Spanish no. 1 Paco Vallejo has decided to combine his career as a player with working as a coach. In an exclusive interview he explains that players with a rating of around 2600-2720 find themselves in a difficult situation, with few tournaments on offer that are of real interest either from a financial or sporting point of view. He also talks about where he calls home, Wei Yi, and what he can offer as a coach.
We’ve illustrated this interview with some of Paco’s posts on Twitter.
David Martínez: Hi Paco! Do you
consider Menorca the best place in the world to spend the summer?
Paco Vallejo: Well, it’s a very personal matter, but I love Menorca for many reasons. It’s where I was born, I have family here, we’ve got a nice house and it’s a very relaxing place with some incredible beaches. It’s a small paradise where people can still sleep with the doors of their homes open. However, there are other fascinating spots. Mallorca combines good beaches and nightlife, while Spain in general has wonderful food and lots of places to visit. I should also mention Thailand, where it’s also easy to spend a good time and the people smile a lot, which helps you feel happier! A beach that also impressed me a lot was in Aruba, although there are hidden wonders in Menorca.
Where would you say is your home?
That’s a tougher question than it seems, but I guess I have clothes in two places, Mallorca and Menorca, and you could say it’s half one and half the other. I also spent a spell in Russia, learning some Russian and playing a few tournaments. That was an interesting experience, although the weather is very tough.
Since you mentioned Russia, could you answer one of the big mysteries: why hasn’t Russia done well in recent team championships?
Only one team can win, and there are already a lot of countries that have teams capable of winning. Russia is usually the favourite, but the gap is becoming smaller and smaller, and now China, Ukraine, Armenia, the USA, Azerbaijan and so on can win any tournament if they’re inspired. For me there’s no unusual issue – it’s just probabilities, pure numbers.
The women’s team does still work extremely well.
Among the women the competition isn’t yet so fierce, and I believe there are fewer teams that can challenge the supremacy of China and Russia – although that’s going to change and there will be more competitors, meaning Russia and China will win less often.
What do you think about Wei Yi? In my opinion he should already have been invited to the Grand Chess Tour, or perhaps even to the Candidates.
He’s been making very smooth progress and it would be nice to see him in a supertournament. I’m sure he’s soon going to get opportunities, but invitations are rare and it’s not usually easy to get onto that circuit. Elo counts for 95% and other factors are only 5%, unless you’re from a country that organises a big event.
We’ve read recently on social media that you want to combine your life as a player with that of a coach. What can you tell us about that?
Coaching is something I’ve been doing for many years, but now I want to try and do it online occasionally. It seems it’s been confirmed that the 1st Paco Vallejo Campus will take place in Mondariz Balneario from 26 July to 2 August. I’m not going to stop playing but, frankly, I think players between 2720 and 2600 are in a kind of limbo where tournaments are rarely of either economic or sporting interest. In any case, at first I’m only thinking of spending a few hours a week on this and seeing how it suits me. I’ve had the luck to be able to do what I like in life and I don’t see a reason to change that now or ever. I speak various languages, so there’s a big potential market for giving classes in Spanish or English, and in fact there are already many GMs who have followed that path. Moreover, I’d one day like to have a family, and travelling eight months a year is virtually impossible, so this could be an interesting alternative.
Would you like to be an analyst for an elite player, the way Wojtaszek or Kasimdzhanov are, or would you prefer to work with young kids who are at a lower level but therefore have more to learn?
I’ve already worked very hard with Topalov, and I know what that’s like. It’s not easy – it’s a job to do for a limited period of time. You learn a lot, but going back to that doesn’t appeal to me at the moment.
Veselin Topalov used one of Paco's recommendations to beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in Norway Chess, explaining the Spanish no. 1 had realised that some Semi Slav positions are much better for Black than the computer used to think
What are your strong points as a coach?
For starters, when it comes to preparing openings I’ve played almost all of them and I have a lot of experience. Therefore I’d say it’s very easy for me to point out where a student has holes in his or her repertoire. I can show how to fix that or even come up with a new repertoire in the style that suits him. I’d also say that I’m fun in general, so people won’t get bored, and if you’re enjoying yourself you’ll also learn more. I have a very open mind and think I’m extremely objective both with myself and others, which helps to find points where it’s possible to improve. For example, I’d say I worked well on the openings lately, but I neglected physical preparation. Of course I have the excuse that when you’re travelling it’s more difficult, but when you lose what you could have done really makes no difference.
Have you already received a lot of offers? How can chess24 users get in touch with you?
Yes, a lot of people have written to me and I’d like to give some classes in English as well, so I think I’ll soon have my hands full Still, in order to help someone I’d first like to see they’re serious and truly want to improve.
My chess24 username is Padelman and I have a lot of “friends” and get all kinds of questions daily.
We know that you’re soon going to record more videos for chess24. Could you give us a preview?
I’m going to try and do a bit of everything – providing some new options in the Nimzo-Indian, for example. There are variations you face quite often, and it’s very useful to have some extra surprise response. I also plan to give a thorough overview of an aggressive defence against 1.d4, since I think a lot of people need that. Against 1.e4 anyone can learn a Sicilian and play to win, but against 1.d4 that sometimes seems impossible… So we’ll try to dispel that illusion! And there’s one more surprise.
Although almost all of Vallejo's 200 videos for chess24 are in Spanish there's a good chance he'll be doing something for English-speakers in the near future. Let us know if there's anything you'd particularly like to see!
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