Sergey Karjakin, the Wizard of Kirishi

by ChessBase
5/31/2005 – The exciting Young Stars tournament in Kirishi ended in a most predictable way – top seed Sergey Karjakin, 15, secured victory with a round to spare. After an understandably shaky start (he had been in a car crash in Greece) Serge picked up speed, winning six of the last eight games to take the title with a round to spare. Beautiful illustrated report by Misha Savinov.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


The special tournament, entitled "Young Stars of the World", took place in Kirishi, in the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) region of Russia. It ran from May 13 to 26, and was reserved for the most promising young talents of the region.

The tournament ended with a resounding victory for one of the greatest young talents in the world today. Sergey Karjakin, who turned 15 in January this year (and was, at 12, the youngest grandmaster in history), was the clear Elo favourite, with just one rival, Evgeny Alekseev, less than 100 points behind him. Serge arrived from Greece, where he had been practicing with Nigel Short. On his way to the airport in Athens Nigel's car had been smashed in a traffic accident (we will report on this soon). Serge suffered minor injuries, but was obviously somewhat shaken, since he started badly. He lost to Alekseev and had 1.5 points from his first three games. But then he took over, never looking back and winning the tournament with a full round to spare.

Final standings

Young Stars of the World

By Misha Savinov

An exciting tournament in Kirishi ended in a most predictable way – grandmaster and main favorite Sergey Karjakin secured his win with a round to spare. Sergey started with an unimpressive 1.5 out of 3, losing a game to Evgeny Alekseev, however, after that loss he never had a worse position, winning six games and drawing just two.

A wizard of chess: 15-year-old winner Sergey Karjakin

In Kirishi 2005 Karjakin was a class of his own. He also showed a remarkable stamina, outplaying the opponents in long endgames, adding to his growing reputation of a fine positional player. A key encounter that decided the fate of the first place was Zhigalko-Karjakin in the round 9.

Sergey Zhigalko

Zhigalko managed to lure the Ukrainian into the unwanted opening waters, and created a dangerous-looking attack at the cost of a pawn. However, Karjakin calmly defended his centralized king, returned the material and on move 30 forced the exchange of queens, transposing into a better endgame. Zhigalko did not put the strongest resistance, having very little time left on a clock...

Second seed Evgeny Alekseev

Karjakin's most dangerous opponent, Evgeny Alekseev, did not manage to defeat Rauf Mamedov in the same round, in spite of having two extra pawns, and trailed the Ukrainian by a full point. In case of a tie with Karjakin, Alekseev would become a winner because of their individual encounter, but the grandmaster from St. Petersburg has lost all hope of equalizing in the two rounds left to play.

Alekseev against the 12-year-old Indian talent Parimarjan Negi – 7 years and 249 Elo points difference did not help Alekseev to win this game

Alekseev's result in Kirishi is rather controversial. The 20-year-old 2600 grandmaster was added to the junior lineup to ensure GM and IM norms, and as the most experienced of the participants – maybe with the exception of Karjakin – he could have expected a better score. Especially considering his good play in Dagomys (see my previous report). In Kirishi Evgeny once again showed that he is very tough-to-beat – he was the only undefeated player in the end. He won against Karjakin and Kuzubov and had better chances against Mamedov and Khairullin. But Alekseev's score against the players from the lower part of the crosstable is pathetic for a grandmaster of his level – just +1. Evgeny was very disappointed in the evenings after the rounds. "I missed quite a few wins because I tend to relax too early, often overlooking rather obvious attempts of opponent's counterplay," said Alekseev after his 10th-round game. In my opinion, it's natural to be somewhat less motivated and concentrated against the youngsters a week after facing Ivanchuk and Co. in Dagomys, though. And the third place in such an event is not a tragedy anyway!

Ildar Khairullin, 15-year-old Russian hopeful

Ildar Khairullin could be named the unluckiest player of the event. He wanted this GM norm so much! After a mediocre start he needed to finish with perfect 5/5 in order to get it, and his finishing spurt was highly impressive. A turning point was his game with Kuzubov, in which the Ukrainian had a decisive advantage, but let it to slip away and then lost after a gross blunder. After that Khairullin won three games in a row, and he needed to win in the last round to get his first norm.

However, Khairullin's principled opponent, Ian Nepomniachtchi, had other plans. The two boys have been playing each other in various official junior events for years, and although some "experienced journalists" present at the event speculated that Ian might throw the game, for me it was obvious that it's going to be a great fight. Indeed, the players produced one of the most thrilling and tense games of the tournament. White (Nepomniachtchi) sacrificed two pawns, and on 20th move placed his king on h4, which turned out to be the most secure square in a sharp middlegame! Then he also sacrificed an exchange, but his daring attack was only sufficient for a draw. The players analyzed the game for quite a while, but had not come to a clear conclusion.

The two 15-year-old friends Khairullin and Nepomniachtchi analyse, while the tournament senior, 15-year-old Sergey Karjakin (left) looks on.

Ian Nepomniachtchi surfs the Internet after a game

Thus, Khairullin finished second, a full point behind Karjakin, but missed a desired norm. A twist of fate is that if the average rating of his opponents had been just half a point higher, Khairullin's 7.5/11 would have sufficed for the norm...

17-year-old GM Rauf Mamedov of Azerbeijan

Grandmaster Rauf Mamedov showed a professional approach, beating the weakest and drawing with the strongest. His only defeat was at hands of Kuzubov in the Round One, but it could be explained by the tiredness – Mamedov was the last player to arrive to Kirishi...

No girls in Kirishi: 17-year-old Luka Lenic of Slovenia whiling away the time on

By the way, Rauf as well as Luka Lenic complained to me that there were no girls playing! Perhaps the tournament director Gennady Nesis anticipated such complaints, as he said at the closing ceremony that the next year's Vanya Somov's Memorial might be enriched with a competition of a different format.

GM Sergey Janovsky, a trainer of the Russian junior team, showing one of the games to local chess devotees

Dr Nesis has big plans, and it is pleasing that his ideas find a positive response with the main sponsor, Vadim Somov, General Director of 'KINEF'. Be it an additional girl's tournament or a rapid event between world's top grandmasters, it will surely be held at a very high level, just as this year's tournament. If one starts relaying the games and modernizes the website (something that no serious tournament can do without), the organization of the tournament would be simply called perfect...

Sergey Karjakin and your correspondent playing 'Swedish chess' (or bughouse) against Rauf Mamedov and Ian Nepomniachtchi (Ildar Khairullin is watching). By the way, Sergey and I won!

A local folk music ensemble play at the closing ceremony

The sultans of chess playing through a game

The 4-star hotel "Yunost'" in Kirishi, where the players all stayed

The venue: the Palace of Culture 'KINEF'

A lovely spring evening in Kirishi

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register