How to judge talent?

Recently there has been lots of talk about the german prodigy Vincent Keymer. The kid is certainly a huge talent and obviously the only realistic hope for german chess to produce a world class player. He worked with Jussupow and currently he gets coached by Leko. Yet there is a slight problem and that is his performance curve. It’s simply way too flat, especially for the massive support that he is getting. If this is some sort of valid indication, he may even peak out barely around 2600. What do you expect from young prodigies these days? You expect them to be lightning fast and improvise a lot, especially in the openings. Keymer is totally different. His approach is very objective and very scientfic. He is not trying to hustle his opponents, he is trying to play precise. But that’s probably what is holding him back. Engines have more or less killed the scientfic approach to chess. Modern chess is all about physical ability and performing well under pressure.

On the positive side Keymer managed to avoid the forced draw, but eventually it was him who got outplayed. That is pretty bad news. Paehtz on the other hand had probably set her goal on a draw all the way, therefore she accepted it, even in a winning position. That’s also pretty bad. Overall I would say that this game was very interesting, but certainly nothing to cheer about.

Keymer’s performance according to my database:
2016: white 2418 – black 2360 – avg. 2387
2017: white 2497 – black 2333 – avg. 2414
2018: white 2525 – black 2504 – avg. 2515

Let’s talk about the specific problem a bit more in detail. The human brain grows out around the age of 15. This means that Keymer has about one year left to reach his full mental capabilities. That’s about one year, maybe one and a half, to close a gap naturally by just growing up. The other way to gain strength is to work hard on his openings. Let’s take Gustafsson for example. He was just an international master with Elo 2450 who was basically playing the trash that you could learn from Batsford books at the time. But then around the year 2000 he picked up “Openings According to Kramnik” by Khalifman, switched on the Shredder engine, checked the lines in detail and developed a world class repertoire which shot him up all the way to 2650. That sort of jump is simply not available to Keymer, because he already gets his openings from Leko. There is simply not much room left for massive improvements. Leko managed to improve the results with black, but that’s about it. Winning straight from the opening is practically not possible anymore, because everyone has access to critical evaluations within a couple of minutes, not within a couple of days as it used to be in the past. That’s the reason why Kasparov retired, that’s the reason why Leko dropped out of the Top-20 and that’s the reason why Gustafsson gave up on his ambitions after all. The only way for Keymer to gain a lot of Elo-points fast is to play the Drawmeister in closed tournaments or to play matches with some overrated veterans, guys like Igor Rausis for example. They have to select his opponents similar to managing a boxer.