Chess World Championship: Magnus Carlsen faces new challenge in Sergey Karjakin | other sports | Hindustan Times
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Chess World Championship: Magnus Carlsen faces new challenge in Sergey Karjakin

Karjakin earned the right to challenge Carlsen by winning the World Chess Candidates Tournament in March this year – finishing ahead of Fabiano Caruana of the United States and India’s Anand.

other sports Updated: Nov 10, 2016 22:53 IST
B Shrikant
Magnus Carlsen is the only player in the world to hold World Championship titles in all three formats – Classical, Rapid and Blitz.
Magnus Carlsen is the only player in the world to hold World Championship titles in all three formats – Classical, Rapid and Blitz.(Getty Images )

Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin were born in the same year, 10 months apart. Two of the biggest prodigies the game has ever seen, they took to chess early and became Grandmasters (GM) even before they reached their teens — Karjakin, older of the two, earned the title at the age of 12-years and seven months in 2002 while Carlsen emulated the feat in 2004. Karjakin, born in Ukraine, still holds the record of being the world’s youngest GM ever, while Norway’s Carlsen took eight months longer than his counterpart — the third youngest GM ever at 13-years and 148 days.

From there on their career trajectories took divergent routes.

In the next six years, they rocketed up the chess rankings, Karjakin reaching into the top five while Carlsen overtook him and became the youngest World No 1 ever (in 2010).

The Norwegian continued to dominate chess, intimidating opponents with his unique style of play and soon became the youngest player to cross the magical 2800 Elo mark in ratings. In 2013, he became the youngest World Champion ever by defeating India’s Viswanathan Anand in the World Championship in Chennai.

He has achieved the highest rating since it came into existence, surpassing the 2851 Elo rating of the legendary Garry Kasparov. In 2014, he again defeated Anand to defend his title and is the only player in the world to hold World Championship titles in all three formats – Classical, Rapid and Blitz (which are comparable to Test, One-day and Twenty20 formats of cricket).

In comparison, Karjakin’s progress was less spectacular. He remained in the top 10 and then top-five in the world, becoming the World Rapid Chess Champion in 2012 and bagging the FIDE World Cup title in 2015. The spurt in his results came soon after he switched alliances from Ukraine and became a natueralized Russian.

The two prodigies face off in the World Championship Match starting Friday in New York for a prize fund of 1 million euro.

Karjakin earned the right to challenge Carlsen by winning the World Chess Candidates Tournament in March this year – finishing ahead of Fabiano Caruana of the United States and India’s Anand.

The chess world is eagerly waiting to see whether Karjakin be able to challenge Carlsen, unlike Anand who succumbed meekly in 2013 and could only put up a feeble resistance in their second encounter.

Carlsen still looks the favourite. Chess fans have lot of hopes from Karjakin, especially banking on the support he gets from the well-established Russian system of training players for the World Championship matches.

Carlsen is more of a positional player, who tries to exploit even seemingly equal position with relentless aggressive moves that create tremendous pressure on his opponents, forcing them to commit mistakes.

Karjakin’s playing style is somewhat similar. However, unlike Carlsen, his style is less intimidating. He is more of a defensive player.

Karjakin has an ace up his sleeves. He will have the entire resources of the Russian establishment behind him.

Beating Carlsen – considered by many as the irresistible force – is theoretically possible. But will Karjakin be able to practically prove that – the answer will be known by November 29.