Crimean-born Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin, 26, has qualified to challenge Norwegian Magnus Carlsen for the world chess championship after he pulled off a brilliant rook sacrifice to beat his closest rival, American Fabiano Caruana, in the last round of the Candidates tournament in Moscow.
The Russian triumphed over the United States’ Fabiano Caruana, 23, whom he played in the last round. Karjakin scored 8.5/14 to finish first in the eight-player tournament, a full point ahead of Caruana and former world champion V. Anand on 7.5 points. Anand struggled to end at third. Other players in the tournament were Russia’s Peter Svidler, Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Hikaru Nakamura of the US, Levon Aronian of Armenia and Indian origin Anish Giri of the Netherlands.
Eight of the world’s top chess grandmasters had converged on Moscow to compete for the right to challenge reigning World Chess Federation (FIDE) champion Magnus Carlsen for the championship title. The Candidates tournament, held over three weeks at the historic Central Telegraph building in downtown Moscow, a few hundred meters from the Kremlin, was extremely hard-fought, with the lead changing hands several times as the players battled it out, playing each opponent twice – once with the white pieces, and once with the black pieces.
According to an announcement on the world chess FIDE website, Russian grandmaster Sergei Karjakin, 26, becomes the first Russian since 2008 to compete in a title match of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) championship, after he defeated Fabiano Caruana of the United States in Moscow on March 28.
Karjakin, playing the white pieces, won the final round of the FIDE World Candidates Tournament, after sacrificing a rook for a strong attack. Karjakin will now challenge reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen, 25, this November in New York. Going into the final round on March 28, Sergei Karjakin of Russia and Fabiano Caruana of the United States lead the field and are set to play each other. If the game ends in a draw, the winner is determined by a series of tiebreakers that take into account head-to-head records and total wins.
Founded in 1924, FIDE is made up of 186 international chess federations. The eight participants in the Candidates tournament are all ranked among the top 17: Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Anish Giri of the Netherlands, Viswanathan Anand of India, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana of the United States, Sergei Karjakin and Peter Svidler of Russia and Levon Aronian of Armenia. From March 10 to 30, Moscow’s historic Central Telegraph building has hosted the FIDE Candidates Tournament — a double round-robin tournament over 14 games. The grandmasters are competing for the right to play against Carlsen in November, a match that will determine the 2016 world champion.
The field includes six players currently ranked in the top 10. They were competing for about $460,000 in prize money.
In the most dramatic finish of the event, Sergei Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana entered the final round of the Candidates contest in Moscow with equal points and paired one against another. The statement said there was one more variable at play, owing to the tie-break rules, and former champion – Indian born but living in Spain – Anand’s result was also important for the two leaders. India’s Anand faced a weak candidate Russia’s Peter Svidler in the final round on March 28 which Anand was the favorite to win. Following a series of massive exchanges, the game ended in a draw, however. Even if Anand had won eh wound not be the candidate to face as per the points’ norms. This is the first time that the five time champion Anand could not face the championship in 10 years. Many chess fans suggest that he retires now but he may be inclined to do so, unless Indian government proposes India’s highest award for him jus t as it did in the case of cricketer Sachin who had refused to retire even after becoming irrelevant being at the crease with a bat. That, though looks like a chess puzzle, is a risky gamble for both Anand and India.
The TASS news agency reported Karjakin said the first thing he heard after emerging from the room were rounds of viewers’ applause. “I will remember them my whole life,” he was quoted as saying. “This victory is my greatest accomplishment in life so far. Now I’m going to New York. Not yet thinking about the game with Carlsen. For now I want to celebrate the victory.”
Russia’s chess and sports officials praised the victory and the upcoming title match as issues of national importance. “Karjakin must now solve the main task for the country,” the head of Russia’s chess federation, Andrei Filatov, was quoted by TASS as saying. “Now he must defeat Carlsen. We are expecting this from him. We are going for the crown.” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Karjakin’s victory in the candidates’ tournament “will give a powerful impetus to the development of the sport of chess in our country,” TASS reported. “Now we wholeheartedly wish him success in New York,” Mutko said.
The Soviet Union and later Russia held the FIDE world championship title nearly without interruption since the championships began in 1948 and until the 1990s. But Russians have not held the title in recent years.
The last time a Russian grandmaster played at the world championship was in 2008, when former champion Vladimir Kramnik challenged Anand to regain his title, but lost.
Born in Simferopol, the capital of the now-Russian republic of Crimea, in 1990, Karjakin, a former child prodigy, broke Carlsen’s record for becoming the world’s youngest grandmaster at the age of 12 years and seven months. He has a classical playing style heavily influenced by Russian world champions from the Soviet era, and as a young player was coached by English world championship challenger Nigel Short, one of the few Westerners to qualify for a world title match.
Karjakin becomes the first Russian to challenge for the world championship since Vladimir Kramnik, who last won the title in 2006. Formerly a Ukrainian citizen, Karjakin took Russian citizenship in 2009. Prior to winning the Moscow Candidates tournament, Karjakin’s biggest successes include winning the 2015 World Cup and finishing second in the last Candidates tournament, held in the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk in 2014.
As the winner, Karjakin qualifies to play a 12-game head-to-head match against two-time world champion Magnus Carlsen, the 25-year-old Norwegian wunderkind who is the highest rated player in the history of the game.
The Championship match, set to take place in New York City in November, would be a formidable test for Karjakin, as Carlsen is renowned for his legendary endgame skills and has a ferocious will to win not seen in chess since Russia’s world champion Gary Kasparov dominated the game in the 1980s and 1990s. Kasparov, who retired from the game in 2005 to focus on a career as a liberal pro-Western politician, has been an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin for several years, and has lived in self-imposed exile in New York since 2013.
Karjakin knows too well it is not at all easy to defeat a formidable chess hero Carlsen this year or in the years to come. Former champion Anand struggled but failed to win even a single game against him last two times as a shrewd player he maintained a steady over his opponent.