricket will keep overshadowing other sports in India but chess I think will keep on developing.
SS: Chess players are considered nerds by other people. How do you contradict this presumption?
VG: No no no! (very strong denial). I know a lot of chess players who are very smart and fun to be with. It's just a baseless generalisation that chess players are nerds.
SS: Who is your favourite Chess player?
VG: Without doubt Garry Kasparov!
SS: Who is your favourite Indian Sportsperson apart from chess players.
VG: After the movie Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, I think Milkha Singh is definitely one of my favourites. Because the struggle that he went through and yet he came out victorious, was truly inspiring.
SS: One game of yours that you really are proud of.
VG: I played an excellent game against Vaibhav Suri in National A, Delhi 2010. That is definitely one of my favourites.
[Site "New Delhi"]
[White "Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi"]
[Black "Vaibhav, Suri"]
[SourceTitle "CBM 139 Extra"]
b5 9. O-O Bxc3 10. bxc3 O-O 11. a4 f6 12. Ng4 Bb7 13. Qb1 c6 14. e4 Nb6 15. Ne3
Qc7 16. Bh3 Re8 17. f4 N8d7 18. a5 Na4 19. f5 e5 20. Rxa4 bxa4 21. Nxc4 Rab8
22. Qa2 Kh8 23. Bg2 Ba8 24. Qxa4 Rb5 25. Qa3 c5 26. d5 Reb8 27. Qa2 Qb7 28. Bf3
Qc7 29. Ra1 Qb7 30. Bd1 Rb1 31. Kf2 Rxa1 32. Qxa1 Qc7 33. Ba4 g6 34. g4 gxf5
35. gxf5 Rg8 36. Qd1 Nb8 37. Bh6 Bb7 38. Qh5 Bc8 39. Be8 Qe7 40. Bf7 Rd8 41. d6
Qa7 42. Bd5 1-0
SS: You are one of the bright hopefuls to take the place of Anand as the top Indian player. Who do you think are the other Indians in that category?
VG: I don't really think about these things. I am interested mainly in improving as a chess player myself.
SS: What has been the role of your parents in your success?
VG: Big role. They constantly motivated me. They took care of all the expenses and travelled with me inspite of missing their work (they are doctors). When I was not becoming a grandmaster it was really a frustrating period for me, but they held fort and kept encouraging me. Many parents would have shifted the focus to academics but not them. They wanted me to become something in chess for which I am really grateful to them.
SS: So is Vidit Gujarathi a full time chess professional now?
VG: At least I am not going to leave chess in the near future! (laughs!)
SS: Thanks a lot Vidit for such a candid interview, I am sure the readers will not only get to know you better but also benefit a lot from reading your answers! I wish you all the success in future!
VG: Thanks a lot Sagar, This interview actually helped me to think on lot of parts of my life which I hadnt really thought about before.
Source: Sagar Teaches Chess Blog
The thumbnail image is a sketch done by Vidit's sister Ananya Shrimali. The original photo was captured by David Llada at Olympiad 2016