Person of day - 21 OCTOBER 2020
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was born on 21st October 1990 in Nogent-sur-Marne. The young Frenchman quickly came to dominate France’s junior competitions, but winning the junior world championship proved beyond him. Vachier-Lagrave competed against his famous rivals from the golden generation of 1990s wunderkinds. His opponents included Sergey Karjakin, Magnus Carlsen, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Dmitry Andreikin, Ildar Khairullin, Sergei Zhigalko, Wang Hao and Le Quang Liem. Nonetheless, the Frenchman held his own; though he never came first, he regularly finished in the top three in these tournaments.
In 2004, Vachier-Lagrave made a rapid ascent; he became a master, and a year later a grandmaster- one of the youngest in the world. At that time, he came first in the Parisian championship and won the French team championship three times with NAO. In the individual French championship of 2005, he split 2ndplace with Andrei Sokolov. In 2007, he became the best grandmaster in France after he defeated Vlad Tkachev 3:1 in an additional match.
His next surge forward came in 2008-2009, when Vachier-Lagrave surpassed the 2700 mark and won the world U20 championship. Maxime won the 2009 super tournament in Biel, leaving Ivanchuk and Morozevich behind him. Around this time, his fans began to call him MVL.
In 2009, the French grandmaster made his debut at the World Cup and advanced into the third round, where he lost to Boris Gelfand. He became the European blitz champion in 2010. He has won the French team championship with Clichy-92 and the Italian team championship with Obietivvo. During his career in the French national team, he won silver at the European team championship and played in multiple Olympiads. In 2010, he strongly condemned the cheating performed by Sebastien Feller, one of his teammates.
In 2013-15, he once again won in Biel and qualified for the 2013 World Cup, thus asserting his place in the chess elite. Maxime’s performance created an uproar at the 2013 Alekhine Memorial, where he was in the lead for a long time. He also played in the last FIDE Grand-Prix series and the Grand Chess Tour.
At the 2015 World Cup in Baku, Vachier-Lagrave made it to the quarterfinals, where he lost to Anish Giri. He was part of Magnus Carlsen’s training team for several years. After several successes at super tournaments, his rating reached the fantastic mark of 2819 in August 2016. Vachier-Lagrave was occupying second place in FIDE’s rating for several months.
“I like playing in Russia. I have played many tournaments here, mainly in Moscow and I have participated in the Russian League on several occasions. I like you country’s chess culture- there is always a multitude of spectators in the room, even at tournaments less prestigious than the 2013 Alekhine Memorial.
…Of course, I was very happy when so many people came to watch our play in Paris. Perhaps not all supported me and Laurent Fressinet, but the majority seemed to be local players who were sympathetic to us. Of course, this gave us a certain advantage, but in chess, the support of the audience is less important than in, say, tennis, where fans start to applaud and express their emotions loudly, which may unnerve an opponent. In chess, support is always much more subtle!” (Maxime Vachier-Lagrave).
He has worked with the famous grandmaster and trainer Alexander Beliavsky for many years.
Maxime defeated Peter Svidler 5,5:2,5 in a friendly match in 2016. He also won the super tournament in Dortmund in 2016, overtaking his nearest opponent by 1,5 points. However, the next tournament in Gibraltar did not go well for him: he lost 2:3 to Hikaru Nakamura in a play-off match. The grandmaster’s interests are not limited to chess; he regularly writes insightful articles for Chess.com. The Frenchman was also a commentator during the candidates’ tournament in Moscow for the same media outlet.
At the 2017 World Cup, he was close to qualifying for the Candidates Tournament, but he lost a dramatic match to Levon Aronian in the semi-final. At the beginning of 2018, Aronian got on his path again: MVL shared the first place with the Armenian in a very strong open tournament in Gibraltar but lost to Levon in the play-off match. At the 2019 FIDE World Cup Vachier-Lagrave lost to Teimour Radjabov in the semi-final and then defeated Yu Yangyi in the match for the third place to become the first reserve for the FIDE Candidates Tournament.
In 2020, he was included in the FIDE Candidates Tournament after Teimour Radjabov had refused to play. The first half of the Tournament was held in Yekaterinburg and the second one was postponed to the spring of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Maxime took 4.5 points out of 7 and is sharing the first place with Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The first over the board tournament for MVL after the lockdown was the Chess Bundesliga, in which he scored 4 points out of 5.