Thursday, October 3, 2013

Interview with GM Vidit Gujrathi

He is one of the Brightest Hopes of Indian Chess. At the age of 19, he already boasts of having an astronomical rating of 2582. He has to his credit many achievements but the most notable of all of them 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 I (Sagar Shah) took the interview of this prodigious Talent, that I present to the dear reader 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 Junior?

Vidit Gujarathi (VG): My aim was definitely to come in the top 3 of the tournament. I think in general its better to go with an aim to the tournament, because previously I used to play tournaments 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 its not easy to remember such deep analysis. I think the only way to remember it is "Repetition!"

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 the hopes. To score 4/4 or even 3.5/4 in the next 4 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!

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 Nimzo wouldnt give me enough practical chances. So i went for unconventional positions in the Dutch.Carlsen played 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 be liked to 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!

Vidit with the Great Garry Kaparov after receiving the Bronze Medal!

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 doesnt 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 its better to keep my future opponents guessing!

SS: Yes I agree to the fact that 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 2 months ago. But prior to that I had been unbeaten with the white pieces since Feb 2012! So not 2 years but yes I was nearly 1.5 year unbeaten with the white pieces!

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 arent 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 a 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!
One of Vidits Favourite Sitcoms: Friends.

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, Lets say 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. Its very difficult to beat them. Even if you have an advantage against them they resist very strongly. Usually thats 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 1-2 years and in order to become more tenacious I think good books will come to my rescue!

Holding his fort against Strong 2700+ players like Anton Korobov!

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 atleast! 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,its 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 my best games books of modern players like Anand, Gelfand, Carlsen etc. And of course the 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 as many positions as he can and 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!


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.


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 wouldnt recommend that to anyone! (laughs)

SS: One particular player from India has been doing excellently recently. He is almost same age as you, maybe a little older and he performed exceedingly well in World Cup 2013. B Adhiban. 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: Its the struggle. Its so difficult to win. Thats 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 wont 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!

Vidit on extreme left celebrating the birthday of Vishy Anand!

SS: Do you think chess will come to an end someday?

VG: I fear that! (laughs) Mainly because thats what i have spent doing my entire life till 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 atleast 5 years.

SS: 5 years?!! Only! 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 its 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 dont 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!! (lots of laughter) But on a serious note I really dont know about it.

No Distractions! Totally focussed!

SS: How do you think chess will become more popular in India?

VG: This year we had the 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. Its 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.

Milkha Singh- Vidits favourite Indian Athlete

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.

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 dont really think about these things. I am interested mainly in improving as a chess player myself.

SS: My last question to you is, 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.

Vidit's proud Parents.

SS: So is Vidit Gujarathi a full time chess professional now?

VG: Atleast 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 interview! 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.

About the Interviewer:
Sagar Shah is an Indian Chess Player with an Elo of 2369. He has 2 IM norms to his credit and aims to make chess as popular as possible.


  1. Hey excellent interview.. Vidit you are truely an inspiration for players like me!!
    God job Sagar Bhai!!

  2. excellent interview..!!!!

    good Job Sagar

  3. great work sagar bhai! really nyc interview helps a lot for struggling players like me

  4. Its really motivating to know about one of the brightest chess prodigy of India in current time..Great job Sagar bhai , to promote the game of Chess..I think it should be compulsory in each and every School..Hope the day will come soon..!!

    1. You are right Keshav! Chess will soon become one of the most important subjects in school!

  5. Vet Nice read, Thanks Sagar and vidit for this excellent interview

  6. Very eclectic topics Sagar! From chess puzzles to tournament reports and now interviews! Your blog is extremely diverse!!

    1. Thanks a lot Saumil! I am glad that a strong player like you follows my blog! :)

  7. Excellent interview! I have never heard of Vidit Gujarathi before this article and the one that led me here from Chessbase. A very intriguing person this Vidit and I wish the best future for him and of course for you as well for this wonderful introduction. Thank you!