Kasparov: "Karjakin as Champion would have been a misunderstanding"

by Vera Jürgens
12/8/2016 – Of course, the match between Carlsen and Karjakin was closely followed by the Russian chess press. Karjakin lost narrowly but in Russia he is still a hero. Garry Kasparov, however, was blunt: "A World Champion Karjakin would have been a misunderstanding." Here are more reactions from the Russian press, including an interview with Sergey Karjakin.

ChessBase 15 - Mega package ChessBase 15 - Mega package

Find the right combination! ChessBase 15 program + new Mega Database 2020 with 8 million games and more than 80,000 master analyses. Plus ChessBase Magazine (DVD + magazine) and CB Premium membership for 1 year!


The World Championship match in the Russian Chess press

Sergey Karjakin with his second Vladimir Potkin in New York - Photos: Max Avdeev

By Vera Jürgens

All in all, the Russian media thought that Magnus Carlsen deservedly won against challenger Sergey Karjakin. "Karjakin performed miracles in this match, just like the great magician Houdini", writes "Championat". However, Karjakin's passive play was criticized. The result was seen as just because it was impossible "to win a game if you do not at all play for a win."

In an interview with Radio Svoboda the 13. World Champion commented on Carlsen's win. He thought Karjakin's play to be inconspicuous. He was a strong grandmaster, but not more - in contrast to Magnus Carlsen who, according to Kasparov, had the qualities of a champion. According to Kasparov, Carlsen was basically better than Karjakin in all phases of the game.

In his customary outspoken way Kasparov said: "A World Champion Karjakin would have been a misunderstanding. After all, all 16 World Champions, starting with Steinitz, are remarkable players, and our chess world is proud of them. It would have been very strange indeed if a player such as Karjakin had outplayed an opponent of Carlsen's class. For such a sensation the stars in heaven really need to be in a seriously unusual constellation."

Kasparov shares the view of other observers that Carlsen had played below his usual level. However, Kasparov did not see political factors, which others had often conjured, at work in the match. "Karjakin has often revealed his loyalty to the regime of Putin. Sometimes he did this very aggressively. Magnus did not care much. There was no political background similar to that of Fischer-Spassky 1972, Karpov-Kortschnoi 1978 or the matches Karpov and I played."

The World Champion in the Dark Room, as the cabin was dubbed by observers

"Carlsen will play his main matches against younger players"

When asked whether he thinks that Carlsen has still potential to develop Kasparov said:
"Seven years ago I worked with Magnus and since then he has changed a lot. Even back then I knew that he had oustanding potential and now he has started to realize this potential. Magnus is 26 years old and still has to time to develop - particularly in regard to his mental strength. He should continually set himself new goals because chessplayers reach the peak of their career when they are about 30, if not earlier. It is difficult to say whether Magnus will improve further. If he gives it all - which he did not against Karjakin - he is phenomenally strong. But it is difficult to say whether his challengers of 2018 or 2020 will be able to beat him. Magnus will play his main matches against younger players. But in the next two or maybe even four years he still has the better chances."

Sergey Karjakin is still a hero in Russia

Many TV stations waited at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow for the arrival of Karjakin's flight from New York. The President of the Russian Chess Federation, Andrey Filatov, gave journalists a first statement:
"Victory was very close. But Sergey is still a hero. Oh, had he played the knight [in game 10], you would have celebrated us with the crown. But that does not matter, we have to look ahead. In two years time we will try to dethrone Carlsen. We still have Kramnik, Grischuk ... and of course Karjakin. Sergey won the hearts of the Americans and caused the World Champion to have a nervous breakdown - that means something. Carlsen showed weaknesses. His hands were trembling when he put up the pieces in the crucial game. That was after his win, when he tried very hard to appear very calm. We did not manage to adjust to the rapid tie-break, however, the Norwegian followed a clever strategy. Still: there is nothing we have to be ashamed of. Six million people from 206 countries followed the final online and that is a record!"

Magnus Carlsen during game 12, which was a short one

The Norwegian without a name

Sergey Karjakin also answered the questions of the journalists:

What will you do next?
I long to see my son Aleks. I have not seen him for more than 40 days. Just when he made his first steps. For me, this is a moving sight. As soon as I am home I will grab him. Then I will simply take time off and relax.

What did you think about during the flight to Russia?
I thought that a lot of people here have supported me. I am grateful to my coaches, my doctor, my fans, the sponsors, the chess federation. And I would like to thank the government, even our president was rooting for me. Thus I am very happy to return home where I am loved and people look forward to seeing me.

You mentioned how you were supported in New York, even the taxi drivers did not want your money. Did you really feel how the Americans were rooting for you?
Yes! Particularly so during the last days when the tension became almost unbearable and the tie-break had to decide everything. A whole army was rooting for me. I did not manage to defeat Carlsen but I showed good results. I was a worthy opponent for him and I am not ashamed to return home.

Do you already think about your next attempt to get the crown in two years time?
Of course. For a short time I will relax but then I will start to prepare. My goal is to win the Candidates again. After all, I have shown that I am a match for Magnus.

How did you say good bye to the Norwegian? Amicably? Or did the bitterness of defeat get in the way?
We have completely normal relations. We leave our anger at the chess board. I congratulated him to his birthday which he celebrated on the day he won the tie-break. But our duel is not over yet. I hope to have the last word.

In game 10 you had a chance to draw but you did not make an obvious knight move and eventually lost the game. Did you see the knight move?
I saw the move but fell into a psychological trap. Carlsen at all costs had to play for a win and I was certain that he would not make such primitive mistakes. Therefore I ignored this move. Perhaps I had too much respect for the Norwegian. I probably should have been a bit more audacious.

Everyone admired your defensive skills. Your love of soccer is also well-known. Would you be ready to advise the defenders of Spartak, your favorite team?
(Smiles) Yes, much more so after Spartak did not show in Samare what the team can do, to put it mildly.

Do you suffer a lot because you lost the match against Carlsen?
Well, you know, our match will enter the books, it will be analyzed. I am not ashamed. I believe I deserve a break of a few weeks. Then the World Championships in rapid and blitz are due, definitely not easy. You always have to keep in shape, otherwise you will no longer have success.

You gained a lot of rating points.
Yes, currently I am number six in the world. Before that I was number nine. However, I do not want to stay there forever.

Letzer Blick vor dem Kampf: Die Karjakins im letzten Moment vor der 11. Partie

A last look before the match: the Karjakins before game 11


Translation from German into English: Johannes Fischer

Did you know...

... that ChessBase offers a DVD about Sergey Karjakin as a young talent? Lorin D'Costa shows how Karjakin became grandmaster and illustrates the strenghts of the young Karjakin with a lot of instructive examples.

Chess Prodigies Uncovered:
Sergey Karjakin

Sergey Karjakin hit the headlines in 2002 when he became the world’s youngest ever grandmaster aged just 12 years 7 months, a record which shocked the chess world and still stands today. In the first of this new series with ChessBase, IM Lorin D’Costa investigates one of the most famous prodigies of modern times – Sergey Karjakin. In this DVD, D’Costa focuses mainly on Sergey’s early career from aspiring 9 year old up to grandmaster at 12, culminating in his current world top 10 status, and on who his rivals are for the title of world champion. Not many chess players can say they defeated a grandmaster at age 11, but Sergey did when he defeated Pavel Eljanov in the Ukrainian Team Championships in 2001, and from a level endgame at that! How did Sergey defeat one of the world’s best players, Alexei Shirov, with masterful precision at the age of just 12? How did Sergey grind down the reigning world champion Vladimir Kramnik in 2004 in an opposite coloured bishop ending in the Dortmund playoff aged just 14? Enjoy these and many other scintillating games, along with the new ChessBase interactive format of Question & Answer, to enjoy an interesting documentary about one of the strongest players in modern day chess and his road from young prodigy to grandmaster and beyond! Video running time: 5 hours.
Language: English
ISBN: ISBN: 978-3-86681-379-3
Delivery: Download, Post
Level: Beginner,  Advanced,  Tournament player

Order Chess Prodigies Uncovered: Sergey Karjakin

Vera Jürgens is a German-Bulgarian chess grandmaster, book author, translator and psychologist. She is a double German champion in rapid and blitz. As a Bulgarian and later German national player, she participated in many European and world championships as well as three Chess Olympiads.
Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register

BrendanJNorman BrendanJNorman 12/27/2016 04:05
Gary Kasparov is a fantastic chessplayer, but has a rotten character.

As far back as 1992 when Fischer returned, he was quick to say bitter things like "the Fischer legend has been put to rest" and even now - 12 years after his own retirement he feels the need to throw stones at guys like Anand (for the "crime" of continuing to play into his forties) and, Karjakin (for playing for Russia/supporting Putin).

Anything to tear down somebody else, hijack the spotlight and bring it to himself.

A vindictive, insecure character. A shame because I'm a huge fan of his chess.

On the other hand, Vishy and Sergey seem like gentleman of quite humble nature.

If you wanna jump back in the ring Kaspy, jump in (we know you're itching, but just can't stand the ego-bashing that losses would bring) and prove that Sergey isn't on your level.

Otherwise STFU and stop being an armchair general.

I have never heard of anybody else (except perhaps Fischer) from the legendary lineage of World Champions, who was so spiteful toward his contemporaries.

I don't remember Botvinnik (who was clearly stronger than Tal) saying some snarky trash like "The stars must not have been aligned for somebody of Tal's level beat me and become World Champion" or even about Bronstein (who drew a match with him).

I'm not sure that Mikhail Moiseyevich would be especially proud of his pupil, despite the extraordinary chess strength.

And to the people who mention "soviet era propaganda", please google Ed Bernays.

See where the most brilliant propaganda in history has it's roots and most importantly, where it's directed.
yesenadam yesenadam 12/10/2016 08:02
Smartshark: Probably once was enough. But I'll answer. "Chess should be like tennis/soccer/golf/boxing/etc" Almost everyone in chess seems to like having a world champion. It's not always the world #1. Kramnik wasn't. In the old days, the #1 didn't always even get a title match. Evidently "world champion" is a different thing to being #1. A matter of tradition. Isn't anything in chess allowed to go on for 5 seconds without people wanting to rationalise, update, monetize it out of existence?
"What is the point of the World Chess Championship anyway?" People like it. It's something more than just another tournament, which everything else is. People like having a world champion etc. Your comment seems like that of a young person or someone new in chess.
SmartShark SmartShark 12/9/2016 07:07
I have said this before and I will say it again -

What is the point of the World Chess Championship anyway? If it is to determine who the best classical chess player in the world is, then why isn't chess rating sufficient for that purpose? I think before Carlsen vs Karjakin 2016, most people in the chess world knew that Carlsen is absolutely the best chess player in the world. Even if Carlsen had lost the match, I doubt those same people would conclude that Karjakin was the best. They'd probably say that Carlsen is still the best, but he just had a bad tournament.

Since chess ratings have been a reasonably good indicator of the playing strength of a player, if a player manages to be active and maintain the highest chess rating for a long period of time (like Carlsen has) then there is no doubt that he is absolutely the best player in the world or the "World Champion".

Knowing that, the "World Chess Championship" is rather redundant if its purpose is to find the best chess player. What the chess world should instead have is the equivalent of a Wimbledon in chess, a most prestigious tournament where all of the world's best players play. So even if you are the undisputed world number 1 chess player, you compete in this Wimbledon on the same terms as the other participants. You're not automatically guaranteed a place in the final. This "Wimbledon" should be a knockout tournament where players are seeded as per their chess rating. So, if there are 8 players, the 1st player plays the 8th, the 2nd plays the 7th and so on.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/9/2016 12:26
If Karjakin won, then not acknowledging him as a World Champion would have been a misunderstanding. There are some rules of the match which do not state that a win by Karjakin is worth less than a win by Carlsen. One can root for Carlsen or for Karjakin, but the winner is the winner and World Champion. Also, it is not nice to kick someone who is already down. I was rooting for Carlsen, but would have accepted Karjakin as the new World Champion should he won.
Pionki Pionki 12/9/2016 09:12
Carlsen did not win the classical match, because he was not in shape. It's commonly known truth, right? How about Carlsen simply cannot face an opponent that puts up a long fight and stands the ground. Carlsen has some growing up to do (and it is not in the opening theory). Carlsen and Kasparov belong to the same category of people who mentally do not grow up beyond their teenage years. That title picture will be shown for years to come.
Derek McGill Derek McGill 12/9/2016 08:05
To Chessking57 can you give us your real name so that we can watch your rise up to the Grandmaster level.
yesenadam yesenadam 12/9/2016 06:36
Actually I thought Kasparov was unnecessarily rude to Karjakin, several times. I could really do without it. The massive ego alone is more than enough thanks. The only 'political factors..at work in the match" were those drummed up tiresomely by Kasparov.

I don't remember anyone at all predicting Karjakin would actually be tied or ahead for most of the match! Or that it would go to tiebreaks. And still his performance and strategy are dismissed. Amazing.
htd2013 htd2013 12/9/2016 05:45
I don't agree with Kasparov's comments. Looks like he is attacking Putin via Karjakin.
Dear Kasparov: have you seen Carlsen after losing his 8th game? I couldn't see a sportsman in him, what a s**t of expressions/emotions at the highest level. It reminds me of you after you lost a game to Anand at PCA or even to Deep Blue.
Karjakin has aleady shown his Superiority in 3-4 games of the match. He is of course one of the best players. Remember Carlsen could not beat Karjakin in Classical Games!!
koko48 koko48 12/9/2016 05:33
"I do not think Kasparov would have made it to 6-6"

Are you saying Kasparov would have beaten Carlsen before it reached 6-6? (Do you see it as a possibility, at least?)

It's almost impossible to compare players of different eras. Kasparov was the undisputed #1 of his generation, both in talent and work ethic, as Carlsen is now....but Kasparov also had theoretical advantages in the opening (partly his own, partly contributions from his team) that Carlsen does not have....Nowadays nobody has 'secret' opening analysis and huge theoretical advantages, they all have the most powerful computers

Which is why today's Super GMs play so many anti-theoretical openings....Nowadays the only way they can get an advantage in the openings is to avoid theoretical lines

But I think Kasparov's criticisms of Karjakin are genuinely stylistic, not just petty or political....I recall the 1985 World Championship match where Karpov, down a point and with white in the 24th and final game, needed a win to retain his title (back then the champion had draw odds. Karpov could have retained his title if he could force a 12-12 tie)

Kasparov, the challenger, only needed a draw with black to win the match. Did he hunker down and play for nullification?

No....He sacrificed two pawns in the face of Karpov's kingside assault, and won with a brutal counterattack....With the black pieces, needing only a draw....Final score 13-11, and a new champion was crowned

That's how you win a World Championship, according to Kasparov....Not backing into the title with nullification and half points
Pionki Pionki 12/9/2016 03:54
A quiz for young chess players.
Which of the following two activities Kasparov is not really good in?
a) Dealing with wooden pieces on a chessboard.
b) Dealing with people in life.
(No prizes will be given for a correct answer.)
ChessTalk ChessTalk 12/9/2016 03:18
Kasparov could never admit a mistake even though he's made a million.
J Nayer J Nayer 12/9/2016 02:32
Oh yes, Kasparov.

It’s all politically motivated bullshit. I would like to see how Kasparov at 26 would do against Carlsen. My guess is that he would fume, slam doors, insult people and cause mayhem as usual, but I do not think Kasparov would have made it to 6-6. Meanwhile, Karjakin is a better endgame player than he ever was and a nicer person he will ever be.
Chessking57 Chessking57 12/9/2016 01:05
Greetings,chessbase, community. I'm a chess future club player. my skill level is C-class 1407.
A lot of forces was upon the current world champion,but he shown through in a blitz contest with the world challenger. I've said earlier that a future already knows. Do, you know who you are? In my life experience
the people who lead know. GM Magnus Carlsen, knew ,infant that he was and is the world champion of professional chess. A champion can look and truly see the current strength of the competition.
And, they know they are the strongest at what they do. "Being comes before doing".
In the year of 1970, BOBBY FISCHER, knew and in 1972, he won. I'm studying daily and playing daily.
In JULY, I shall return to the Marshall chess club. G-d willing!!! I shall earn the title of chess "Expert".
Every 3rd norm I shall move up the chess ladder. Next, 3rd Norm, NM; IM ,and Grand Master. G-d willing!!!
Resistance Resistance 12/9/2016 12:17
I'm not Russian, but feel proud of Karjakin anyway. He showed up at New York to play chess, and that's exactly what he did. Many would've simply broken down at some point under Carlsen's relentless pressure and capitulated; but Sergey didn't, and that says a lot about him. I feel grateful that people like him play this beautiful game of ours. Long live the brave!

Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 12/8/2016 10:09
To Aighearach. Your considerations on moves 20 - 21 of Game 10 are very interesting. Maybe a morality to extract: play the position, not the player.
Aighearach Aighearach 12/8/2016 09:46
@calvinamari: They simply mistake American respect for all sides in a competition for support!

In their world they're expected to be loyal to their nation above anything else, so genuine loyalty to something abstract like sporting principles is going to be so foreign that they don't even think of it as a potential explanation for the behavior of New Yorkers.

And most Americans don't comprehend chess as being something important in a way that would cause it to even create a conflict between sporting principles and nationalism. Karjakin would get the same positive treatment in NY even if he was playing against Nakamura, who is not only American but a New Yorker. Why? He is a nice kid who smiles a lot. If you're polite and in NY for an important event, they're gonna love you.
Aighearach Aighearach 12/8/2016 09:37
There is a lot of insight available in Karjakin's comment about the "blunder" in game 10; clearly Karjakin was using an abbreviated system of analysis designed specially for play against Carlsen! He knew he couldn't see everything that Carlsen sees, so he used the system of just being credulous, and instead of trying to understand everything, instead searching for specific types of subtleties that could be used to draw. And the results perfectly match the expected results based on that theory: drawing positions he didn't entirely understand, but also missing moves that he normally would have understood!

I attempt a primitive version of this when playing up; ignore the moderately obvious and try to figure out what the op is really looking at, and what move disrupts it. I only have to figure out the plan for this, not all the moves. Also sometimes you can psyche them out because then they think you actually understand the whole thing, and either flail and over-press or simply change plans. Even if they keep their cool, they will naturally make room for your saving line if it actually works. Why did he just make defensive move in the middle of an attack? Because you have counter-play, so threaten what he wants to prevent!

But, it only is useful against higher rated opponents, and you'll still usually lose. But there are real techniques for "playing up," and they're rarely taught. Rarely useful, too, granted. ;)
flachspieler flachspieler 12/8/2016 08:56
In my eyes Kasparov is too outspoken. Remember three years ago when he asked Anand to stop playing WC matches because he would be too old with his 43 years.
Ok, our game needs some halligalli publicity. But we should always know that this can not be a role model for serious people.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 12/8/2016 08:46
On GK's comments on how a win by SK would not have been significant, MC being the best anyways: it is not enough to be a good player, you also have to play well.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 12/8/2016 08:42
"Q:In game 10 you had a chance to draw but you did not make an obvious knight move and eventually lost the game. Did you see the knight move?
SK: I saw the move but fell into a psychological trap. Carlsen at all costs had to play for a win and I was certain that he would not make such primitive mistakes. Therefore I ignored this move. Perhaps I had too much respect for the Norwegian. I probably should have been a bit more audacious."

A comment I made at the time:

"Why did not SK take the f pawn with his N. at move 21? Second chance in a row of drawing offered by MC on a gold platter. Let us say that it was not that obvious at move 20, but at move 21, SK’s N. was en prise, as well as the f7 pawn – the solution was whispered by the board. And SK thought for 26 minutes before playing some other move.

Indemonstrable hypothesis: Carlsen fear. When Fischer was at his peak, he still could make a dubious move once in a while (no one is totally perfect), but because of his reputation and, indeed, is high quality of play, his opponents would wonder what could be hiding behind this move, what trick is it that they did not see from Fischer… and blunder – that phenomenon was called “Fischer fear”. Similar phenomenon here?"

Hypothesis now a bit supported by SK's answer.
mosherachmuth mosherachmuth 12/8/2016 07:31
Kasparov was a great player and is a great chess author. Still, I would like to see him use softer words to convey his ideas.
genem genem 12/8/2016 06:30
The more *Frequently* the Match World Chess Championship (MWCChamp) matches are held, and the *Fewer* their number of scheduled games, the cheaper and less prestigious this historic title becomes. Under these conditions it is inevitable that Karjakins and Gelfands and Lekos will gain the title. These challengers are great players, but they were never the best.
The high draw rate is a beast.
megadad1 megadad1 12/8/2016 06:18
I would like to thank Garry Kasparov for complete and utter crap comments, interesting reading but such a slap in the face towards Sergey. We know your views on Russia in general Garry but please stop short of abusing such a great talent such as Sergey, He won the candidates and was very close at times during the recent match. FACT. Your opinions don't seem to reflect that? I wonder why? Bitterness is such an ugly trait to have.
aryan7 aryan7 12/8/2016 05:56
After all Karjakin and Carlsen are great. The games were quiet interesting. I liked the match. Want to be like them.
jonathan Maxwell jonathan Maxwell 12/8/2016 05:53
The fact that only Cassia is responsible for: It is a correct strategy for the underdog to play for dull draws. It largely kills the beauty of the game, but it's correct strategy. No one can criticize Karjakin for his style of play. I commend his professionality. The goal was to win the match, not play exciting chess. (If only I could remember that during my own games!)
koko48 koko48 12/8/2016 04:29
I went to four of the games in NYC, the only people I saw rooting for Karjakin were the Russians

Frankly I'm glad Putin boy lost. He was playing for draws. Carlsen is the best player in the world and a much better ambassador for chess
calvinamari calvinamari 12/8/2016 04:17
Karjakin caused Magnus a "envious breakdown?" I see the Russian media still takes its cues from Soviet era Pravda propaganda. Another lie is the suggestion that there was widespead American support for Sergey over Magnus. While there was indeed general and widespead appreciation for both players as participants, that does not mean in any way that Sergey was a popular favorite.

Kasparov is correct, of course. The bottom line is that Sergey lost nothwithstaning the fact that Magnus was far from being in his optimal form.
caliche2016 caliche2016 12/8/2016 02:50
Couldn't agree more with living chess legend Kasparov. By the way, what an impressive chess he played when he had the same age of Carlsen or Karjakin. My deepest respect to the Champion! The GMs "sons of the computer" still have a lot to learn from the "sons of the Chess Informant".

Going back to the Carlsen-Karjakin match, one has to applaud Karjakin's resilience and the fact that he managed to draw the classical part of the match against Carlsen, but the truth is they're not on the same level, one thing is the score in one match and something quite different is the overall level of play of two GMs.

Actually, I think Kasparov was very kind with his comment, I would have mentioned the weird fact that such a young GM as Karjakin clearly played without any other ambition than drawing all the classical games and take the match to tie-breaks.

True, some may say this was a carefully planned strategy to make Carlsen impatient, but come on! Karjakin is young with lots of energy and ambition! I mean, after such a huge effort of winning the Candidates, why on earth are you going to play coward/drawish chess against the champion?? To me this is an absolute contradiction with a young player's aspirations and development.

Karjakin has a lot of potential but I'm afraid he will never reach the top again if he keeps following the ill advise of whoever told him to play differently, not as he played in the Candidates were he showed ambition, took risks and prepared interesting opening lines.