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MVL-Grischuk Preview: The Basketball Player vs The Tennis Player?
The first quarterfinal Speed Chess Championship match will be October 23.

MVL-Grischuk Preview: The Basketball Player vs The Tennis Player?

By now, you know GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and GM Alexander Grischuk. Or, maybe you don't. There's more to them than tactics and novelties.

Sure, in round one of the 2017 Chess.com Speed Chess Championship, you saw the Frenchman squash the world junior champion, while the Russian nearly doubled up his young opponent. And you also know Vachier-Lagrave just won the 2017 Sinquefield Cup and was a semifinalist in the 2017 World Cup, while Grischuk is a three-time world blitz champion.

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GM Alexander Grischuk (left) and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave discuss a game in 2015. | Photo: Mike Klein, Chess.com.

Will any of that get you closer to filling out your bracket and guessing the winner of their quarterfinal match, to take place Monday, October 23 at 10 a.m. Pacific? Maybe, but if not, here are some intangibles, odds and ends, potpourri, and general random trivia to help you get on the bandwagon of one player or the other.

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Chess.com asked each player to answer 10 questions by email, and here are their responses. They have only been modified slightly to add clarity or for grammatical mistakes.

1) Who was the first grandmaster you ever beat in classical chess?

AG: GM Igor Naumkin.

MVL: If I'm not mistaken, it was GM Nebojsa Nikcevic back in 2003. The Berlin was already all the rage at the time!

2) Which chess variant are you best at playing?

AG: Not sure myself.

MVL: Three checks. [Vachier-Lagrave has been dodging this writer's three-checks challenges for years, or is it the other way around? - M.K.]

3) If you were not a professional chess player, what sport would you want to play professionally?

AG: Basketball, and it's not even close. [We're not sure Grischuk's exact height, but he's definitely more than six feet tall. Not a record though: GM Vladimir Kramnik is 6'6" while GM Aleksandar Indjic is around 6'7". The tallest GM ever was likely the late GM Miroslav Filip, who checked in at 6'9" (205.7 cm)! - M.K.]

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GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (left) is giving away a more than a few centimeters to GM Alexander Grischuk. | Photo: Mike Klein, Chess.com.

MVL: I doubt there's enough parallel universes for me to play tennis professionally in one of them, but a man can dream! [Vachier-Lagrave may not be six feet tall, but recall Michael Chang won the French Open at 5'9" while Diego Schwartzman got to the U.S. Open quarterfinals this year at only 5'7" - M.K.]

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Scouting report: Vachier-Lagrave has a looping, slicing one-handed backhand. | Photo: Mike Klein, Chess.com.

4) Where is the best wine in the world made?

AG: The best wine is vodka.

MVL: I don't have the skills to judge.

5) What single move do you most wish you had a "takeback" for in your career? 

AG: Probably just recently 41.Rbd1?? against Rauf Mamedov (I should have played 41.Rb8+ instead).

MVL: I wouldn't take [back] any. Even the devastating losses help build your character and your future play.

6) Rate your historical skills. If you played a 24-game match against Capablanca at his peak, what would have been the score? And same with Fischer?

AG: I would crush Capablanca and struggle against Fischer.

MVL: I have no doubt I would win, but it's like asking if Roger Federer would beat Rod Laver with his wooden racket, or if Alberto Contador would ride faster than Jacques Anquetil. [Anquetil won the Tour de France five times with a steel bike; the last steel bike to win the Tour was in 1994. Contador rode a carbon-fiber bicycle, which weighed in at only 14.9 pounds, to win the Tour twice. - M.K.]

7) What's the most disappointing country to not qualify for the football World Cup in Russia, 2018?

AG: Hmm, Holland and Ukraine maybe?

MVL: Without a doubt, Chile.

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Nations in red, yellow, and black all failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Image: Wikipedia.

8) I don't believe there are any chess openings or variations named after either of you. If you could have one named after you (either one that is unnamed or your name takes over a previously-named variation) what would you pick? 

AG: If 1.d4 2.Bf4 is asking too much then 1.c4 e5 2.d3.

MVL: The Berlin Defense, but only because it gives nightmares to everyone. [Indeed, the word for "nightmare" is a cognate: Russian (кошмар) and French (cauchemar). - M.K.]

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Vachier-Lagrave (lighter suit) and Grischuk: Both braving the parapluie/зонтик gambit. Luckily for them, Monday's match is indoors. | Photo: Mike Klein, Chess.com.

9) What's the worst question that journalists ask you?

AG: Just mixing terms "match," "game," "round," "cup," "tournament," "championship," etc. with each other.

MVL: You wouldn't believe it, but it's not the first time I've been asked that. And that's a pretty dumb question. [Désolé. - M.K.]

10) Finish this sentence. When I found out who my opponent was for the second round of the Speed Chess Championship, my first thought was ____________.

AG: "......I will play Vachier-Lagrave in second round." I know, doesn't sound too exciting.

MVL: "It's a Blitzstream fight!"

Are you informed enough now to predict the winner? Perhaps all you learned was who you'd more like to join for dinner.

In either case, tune in to Chess.com/TV or twitch.tv/chess this Monday, October 23, at 10 a.m. Pacific (GMT-7); 1 p.m. New York; 7 p.m. Paris; 8 p.m. Moscow. Commentators IM Danny Rensch and GM Eric Hansen will be there to educate, entertain, and take you through all three hours of blitz and bullet action!

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If history is any indication, Vachier-Lagrave could end the day by only making Rensch sweat! | Photo: Mike Klein, Chess.com.

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