Karjakin: 'I don't consider Magnus my principal rival'

by ChessBase
1/7/2010 – He became a grandmaster at the age of twelve years and seven months – the youngest in history. Sergey Karjakin, who turns twenty next Tuesday, is ten months older than Magnus Carlsen, the current number one in the world rankings. In the magazine Segodnja Sport the former Ukrainian, who is lives in and plays for Russia, tells us about his chess programme, marriage and life in Moscow.

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Kariakin: "At home, I have already done a course as a young father"

The Guiness Book of Records holder spoke to Sevodnya Sport, about his life in Moscow after his change of citizenship, about his favourite restaurant, his domestic responsibilities and the "humanising" of chess.

Sergey, in the January FIDE rating list, you appeared as a Russian. How do you feel at having obtained a new chess nationality?

It was just a formality, because I am already a Russian citizen, and have been living in Moscow lately. So nothing unexpected has happened.

But this formality gives you the right to play on the Russian team.

I very much wanted to play for the Russian team at the world team championships, which starts this week in Turkey. But because of some rules, the details of which I do not know, I still do not have the right to play for Russia. I hope to do so at the end of the year at the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansisk.

How have the Ukrainian players reacted to this switch?

They have been perfectly understanding, because the situation in the Ukraine is completely hopeless. As just one example, all the Ukrainian players have been excluded from the Jan 1st rating list, because the Federation have not paid their FIDE dues. [Apart from the shame, this has no other particular consequences for Ukraine, because the rating list does not affect participation in tournaments. If we pay the dues – which the Federation is preparing to do any day now – we will be restored to the rating list, in which, by the way, Ukraine is second only to Russia – Author]

Sergey, how does it feel to return home as a foreigner?

Nothing has changed. I still go back home. I know some of the border guards at Simferopol Airport, who tell me that I have done the right thing by moving. The truth is that many people understand me and support me.

How are you settling in Moscow?

I am renting a two-room apartment in the centre of the city. I found it via a friend, so it is not too expensive. But I hope in time to get my own place in Moscow.

Was it hard to adjust to the rhythm of the metropolis, after Simferopol?

It was, but I have always found it interesting to be in big cities. My wife is from Kiev, so I have lived there. But Moscow seems big, even compared with Kiev.

And you have experienced the famous Moscow traffic jams?

Yes. After I won the qualifying tournament for the world blitz, a friend offered me a lift home in his car. We spent two and a half hours in traffic jams. After that, I started going round the city on the Metro, or on foot. I like walking and enjoy looking at the sights.

Do you already have any favourite places?

The Georgian restaurant "Genatsvale na Arbat". I have never eaten such nice shashliks anywhere. But the restaurant is very expensive, so I do not go there all that often, only after a particular success. [Our translator heartily approves of Karjakin's taste in restaurants. Genatsvale was one of Steve Giddins' favourites, when he lived in Moscow.]

Sergey, in the summer you married your colleague, WGM Ekaterina Dolzhikova. How has that changed your life?

Whereas in the past I travelled to tournaments with my parents, now I go with my wife. She supports me, and because she speaks very good English, she can often solve problems that arise.

How do you divide up the domestic responsibilities?

Katya cooks, and does an especially good spaghetti bolognaise. That is my favourite dish. I shop in the market, clean up, and generally try to help. But in the main, the domestic work falls on my wife.

You are not yet thinking about starting a family?

It is a bit too soon for that. But I have a two-year old brother. His parents have brought him up before my very eyes, so you could say that I have already had a course in being a father.

How have your chess plans changed since the move?

I have begun to work with well-known trainers. This was my main condition for the move. I said, if you want me to move, then give me the best trainers. In Moscow there are always training sessions, chances to exchange experience. This is what The Ukraine lacks.

Do you have certain obligations towards the Russian Chess Federation?

They have not imposed any conditions on me. Nobody can promise to become world champion or to win several super-tournaments in a row. But on the other hand, money has been spent on me, and you have to justify that faith.

What are you working on at the moment?

In contemporary chess, the opening is very important. One has to look for new ideas, human solutions to positions. Maybe they will not always be the strongest, but you have to force the opponent to work with his own head, and not just remember computer variations.

How to you react to the fact that Kasparov is training Carlsen? Many consider that you and Carlsen will in the near future be competing against each other for the world championship.

I am sure that Magnus will benefit greatly from his cooperation with Garry Kimovich. But I am thinking more about myself. I am studying with Kasparov's trainer Dokhoian, and have already learned quite a lot from him. And the stories about my never-ending rivalry with Carlsen are really just journalistic inventions. I do not consider Magnus my principal rival.

You have already missed the qualification cycle for the world championship. Maybe after your move to Russia, Illyumzhinov will invite you to the Candidates specially, as the great hope of Russian chess?

I very much doubt it. There are a lot of candidates. But if Illyumzhinov opens the way, I will not say no, and will be very grateful to him. But for now, the aim I have set myself is to get into the top ten on the world rating list.

Translation by Steve Giddins

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