The following interview was published in C No. 1130 (12 December 2003)
Interview with 15-year old GM Alejandro Ramírez
Our Latin America Correspondent, Luiz Roberto Da Costa Jr., conducted this interview by e-mail with GM Alejandro Ramírez, 15 year-old player from Costa Rica. Ramirez did very well in the recent tournament in Santo Domingo, sharing first prize. Luiz Da Costa reports:
"I would like to thank Mrs. Marjorie Alvarez, Costa Rica Delegate for FIDE, who contact GM Alejandro Ramírez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This interview was made for Chess Today (English version) and Inforchess (Spanish version)."
When and how you learned to play chess?
When I was 4, I saw with my parents the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer". After seeing it, I asked my father to teach me how to play chess. He undusted an old board he had and taught me chess moves.
Who was your first teacher, and with whom you work on chess now?
My first teacher was my dad because I learned from him first moves. As for a proper chess teacher, I never had one. I study theory and tactic independently. On strategy and psychology of chess I work together with my dad.
Can you tell us about your best achievements?
I became an International Master at the age of 13 and completed the requirements for my Grand Master title at the age of 15, becoming the first Grand Master ever in Central America and the youngest now in America and the second youngest now in the world. Over the board my best results are, definitely, those games against players from the top 100 list like GM Igor Khenkin from Germany and GM Evgeny Alekseev from Russia. And, of course, my draw against the super-GM Alexander Morozevich at the last Olympiad in Bled. It's worth to mention that Morozevich was the first GM I played against.
When you started to compete internationally?
On a regular basis in June 2002, thanks to the sponsorship from GBM of Costa Rica, which is an IBM Alliance Company. Before that I only played twice outside my country: in 1998 in the U-10 category during the Pan American Championship where I won gold medal and in 2001 in the sub-zonal 2.3.c where I became an International Master.
Games of which players you like most?
There are players who are great in theory, others are great strategists, so to mention just one will be unfair.
Is chess supported in your country?
Not really, actually chess is receiving a little bit more of Governmental support, but it is minimum. I am an exception, thanks to support from GBM of Costa Rica. They cover all travel expenses for my father and myself. Without them, the GM title wouldn't be possible. Even more, GBM is developing my own web page.
Are there many chess clubs and tournaments in Costa Rica?
Not as many as I would like. But thanks to my achievements, chess is becoming a little more popular and the number of players (especially children) has increased in the last months. In my country there are few tournaments and none at the high level. I wish this can change and Costa Rica can have a tournament with several Grand Masters participating, like the Santo Domingo Open.
Who are the strongest players of your country?
I am the highest rated not only in my country, but in all Central America. In Costa Rica we also have IM Bernal González, IM Sergio Minero and IM Leonardo Valdés.
What do you do and what you like to do apart of chess?
Chess will be my profession and, actually, my university, because I dedicate 6 or 8 hours daily to chess. Besides chess I like languages: I speak Spanish and English and I am learning French and German. I also have taken some courses in Computer Programming. To keep fit I play tennis and jog. As hobbies I like to read in English actually I am reading 'The Emperor's Minds' by Penrose which is about quantum physics and algorithms. And, of course, I love subjects like Lord of the Rings, which I consider to be a very deep book and not only a fight between good and bad.
What do you think about professional chess career? It is possible to say that it has already begun?
As I said before, chess will be my professional career and yes, I believe that the Grand Master title gets me close to my graduation in chess university. Now I need to start climbing positions on the professional ladder.
Note by Luiz Roberto Da Costa Jr.: "There are two books which were published some years ago in Costa Rica wrote by IM Alexis Murillo Tsili and his brother Manuel Murillo Tsili: Antologia de ajedrez costarricense y centroamericano (364 pages) and El ajedrez en Costa Rica y Centroamérica (391 pages). Both mention one promising candidate to become a Grandmaster: Alejandro Ramírez."
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