The Czech Grandmaster Vojta Plat is a welcome guest in Groningen; it's already his fourth time he's attending the Chess Festival. Plat likes it so much in Groningen, that he brings along no less than five of his friends to this edition: Alexey Kislinsky, Martin Cerveny, Martin Simet, Ales Jedlicka, and Ottomar Ladva. The 24-years old Plat became an IM in 2009 and obtained the Grandmaster-title in 2017. He currently has a rating of 2550. Since several years now he is living the life of a chess professional, but he's not the type that stays home to study chess in solitude all day, every day. Plat very much likes the social aspect of the chess community: the After Chess program during the tournament and a nice glass of beer in good company seem almost as important to him as his results behind the board.


If you wouldn't play chess, in what sport you would (want to) be a professional? And of all professions?
As a minor I played football quite well , so probably I would be a football-player, or maybe ice-hockey. And of all professions? Something with IT or something with travelling or tourism - a tour guide for example.

According to you, how big is the factor luck in chess?
Fortunately, chess is about skills. Well, there is also a factor of luck, but minimally. Not like in poker for example.

If you could change one rule in chess, what would it be?
After each hour a small break for a cigarette... But seriously? New rules about playing with two hands or about promotion are absurd. So if anything must change, I think these rules may be canceled. Chess rules should not be so strict.

What about playing some rounds Fischer Random? Or change the system of pairings to only announce it a few minutes before a game, in order to discourage preparation? Or to play on for three points, as where after a draw a blitz game decides the third point?
Nowadays preparation is the most important part of chess. So why not play any different kind of chess? I am all for it. A draw is the most common result of the game, so in these proposed rules there will be many blitz games. And not everyone likes to play blitz that much. But Fischer Random could definitely be an interesting idea.

How does a normal/standard day look like in the life of Vojta Plat? 
Heh. After waking up I must drink coffee and smoke a cigarette. After that I am going to check my email, facebook and some chess servers. Usually I solve 10-15 tactics exercises and after that I am going to shop, to the center. Usually I go on my bike, sport is needed... I like cooking, so I cook for myself, but sometimes I am lazy, so I just order some food. After lunch again some chess and if it's nice weather I take my bike and go for a trip, my record is 210 km in one day. But sometimes I travel only 3 km's, my friend has a pub in the wood, which is in the neighborhood and he has really good Slivovice (the Czech national alcohol)! In summer if I don't play any tournament for two weeks for example, I am here every day. Sometimes the mornings are really very hard and difficult :-)

What was the best chess advice given to you?
When I was 11 years old, Sergei Movsesian told me about some chess CD's, it was the year 2005. Nowadays it's different, but in 2005 these CD's were something amazing. For my improvement as a chess player they were the best help ever. My father bought me 8 CD's, one was about endgames, another about middlegame, another about strategy, etc. Together 8 CD's. Every day I did 15 tactic problems. Every first day I worked on endgames, and every second day on tactics and strategy. I did it immediately after coming back from school. Every day two or three hours. Afterwards I played football with my friends. It was probably the best time of my life, no stress and no problems...

How would you describe your playing style?
I used to be really good in tactics and in wild positions. I didn't know any special openings, just some tricks. For my age I was really good in endgames, which was a big advantage against my peers. Lately I'm trying to play like Kramnik or Carlsen, but I discovered I still don't know anything :-D

Who is your favorite opponent? And who do you really like to play one day?
I have many favorite opponents against whom I have a good score :-D There are some Czech players or from Slovakia. For example Milan Pacher who played in Groningen 2012? (I am not sure, he was there with me and Peter Michalik.) For example Peter is my unfavorite player :-D  And against who I really like to play? Hmmm. Nakamura and Magnus. My favorites :-)

Is there a way to recognize the chess player in a crowd?
People say that chess players smell sweaty and have greasy hair. So they may be recognized by this :-D

Chess, is it - according to you - art, science, game, sport or just a way to keep the crazy people sane?
Is it exactly that. All together. Art and science, but there are nerves and rivalery involved, and this is part of sports. I like it when after the game we are going with friends to drink some beers, we can speak about everything, usually not about chess so much. So this is also the reason why I like to play chess - cognition and meeting new people is cool.

What's the longest period after another, you are able not to think of chess?
When I sleep, but also sometimes during the sleeping I have dreams about chess :-D

Artificial Intelligence takes over chess, one could say. What do you think, shall it also take over life itself eventually?
Unfortunately yes...Alpha Zero knew all openings after a few hours and knew what is the best for black and white. Disaster.. .But progress can't be stopped.

What memories does Groningen bring back to you?
Very nice and friendly people, good atmosphere in the whole city, coffee shop's :-D And off course also a pretty strong open tournament, with the opportunity to play against strong players. I don't celebrate Christmas, that's why I don't want to stay at home. And being in Groningen is great, I like it there so much :-)

What is your (own) favorite game and why?
My own favorite game is against David Howell. It was my first win against a GM, with black and in my favorite opening - the Grünfeld.

- Benno de Jongh -

Foto: Harry Gielen