Chessdom: Hello Manuel, thank you for kindly accepting the interview. Obviously our first question will be about one of the most important events of the year – the UNAM Gran Fiesta in Mexico. The Torneo Cuadrangular will include Carlsen, Polgar, Bruzon and yourself. What are the expectations?
Manuel Leon Hoyos: The UNAM Gran Fiesta in Mexico will be an incredible tournament. I am very happy that this tournament will be held in Mexico and I am very honored to be invited to take part in the Cuadrangular tournament together with such great players. I look forward to very interesting matches.
Chessdom: Two years ago you already participated in the UNAM Cuadrangular and you played against Veselin Topalov. Can you tell us something about this experience?
Manuel Leon Hoyos: My match against Veselin was my first experience playing a match against such a renowned chess player. I learned a lot from the experience. Playing against a strong player like Veselin, you notice the way they think. I believe this contributed to the improvement of my own game.
Chessdom: You joined the SPICE chess program at the Webster University. What are the impressions about the College, the program, the city of Saint Louis and the US chess scene?
Manuel Leon Hoyos: The SPICE chess program is a very unique program. Susan Polgar has done incredible work to accomplish an enormous success for SPICE. Webster University has been a fantastic home for SPICE. The hospitality we have received is spectacular. The University itself is very nice and offers all the technological facilities you could ask for.
It is very nice to have such a great team so we can learn from each other and work together. St. Louis is a very nice city and the Chess Club at Saint Louis is one of most beautiful clubs I have ever seen.
Chessdom: You already won the 113th United States Open Chess Championship against 500 players in the field. Will you become more active in the American Open tournaments?
Manuel Leon Hoyos: Actually the US Open was my first Open tournament in the U.S. and a very successful one! I was very happy with my performance and I hope I will participate in other important tournaments in the U.S.
Chessdom: Mexico saw a huge boost in chess development with a number of great events – the World Championship and Linares/Morelia tournament. Now UNAM is investing a lot in promotion of the game. Can you give us more insights about the state of chess in Mexico?
Manuel Leon Hoyos: Mexico is a country that has a lot of chess fans. I am very happy that UNAM is promoting chess with these big festivities. I am additionally happy since UNAM is my favorite soccer team in the Mexican League.
It is important to mention the great work done by Mr. Hiquingari Carranza who has been a key person for the realization of the Linares/Morelia tournaments and the UNAM “Gran Fiesta” as well.
Chessdom: On the October FIDE list you broke the 2600-barrier and reached your personal high with 2603 elo. How did your play progress since our previous interview when you became Grandmaster?
Manuel Leon Hoyos: Reaching the 2600-barrier had been a goal that I was aiming for for a long time. I was very happy with my performance at the Chess Olympiad that contributed to the Mexican Team’s result. In addition, I also gained the points I required to break the 2600. After I became GM I think I acquired a lot of knowledge and my play has been improving slowly but steadily.
Chessdom: How did the work with Vassily Ivanchuk influence your game?
Manuel Leon Hoyos: Vassily has been a mentor for me. I accomplished the huge step of becoming a Grand Master at 18 in great part thanks to him. Working with him opened to me the windows to see a new horizon. He is a true lover of chess and always encourages me to improve my game as well. I feel very fortunate to be his friend.
Chessdom: Are you still running into zeitnots? :)
Manuel Leon Hoyos: Not as before! I try to be more practical nowadays.
Chessdom: For the conclusion, tell us something about your future plans and the tournament schedule.
Manuel Leon Hoyos: I am in my first year at Webster University and I plan to get a degree in Economics. I will try to combine my studies with some chess as the time allows me!
Chessdom: Thank you for the pleasant talk and good luck in the upcoming tournaments.
Manuel Leon Hoyos: Thank you for the very kind interview and hope to see you in future tournaments!