“Could something like this really happen?” Vincent Keymer himself was astounded: standing first among 49 grandmasters, scoring 8 points in 9 games, with a tournament performance of 2795 Elo – world-class. Never in the annals of chess had a 13-year-old performed so spectacularly.
Vincent Keymer first blipped on the public radar with his stunning underdog triumph at the Grenke Open, Europe’s most prestigious open tournament, in Karlsruhe during Easter 2018. Since then, he has remained in the spotlight: the youngest German grandmaster ever, the highest-rated German player ever, the undisputed German number one since 2022 and the leader of the national team.
As 2024 dawns, 19-year-old Keymer is already making his presence felt among the world’s top 10. He gives German chess enthusiasts a reason to hope, perhaps for the first time in decades, if not a century.
Keymer is cognizant of the expectations that rest on his shoulders. He keeps the accompanying pressure at bay. “I am my own harshest critic,” says the young chess professional. Keymer, better than any spectator, understands where he can improve, sets himself the loftiest standards, and strives relentlessly to meet them.
Despite a competitive disadvantage, Keymer’s ascent to super grandmaster status has seen him lock horns with other prodigies of his generation, such as those from India and Iran. While his rivals dedicated their teenage years to chess, Keymer struck a balance between chess and school. He turned professional only after graduating from high school in the summer of 2022 (with a grade of 1.7).
His professional journey kicked off with a victory in Chess960 at the traditional tournament in Biel – edging out Nodirbek Abdusattorov by the slimmest of margins. Abdusattorov will now have the chance to seek revenge on the German side of the Baltic Sea. Keymer concluded his inaugural professional year in 2022 as the runner-up in the World Rapid Chess Championship, trailing Magnus Carlsen by half a point and ahead of the world’s elite. In 2023, he steered the German national team to the runner-up position in the European Championship.
Will it suffice to reach the pinnacle? Keymer’s response is consistently pragmatic and elusive. The competition in chess is fiercer and more intense than ever. On a global scale, the extraordinary German player sees himself as one among at least half a dozen representatives of a generation of super talents, the likes of which have never been seen before. “And while we are improving, Carlsen & Co. are not regressing,” Keymer stated in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Keymer has no control over how good he will be in comparison to others. All he can do is maximize his extraordinary potential. “I’m working as hard as I can on that.” As for where that will lead him, “I can’t say for certain.”
FIDE title: Grandmaster
Vice World Rapid Chess Champion: At the 2022 World Championship, Keymer finished in second place behind Magnus Carlsen and ahead of many world class players.
Rating Record: Keymer’s Elo rating of 2743.2 (live list, December 2023) is the highest Elo rating of a German ever.
Grandmaster at 15: Youngest German chess Grandmaster (GM) ever. Keymer still thinks: “I should have achieved it earlier.”
International Master at 12: Youngest German International Master (IM) ever.
European Champion: As a 10 and 12 year old, Keymer became European Champion with the U18 national team in 2015 and 2017.
Grenke Chess Open: Victory at the strongest open tournament in Europe in April 2018 ahead of 49 Grandmasters as number 99 on the seeding list. Tournament performance 2798, the best tournament ever played by a 13-year-old.