Karjakin Wins Candidates' Tournament, Qualifies For World Title Match

Karjakin Wins Candidates' Tournament, Qualifies For World Title Match

| 192 | Chess Event Coverage

Sergey Karjakin defeated Fabiano Caruana in the final round of the 2016 Candidates' Tournament, making him the new challenger for the world championship. Karjakin will face World Champion Magnus Carlsen in November in New York.

Photo: Lennart Ootes.

More than a hundred spectators on site, including special guests like Olga Girya, Sergey Rublevsky, Evgeny Sveshnikov, Mark Dvoretsky, and hundreds of thousands of chess fans online witnessed a historic day of chess. Sergey Karjakin, the youngest player ever to gain the GM title (at 12 years and 7 months), has reached a new and major peak in his chess career: a world title match.

After Vishy Anand had drawn his game with Peter Svidler, Karjakin only needed a draw in the final round. But he nicely refuted a huge error by Fabiano Caruana to decide the game in his favor, in less than four hours of play, in a game that was worth roughly half a million dollars.

Rather fittingly, all other three games had already finished when the decisive moments took place in the playing hall. The remnants of the other fights, the whole tournament was history, and only one game would decide everything.

Every day, just before the game second Vladimir Potkin wished
his boss Sergey Karjakin good luck. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

If Anand had beaten Svidler a draw would have been enough for Caruana to win the tournament on tiebreak. However, it didn't really make sense to take this into account; it was more important to keep winning chances from the very start. For that, Caruana opted for the Classical Sicilian.

I basically just studied the games of Li Chao to prepare,” he said.

Karjakin played the Rauzer and then Caruana opted for a topical line: 6...e6, 7...a6, and 8...Bd7. After his 12th move Karjakin started thinking for the first time, because the move order was a bit rare. 

The final round again saw huge media attention, mostly
focusing on Karjakin-Caruana. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

By move 20 Caruana could be fairly happy: he had managed to reach an unbalanced position with long-term trumps such as his central control and the bishop pair. However, as long as the queens would be on the board, his king would always feel a bit insecure.

Move 30 was the next critical moment, when Karjakin found an excellent, practical pawn sacrifice to create threats against that king in Caruana's time trouble. The main advantage of the sacrifice was that from that moment onwards the position was easier to play for White.

Karjakin's e4-e5! was an excellent decision. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Karjakin was about to win the pawn back when Caruana thought he could consolidate. However, this failed tactically. Karjakin sacrificed his rook in the middle of the board for a winning attack. Without hesitation he decided the game, and the tournament.

The Karjakin-Caruana post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

Karjakin said that he had prepared very well for the tournament, for example during a pleasant training session in Dubai. “I came here very fresh and very motivated, trying to show my best,” he said. “During the tournament I was just trying to stay calm, play well and to concentrate on my play and not to think too much about the overall results.”

A big hug from Karjakin's manager Kirill Zangalis. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

He also mentioned his seconds: Vladimir Potkin, Alexander Motylev, Yuri Dokhoian and “also my secret coach was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov!”

About the match in New York he said: “Magnus is a nice guy. We're maybe not best friends but we have a good relationship and we speak to each other sometime, by Skype also. If I'm in good form then I will have chances. I should just try to focus on my chess and not think too much about who is the favorite.”

Caruana's comments to after the game.

Karjakin also briefly spoke to afterward.

For the official channel Karjakin was interviewed as well. There he said: “I'm probably the happiest person in the world at this moment!” To the question what he will do with the prize money (he won 95,000 euros), he replied: “I will give it to my wife; she knows what to do!”

Interview with Karjakin courtesy of WorldChess.

Few expected Vishy Anand to win his black game against Peter Svidler (and make Karjakin's win relevant). However, the Indian did get a very nice position out of the opening. In yet another English Opening his early knight maneuver to c2 wasn't that challenging.

But Svidler managed to avoid getting worse with well-timed pawn pushes (16.d4! 22.f4!) and then both players headed for the draw. Having spent 14 hours behind the board in the last two rounds, Svidler's lack of energy was understandable.

“On the one hand I'm satisfied, but on the other hand there's a feeling of a wasted opportunity,” said Anand. “I'm aware of my age, which brings certain limitations. but as you can see it doesn't need to stop you.”

The Svidler-Anand post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

Anish Giri did end with the memorable score of 14 draws. In his final game with Veselin Topalov the Dutch GM got surprised in the opening, hardly got an advantage and at some point just repeated moves. 

He told that he went to the tournament with little confidence, having played badly in Wijk and in Zurich. “I was even losing several games to my seconds,” Giri said about his preparation. His confidence grew during the tournament, but somehow he just failed to convert some nice and some winning positions.

Many jokes were made on social media. Giri especially liked the one that goes: if he were a rapper his name would be 50 Percent. “I'm giving people a nice subject. I have no problem with jokes, people can make fun of me, because I do that to. Go ahead, but make sure they're good jokes!”

Giri said he liked the rap written by our member Alapinus! | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Topalov admitted that the other players took the tournament much more seriously than he did. “But my main problem was a lack of concentration, many blunders.” The Bulgarian joked: “My new goal should be to end the year above 2700” but added, more seriously: “I don't have a problem to accept that my time is probably gone.”

The Giri-Topalov post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian also finished their tournament with a draw, keeping the trend of one decisive game per round (in almost all rounds of the tournament!). Nakamura was reasonably happy with finishing on 50 percent after his bad start. Aronian, who was fighting for first place until the penultimate round, was fairly devastated:

“Honestly I'm heartbroken. The amount of work you put in to get a position where you're playing well and you get good positions, and just to ruin them like this, of course is my own personal tragedy. I'll have to live with that.”

The Nakamura-Aronian post-mortem courtesy of WorldChess.

Everyone wanted to interview the winner. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

2016 FIDE Candidates' Tournament | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Karjakin,S 2760 2855 phpfCo1l0.png ½1 10 ½½ ½½ ½½ ½1 8.5/14
2 Caruana,F 2794 2800 ½0 phpfCo1l0.png ½1 ½½ ½½ ½½ ½1 ½½ 7.5/14 51.50
3 Anand,V 2762 2804 01 ½0 phpfCo1l0.png ½½ ½1 ½0 7.5/14 50.50
4 Giri,A 2793 2776 ½½ ½½ ½½ phpfCo1l0.png ½½ ½½ ½½ ½½ 7.0/14 49.00
5 Svidler,P 2757 2780 ½½ ½½ ½½ phpfCo1l0.png ½1 ½½ ½½ 7.0/14 48.75
6 Aronian,L 2786 2777 ½½ ½½ ½0 ½½ ½0 phpfCo1l0.png 7.0/14 47.50
7 Nakamura,H 2790 2776 ½0 ½1 ½½ ½½ phpfCo1l0.png 11 7.0/14 45.75
8 Topalov,V 2780 2648 ½0 ½½ ½½ ½½ 00 phpfCo1l0.png 4.5/14

Karjakin was born January 12, 1990; Carlsen November 30 of the same year. As Emil Sutovsky pointed out on Facebook, the forthcoming world title match will be the youngest-ever world championship match by the average age of players. 

“Both of them are 26 (52 combined). To remind you, Botvinnik was 52 when he played his last Title Match (1963 vs Petrosian). Steinitz was 61 when he played his last match with Lasker. The previous youngest match was Karpov-Kasparov (1984), Karpov was 33, and Kasparov was 21.”

Still, the two players have played already 45 times against each other. In classical games the score is 3-1 for Carlsen, with 15 draws.

The New in Chess 2011/5 cover (with a photo taken by this reporter).

The FIDE Candidates' Tournament took place March 11-29 in the Central Telegraph building in Moscow. The total prize fund was €420,000, sponsored by the Tashir Group. The winner, Sergey Karjakin, has earned the right to play Magnus Carlsen in November in New York. phpfCo1l0.png


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Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

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