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Game Theory helps Vaibhav Suri win the Biel Masters 2018

by Sagar Shah - 11/08/2018

The Biel Masters is a strong tournament with 26 grandmasters. The top seed was GM Pavel Eljanov (2706) and there were eight more grandmasters above the rating of 2600. GM Vaibhav Suri from Delhi was the 19th seed, but played a fantastic tournament to score 7.0/9 and win half a point ahead of the remaining competitors. And what was Vaibhav's secret of winning the tournament? The Game Theory which he learnt when he was majoring in Economics in his University! We tell you all about the game theory approach of Vaibhav. Apart from this we also have a game annotated by Vaibhav, a big interview by Rupali Mullick and also a huge pictorial report. Don't miss this exciting report from the Swiss town of Biel. 

The biggest victory of GM Vaibhav Suri's chess career

Vaibhav Suri's interview after winning the Biel Masters 2018 with ChessBase India correspondent Rupali Mullick

When things started to get tight for Vaibhav Suri at the Biel Masters 2018, he used the knowledge that he had got by his education in Economics to ease off the pressure! How exactly did he do it? "I used the knowledge of Game Theory," says Vaibhav in an interview with ChessBase India after his victory.  "Game theory has a concept of finite and infinite participants. If you have an infinite approach towards things you basically have a long term vision and you don't care about the short term aims. This kind of resonated with them. I am still not sure how it works 100% but it has made a imprint on my mind." 

"Infinite Game!" Economics is what Vaibhav used to get a deeper understanding of pyschology in chess! | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Vaibhav started as the 19th seed, played the best tournament of his life and became the champion with a score of 7.0/9, staying unbeaten. Here's how the final ranking list looked:

Rank after round 9:

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2 
119GMVaibhav SuriIND25567,048,0416,0
218GMWagner DennisGER25586,549,0422,5
31GMEljanov PavelUKR27066,548,0424,5
421GMKuljasevic DavorinCRO25456,547,0423,0
53GMSalem A.R. SalehUAE26426,547,0419,5
629IMBilguun SumiyaMGL24906,546,0410,0
79GMDonchenko AlexanderGER26016,545,0424,5
824GMLalith Babu M RIND25296,545,0411,0
923GMAbdusattorov NodirbekUZB25346,543,5421,0
1012GMBaklan VladimirUKR25956,045,5411,0
1136IMPrithu GuptaIND24366,045,5409,5
1248Arjun KalyanIND23706,045,5401,5
1315GMKovchan AlexanderUKR25726,044,5421,5
1417GMMoussard JulesFRA25596,044,0401,5
157GMKarthikeyan MuraliIND26096,042,0401,0
166GMAntipov Mikhail Al.RUS26266,041,5410,5
178GMBartel MateuszPOL26046,041,5394,5
185GMRomanov EvgenyRUS26366,041,0403,0
1916GMMichalik PeterCZE25626,039,5378,5
202GMIturrizaga Bonelli EduardoVEN26525,546,0416,0

Final rankings list

  Vaibhav's fantastic 2696 performance!  

Things began to get nervous for Vaibhav somewhere around round seven when he had secured a win over the strong German IM Jonas Lampert. In the eighth round Vaibhav was on the backfoot against Salem Saleh, but managed to secure the half point. A final round draw against IM Sumiya Bilguun sealed the tournament in his favour.

For all our readers who would like to gain a deeper knowledge of what Finite and Infinite game means, here's a small explanation that I have extracted from this website which talks about the game theory. It says:


Finite game is defined as having known players, fixed rules and agree upon objective, according to Simon Sinek in a recent Marketing over Coffee podcast interview. During the podcast, he says baseball is a good illustration of a finite game. The players know each other, the rules, and have agreed, that whichever team has the most runs after nine innings wins the game. This is very different than an infinite game, according to Mr. Sinek. An infinite game is characterized as having both known and unknown players, the rules are changeable and the objective is to perpetuate the game. “When you pit a finite player against a finite player the system is stable – baseball is stable,” he said. The same is true you put an infinite player up against and infinite player. There is no winner or loser in an infinite game he notes, players only drop out when they lose the will or resources to continue. “Problems arise, however when you pit a finite player against an infinite player,” he says. “Because finite players are playing to win and infinite players are playing to stay in the game.” Bringing it back to business, Mr. Sinek says his work at Microsoft and Apple presents a stark difference between the finite and infinite players: At Microsoft, he says in his observation, the majority of the executives spend most of their time analyzing ways to beat Apple. By contrast at Apple, all of the executives spend all of their time on the company’s mission, such as discussing ways help teachers teach or how to help students learn. Mr. Sinek says the obsession one business has with the competition – while the competition is focused on the future – demonstrates how an infinite player frustrates the competition.

Top three players in the Masters section: 1st - Vaibhav Suri, 2nd - Dennis Wagner and 3rd - Pavel Eljanov

Vaibhav was travelling from Biel to Dresden when we sent him a few questions related to his tournament victory. Vaibhav's laptop battery had died, but he annotated the critical position through his mobile phone and sent us the reply in mail. We thank Vaibhav for his dexterity. It is clearly a great opportunity for our readers to get an insight into the mind of this strong grandmaster:

A short interview with Vaibhav:

SS: Is this the biggest win of you career so far?

VS: This is by far the strongest tournament I have ever won.


SS: You started as the 19th seed. Did you think you would be able to win a tournament where guys like Eljanov are taking part.

VS: I knew there were a lot of strong players participating in the tournament and that was perhaps one of the reasons for choosing this event. I was discussing this with a couple of friends recently and they all seemed to agree - I don't know why or how this happens but most of us are somehow able to play better when we face stronger opposition. My goal was simply to play better and stronger and had no intentions of the top spot before the tournament.

SS: Recently in an interview on ChessBase India you said that you like to play only 6-8 tournaments a year. Are you going to stick with it in spite of your success?

VS: Yes, ofcourse. In college one of my professors mentioned in his lecture on management strategy something like - Your long term strategy should dictate your short term actions and not the other way around.

SS: What is your next event?

VS: I'm on my way to Dresden where the tournament starts tomorrow.

SS: Who are the people you would want to thank for this victory?

VS: My parents and my sister. They have been my pillar of support throughout my entire life.

SS: We saw a video of yours on Facebook where you converted the Lucena position nicelt by building a bridge. Of course that is quite elementary for you. But for our young and budding readers, what would you suggest is the best way to build such basics related to the endgame?

VS: I have seen a lot of players making mistakes in elementary endgames (for examples you can refer to the Tragic-Comedies book by Mark Dvoretsky). So, it is kind of important to go through the "elementary" stuff again to not make mistakes. My suggestion to youngsters would be to religiously follow Dvoretsky Endgame Manuel. It is the bible of Endgame play.

The playing venue of the Biel Chess Festival 2018 | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

A humongous playing hall with all sections including the GM section where Carlsen, MVL, Mamedyarov and co. competed | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Magnus Carlsen and MVL finished first to third (in that order) in the Biel Grand Masters event | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Shakh with his wife at the closing ceremony | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

The super GMs and the support team on the rest day | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Playing in tournaments like Biel is a great motivation for youngsters where they get to interact with the greats like Mamedyarov | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

ChessBase editor-in-chief Macauley Peterson interviews GM Yannick Pelletier, who is the tournament director of Biel | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

What a wonderful photo! Can you give it an appropriate caption? | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

One of the legends playing in the Masters section - GM Vlastimil Hort | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

The life of a World Champion is never easy! | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Henrik Carlsen, father of Magnus played in the Masters section. He scored 3.5 points and gained 5 Elo points | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

The roles have reversed! The son now keeps an eye on the mistakes made by the father! | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

World's third youngest GM Nodirbek Abdusattarov had a good tournament. He scored 6.5/9 and remained unbeaten. | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

IM Tania Sachdev performed at a rating average of 2486 and gained 13 Elo points | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

The recently minted IM from India -Soham Das | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

The daughter (Vantika Agrawal) gives it her all on the board... | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

...the mother can't take her eyes off the game! | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Post game analysis with your opponent is an important quality. Here IM Ravi Teja analyzes his game against GM Dragun Kamil | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

11-year-old Raahil Mullick, rated 2128, gained 67 Elo points in this event | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Raahil's parents Rupali and Prashant Mullick were present at the venue not just as chess mom and dad, but also as ChessBase India correspondents. The first interview in this report has been done by Rupali and shot by Prashant | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

GM Lalith Babu scored 6.5/9 and performed at an amazing 2650+ rating. He beat GM Indjic and Gordievsky in the process. The grandmaster from AP has surely announced his arrival into elite Indian chess! | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Young Pranav Anand is extremely talented, but he didn't have a great event and is losing 17 Elo points | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Karthikeyan Murali played a solid tournament apart from a loss against... | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

...Arjun Erigaisi. Arjun lost the first round to Raahil Mullick and then two rounds to Eljanov and Romanov, but still managed to maintain his rating | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

IM P. Iniyan scored 5.0/9 and maintained his rating | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

GM Aryan Chopra scored 5.5/9. He lost the last two rounds. Otherwise he was posted for a strong finish. | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

Some tasty bites for the players at the closing ceremony! | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

The commentary was powered by ChessBase, and Daniel King as well as Anna Rudolf did a tremendous job! | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

FIDE Presidential Candidate Arkadij Dvorkovich visited the tournament | Photo: Biel Chess Festival 2018

The picture has three of the biggest achievers of the event from India. We covered Vaibhav in this report. Separate reports on Prithu Gupta and Arjun Kalyan's GM norm achievement will be published soon on the ChessBase India newspage.

Know more about Finite and Infinite:

Simon Sinek speaks about finite and infinite goals

Jacob Aagaard speaks about the fixed and growth mindset which is a part of his book Thinking Inside the Box.

We would recommend you to watch some of the videos on this topic by motivational speaker Simon Sinek to learn more about having the right mindset as a player

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