Sergey Karjakin: ''The power pampers us, chess players''

Sergey Karjakin: ''The power pampers us, chess players'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Famous world fast chess champion Sergey Karjakin visited Kazan on Tuesday – during a charity project the athlete met with students of the Higher School of Journalism of the Kazan Federal University and visited a special comprehensive school for kids with deviant behaviour where he gave a masterclass and played chess simultaneously. Before it, he gave an interview to Realnoe Vremya where Sergey told about his attitude to Kasparov, Putin and Tatar women.

Stability is Carlsen's forte

How do you think now, when some time has passed, what you lacked last year in the match against Magnus Carlsen because everything depended on craft?

It is difficult to say. Perhaps, I lacked experience. It was Carlsen's third world championship match, while it was my first one. I did not win the same Candidates Tournament for the first time. In general, it is difficult to win any tournament from the beginning. One needs to come, see how people play, understand what tactics to choose, etc.

What aspects of the preparation for the first match against Carlsen would you change now if you were back?

Let's leave it my professional secret (laughing). Anyway, I dream of having this match.

What is Carlsen's forte?

He is maybe the most stable chess player around the world. He rarely has serious failures that everyone has from time to time. If he is not first in a tournament, he is second or third. For instance, Vladimir Kramnik was the world No. 2 chess player but now he is playing in not a very prestigious tournament and has already lost two of three games. In addition, he lost one of them to a little-known 65-year-old chess player.

By the way, about failures. In the middle of September, you lost to 21-year-old chess player from Moscow Daniil Dubov in the World Cup. What was it? Was it underestimation? Or is a new whiz kid growing up?

Neither, I think. I perfectly knew that Dubov was a very strong chess player, I had played with him many times. The score in classic chess was in my favour. We talked informally a lot, had joint camps in the national team of Russia. Another thing is that young chess players often have an undervalued rating. I am convinced that Dubov is among the world top 30, maybe even top 20, with his potential.

It is difficult to win any tournament from the beginning. One needs to come, see how people play, understand what tactics to choose, etc.

As for my game, yes, I did not play well – I confused the debut option that I actually knew and prepared. It was only my mistake. But it is sport, it is a fight. I won the previous World Cup, this time I did not manage to do it.

The fast and blitz world championship was held right after that match, and you won Carlsen and occupied the first place. Is fast chess your strong point?

I have ups and downs. Until aged 25, I thought I played fast chess better. I was the world fast chess champion, showed good results. Not everything has been well in fast chess in recent time, but I play blitz chess well – still, judging by results. Classic chess will maybe become my profile one day. We will see.

Who will be your major opponents in the Candidates Tournament in March?

The list of participants of the tournament has been made completely yet. If I am not mistaken, now only four of eight people are known.

Is the hot favourite known?

Levon Aronyan is, undoubtedly, the hot favourite. He is traditionally among the leaders, just something always impeded him. By the way, he will have a wedding in two days. Maybe he will be inspired by this circumstance and seems to be especially dangerous.

Or vice versa.

I think it is unlikely to be vice versa within such a short period of time (laughing).

''The power pampers us, chess players''

Garry Kasparov played his first match after his return to chess with you in Saint Lucia. What do you think about your footprint in history?

Indeed, I was close to something great, like you say. Here not chess was interesting for me. During the games, I was sitting and looking at the opponent, not at the board. It was just interesting how he behaved, his facial expression. For me, it was like a young boxer who had a fight, for instance, against Mike Tyson. Kasparov is really a great chess player, I have never denied it.

In general, I respect our power a lot. And I am very glad that Vladimir Putin supports chess

As for chess, this aspect was quite comfortable for me. I won one of three games, I was to win another one, which I did win, but I did not lean on, so to speak.

What 'K' is closer to you as human being – 'unsystematic' Kasparov or 'nominal' Karpov?

As a person, Karpov is closer, of course. I have known him for many years, maybe about 12 years, and quite well. I visit him before tournaments if we are both in Moscow and we play blitz chess. He gave me pieces of advice before the match against Carlsen because he had colossal playing experience, he has things that one can learn. And Kasparov, on the contrary, supported Carlsen – he had worked with him. But it is his business, of course.

What is your main impression that you had during your meetings with Vladimir Putin?

My impression of him as a person is that he is a very interesting person. In addition, he changes topics very quickly. For instance, before me, he had a meeting with a governor, after which he switched immediately and went into chess affairs. And it was clear he understood and was ready to help essentially. It is also seen that he does care about maybe any sphere of Russian reality. In general, I respect our power a lot. And I am very glad that Vladimir Putin supports chess. In general, we, chess players, are very lucky – we have very powerful Russian Chess Federation. Dmitry Peskov is the head of the Board of Trustees, Sergey Sobyanin is a council member, Sergey Shoigu and many other great people are there. We can say the power pampers us, chess players.

You were born in Simferopol and got Russian citizenship in 2009. What do you think of Crimea's annexation to Russia?

Actually, many people asked me already in 2009 why I applied for Russian citizenship. And I said I thought same people who lived in our Crimea lived in Russia. But, unfortunately, the absence of any perspectives in Crimea was the direct reason. In other words, it was completely clear that I had nobody to play with and it was a crime to bury the talent. Back to your question, I will repeat that I think that the same people live in Crimea, Moscow and Kazan. It is correct from both a historical and moral point of view that Crimea became part of Russia.

I think that the same people live in Crimea, Moscow and Kazan. It is correct from both a historical and moral point of view that Crimea became part of Russia

Did not Ukraine try to 'save' your at all?

A new president chaired the Chess Federation of Ukraine when I had already changed my citizenship. He was the person who made one weak attempt. He invited me to his office and said they were ready to support. Not that I did not believe him but I immediately understood that they would provide me with conditions during maybe one year, and that's it. But I needed to play constantly. And Ukraine doesn't have such coaches that Moscow has. The Russian chess school is simply the strongest and biggest around the world.

What kind of support did the president of the federation promise you? Maybe accommodation?

No, we did not talk about accommodation. He said the federation was ready to pay the coach for me for some time. But I heard such promises a lot when I lived in Crimea. In fact, about 5% of them were made real.

''I need to stay clear from chess for one or two months after successful tournaments''

Ukraine also left a trace in your personal life – Ukrainian chess player Ekaterina Dolzhikova was your first spouse. Can't two chess players get along with each other in one house? Or did you split up for another reason?

Certainly for another reason. There are bad marriages. Unfortunately, it happens everywhere. Probably I was too young then. I approached the second marriage with more responsibility. Now I am happy, in general. We have two kids, everything is good.

Is your current spouse Tatar?

Her dad is Tatar, mum is Russian.

What is the difference of Tatar women?

Firstly, they are quite smart, secondly, they are very house-proud. There is a family, there is a lifestyle, it is our corner. It is very touching, in fact. It is very pleasant for me to realise that my wife and kids wait for me at home. By the way, we like Tatar cuisine very much.

What about the Tatar language?

We know a couple of phrases. By the way, I learnt one phrase today.

Will you try to say it?

I need to have a look at the crib sheet (laughing).

I asked my parents whether they were not afraid that I would go mad when I started to play chess at 6-7. My dad answered they were afraid in the beginning. Now – not any more

You are a famous fan of FC Spartak. This season the team is failing. Is it time to fire Carrera?

No, I think that, actually, Spartak's problem is that one needs to go through any victory, analyse it. It is very difficult when you won right now, you were carried in arms and you need to play again in a month. You don't have the time to 'acclimatise' and start fighting again. I know it first-hand – I need to stay clear from chess for one or two months after successful tournaments.

Do you think that machine intelligence will kill chess as a game?

Unfortunately, computers have become too strong in the recent 10-15 years, and there is no sense in playing with them now. No, I don't think they will kill chess because it is more interesting to play with people – they make mistakes, they try to catch you, bluff. It is fun.

Many famous chess players went mad. Are not you afraid?

I asked my parents whether they were not afraid that I would go mad when I started to play chess at 6-7. My dad answered they were afraid in the beginning. Now – not any more (laughing).

By Artur Khalilullov, Rustem Shakirov. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov
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