A couple of weeks back, Grandmaster Vidit Santosh Gujrathi won the Lake Sevan Tournament, a category 16 event with talented young Grandmasters competing, for the second time in his career. An affable person that he is, Vidit readily agreed for an interview with us and went on to talk about his victory, the Indian Chess Team, his first steps into the Chess world, and much more!
Shubham Kumthekar: Hello Vidit! Hearty congratulations on winning the Lake Sevan tournament for the second time. How good does it feel?
Vidit Gujrathi: It feels great to win such a strong tournament. It had been a long time since I won an individual tournament, which made this win even more special.
SK: This tournament is traditionally characterized by a field of young and upcoming strong Grandmasters, which leads to meaty play more often than not. How do you approach a closed event like this, where every player is willing to fight it out?
VG: It is definitely more fun! I had some plan before the tournament, but as it always happens, you never completely follow it. During the drawing of lots, I understood that I will play 5 blacks and 4 whites, so it meant that I had to try and put pressure in every game.
SK: Which one of your games from Lake Sevan did you like the most? Can you tell us something about it?
VG: From a purely objective point of view, I was happy with my technique against Onischuk as it was my first win after a few draws. But, the game against Sevian from the penultimate round will definitely be the most memorable as it was a tough game that lasted 5.5 hours. A championship game which lasts this long, is for sure very stressful and nerve-racking 🙂
SK: Your results at the Lake Sevan tournaments have been noteworthy – an impressive victory in 2014, a respectable third place in 2015 and another victory this year. What is it that you like about the event or brings the best out of you?
VG: I always thought my chess playing style is more suited to Closed tournaments than Open events. Also, somehow I am more motivated to play when I play a strong GM every round.
SK: Now, let’s move to this picture! How did you end up here? 🙂
VG: I was seconding Anish for the Paris and Leuven legs of the Grand Chess Tour. (Editor: We did not probe Vidit more about his work with Anish due to the sensitivity of the topic.)
SK: You have been a key member of the Indian Chess team for quite some time now. The current team seems to be on a roll, with a historic Bronze at Olympiad 2014 and a memorable Gold at the recent Asian Nations Cup under its belt. What check-boxes are you guys ticking right?
VG: I think we, as a team, have developed a strong bond which helps us in team tournaments. We all, in the team, are good friends and get along very well. Also, our coach GM R B Ramesh always keeps us in good spirits.
SK: Let’s backtrack. You hail from Nashik, a city not really known for producing titled players. How did your journey into the chess world begin and what challenges did you have to tackle?
VG: I started playing chess when I was about 7 years old. My dad taught me chess and whenever I lost to him, it angered me to learn more! There were a lot of challenges, but now it feels good that I got past them.
SK: You come across as a superbly prepared player. What is your approach to chess preparation?
VG: I feel I have improved my overall chess strength in the last few months. It is hard to exactly point out how I prepare, but recently I have been doing it in a more disciplined way.
SK: What, according to you, is the biggest achievement of your career so far?
VG: Winning two strong Category 16 tournaments. (Editor- Lake Sevan 2014 and Lake Sevan 2016)
SK: India is experiencing a ‘chess boom’ of sorts. However, what areas, in your opinion, need to be developed or improved upon?
VG: I think there have to be more opportunities. Few years ago, there used to be a lot of closed tournaments, which have completely stopped now. Closed tournaments really help in improving the game and I feel there is an urgent need for more such opportunities in India.
SK: Three things that you are generally found doing apart from Chess.
VG: Watch American TV shows, something related to technology, and as my friends say, I am with my phone.
SK: Your favourite cuisine.
SK: If you could be an anime character for a day, who would you like to be?
VG: Tough question, I don’t like Anime anymore.
SK: If not a chess player, then …
VG: Something like a detective!
SK: The most influential movie quote you have ever come across.
VG: It’s from Rocky. “It ain’t about how hard you hit, but about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward!”