AFTER a brief lull, Russians are back in the reckoning. Sergey Karjakin, who stretched champion Magnus Carlsen at the classical FIDE World Championships in New York last December and won the blitz title in Doha recently, leads the way.
The 27-year-old’s superb performance provided Russians with the hope of bringing back the era when legends like Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov dominated.
In erstwhile Soviet Union, the government had played an active role in promoting chess at schools. Later, it became professional and that helped produce several top players.
Karjakin became the youngest-ever Grandmaster in history at 12. His success story has managed to revive the interest of the game in Russia.
After his bitter defeat in the tie-break against Carlsen last December, Karjakin defeated the Norwegian in the fifth round of blitz and pipped him to second place on a better tie-break score after both players finished on 16.5 points each.
In the last round, Carlsen played Hungarian Peter Leko with black while Karjakin had white against Georgian Baadur Jobava.
After failing to create any serious winning chances against Leko, Carlsen settled for a draw, but Karjakin defeated Jobava to win the title.
“In Doha, I just wanted to focus on my game. I didn’t set any big goals after the classical World Championships. When I beat Carlsen, it was a beautiful continuation of our battle,” Karjakin told Doha Stadium Plus.
Karjakin had become Carlsen’s official challenger after defeating American Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, the second top-ranked player in the world, in the final round of Candidates tournament last March.
“I was disappointed when I lost to Carlsen at the classical Worlds, but the blitz title will help me overcome that. He’s one of the best among the current crop of players and can challenge Carlsen in the years to come,” said Indian Grandmaster Surya Sekhar Ganguly.
Karjakin’s compatriots Daniil Dubov came third in blitz and Alexander Grischuk fifth in blitz as well as second in rapid. The performance at the Doha Worlds will surely boost the game in Russia.