Romain Edouard: 'MVL in the Candidates? I've been dreaming about it for a long time!'
Romain Edouard, comfortable juggling chess pieces and different roles in the chess world. Photo: Mathieu Romaric

Romain Edouard: 'MVL in the Candidates? I've been dreaming about it for a long time!'‎

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FM Robin-Side
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26 | Chess Players

GM Romain Edouard is one of the great talents of the French chess community, as evidenced by his impressive record of achievements at the youth level. He took part in his first competition at the age of 10 and, in a meteoric rise, became European Under-16 Champion and then World Under-18 Vice-Champion. Nowadays, he is ranked 101st in the world and remains one of the core representatives of the French team.

As he will celebrate his 30th birthday this year, Edouard takes stock of the evolution of his career with Chess.com, revealing to us the facets of his status as an editor and discussing the hottest topic in chess, the FIDE Candidates Tournament!

Chess.com: Hello Romain, your experience in the chess universe is very diverse. You are a player, more and more a publisher, an author, and also a second. Which hat do you prefer to wear?

Romain Edouard: I love everything I do! It was important for me to diversify. The player "hat" is great, but it is also a strong emotional challenge. By dint of just playing, my pleasure had decreased but now it's coming back.

Chess.com: Let's first look back at your playing career and your peak at 2702 in 2014 after a win against GM Jon-Ludvig Hammer. How do you explain the fact that you couldn't keep up at that level?

In fact, I virtually broke the 2700-barrier the following week, by winning the second round of the Porticcio Open (in Corsica). After beating Hammer, I was still missing a few points! Once 2700+ was official, I went through a long dead-run that I still can't explain. I lost 100 points! I'm happy to have recovered half of it today despite my multiple occupations.

Chess.com: Do you aim to cross this symbolic barrier again and remain in the 2700+ club, or will you focus more on writing?

Actually, my time is rather divided between playing and editing. The books I write are only a small part of my activity at Thinkers Publishing where I work on all our books. I intend to get back to 2700 as soon as possible, but the first years of a new publishing house require a huge time investment.

Romain Edouard
The book that introduced Romain Edouard as an author.

Chess.com: Can you tell us more about your role at Thinkers Publishing?

I'm the editor in chief. I am the link between our authors and Thinkers Publishing, so the final material is the best possible. I contact the author to perfect what I have received. Once that's done, the files go to the model maker, then to a proofreader, and finally back to the model maker. I am the link between all these steps before final printing. To put it simply, I'm responsible for the material, while Daniel Vanheirzeele, the founder of Thinkers Publishing, is the sales manager. Of course, his expertise is also an important asset in the finalization of each book.

Chess.com: Let's go back to your various publications, what do they mean to you?

The best known in France is The Chess Manual of Avoidable Mistakes. In English, I have written three volumes of Chess Calculation Training, about middlegames, endings, and finally a large selection of historical games. These are exercise books that stand out from the ones we usually see. Positions are presented from many different angles: attacking and defending exercises, choosing between two moves, finding the missed opportunity, etc. The idea is to place the reader in a situation close to a real game, so he can learn as much as possible from each position by looking at it from the most interesting angle.

Since then, the first volume of Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players has been released. The principle is the same, but the level is adapted to children and club players (from beginners to 1600). Finally, I wrote My Magic Years with Topalov. It's my favorite book because it's very personal and represents very beautiful years in my career and even in my life, the ones where I assisted GM Veselin Topalov. The adventure lasted from 2010 to 2014, including his victory in the FIDE Grand Prix series. The book tells the story of these four years, our meeting, the relationship between a player and his second, and includes a lot of anecdotes. Of course, most of the content is chess related: our best novelties and his best games as well as some of his losses. As Veselin says in the preface of the book, nothing is hidden in it!

His most personal work, in which Romain tells of his life as a second.

Chess.com: The Candidates Tournament is just around the corner! You also experienced it from the inside as Topalov's second. Can you explain the preparation for such an event? What memories do you have of it, and would you be ready to do it again?

I would be happy to do it again! I think each player has his own method, but all of them invest a huge amount of time in preparing for this event. When Topalov qualified, we did the preliminary work from September to December and then worked intensively for two months before the tournament began. Veselin had rented a house for about 10 weeks in Lanzarote because he said it was important to get as much sunshine as possible before going to play in the depths of Russia!

Romain with Veselin Topalov after the tournament at Wijk aan Zee. Photo: Jean-Michel Péchiné

Chess.com: The announcement has just been made: Radjabov (who has asked for a postponement of the tournament) is replaced by MVL. What do you think about the position of the Azeri player, and how do you see Maxime's chances in light of his shortened preparation? Can he feel less pressure, live this adventure as a bonus, and play with a more peaceful mindset than his rivals?

This kind of action, especially by a player as friendly as Radjabov, is always sad. However, I can't help being happy. Seeing Maxime at the Candidates—I've been dreaming about it for a long time. The last-minute stress and his shortened preparation won't help him. That's what will make his victory even better! I don't even want to consider another scenario! I don't think he will play more liberated than anyone else. For him, it is a dream coming true, not a bonus.

Chess.com: Before that, who were your favorites? Caruana and Ding, like everyone else?

Yes, they are the two main favorites. Their level for the last year is above the lot. I would have been surprised if another player won, but the arrival of Maxime can change the game.

Chess.com: Problems related to the coronavirus have just drastically impacted the tournament. Can you imagine that in a worst-case scenario such an event could take place online?

Online, I don't think so! That would be the worst solution—far after a possible postponement of the tournament. But I don't think an event with such a small crowd is likely to be canceled.

Chess.com: Do you share Alekseenko's opinion that the wildcard should be abolished? 

Absolutely. It's obvious that the wildcard has only one advantage: the commercial aspect. To put it simply, being able to name a player may attract a sponsor. But it is essential that FIDE manages to deal without this incentive as quickly as possible. Every player should qualify through the classical ways, even if for 2020, of course, Alekseenko is a qualified player like any other. If the rule exists, it exists...

Chess.com: The French Championships and the Olympiad fall at the same time this year. Do you regret this aberration in the calendar and in which competition do you plan to participate?

I would have preferred that the two competitions didn't take place at the same time, but selection to the French national team is not guaranteed! If I'm selected for the team, I'll give priority to the Olympiad.

Romain Edouard, in the center, with the gold medal of the third chessboard at the time of the title of Europe Vice-Champion with the French team in 2013. He is surrounded by Vlad Tkachiev, Sebastien Maze, Hicham Hamdouchi, MVL, Etienne Bacrot, and Matthieu Cornette. Photo FFE

Chess.com: Finally, how did you like your experience in the PRO Chess League, and how did you handle the cruel elimination in the playoffs?

I was happy to be a part of the adventure. I would have liked to bring more to the team, but we did our best and had a lot of fun. We made an incredible come back against New York and almost defeated them. That will be for next year!

Chess.com: Thank you very much, Romain!

Find here the Thinkers Publishing online store and get a 10% discount with the code blitzstream.

Edouard will be part of the team of commentators who will join Kevin Bordi, Fabien Libiszewski, Matthieu Cornette and Yannick Gozzoli in covering the Candidates Tournament live on our French channel. As a reminder, the kick-off is scheduled for March 17th. We look forward to watching it with you!