31 March 2016

Sergey Karjakin: I managed to preserve energy and stored surprises for my opponents

The winner of the Candidates answers questions of Vladimir Barsky.

– Sergey, there has been not so much time in between the World Cup, the victory in which has paved your way into the Candidates, and the Candidates itself. What was on your priority list during that period?
– Generating a certain amount of fresh ideas accumulating energy were both extremely important. It is nearly impossible to knock down your opponents in a tournament like that without having a certain amount of surprises up your sleeve. Therefore, running a training session was essential for this purpose. Besides, taking some rest to recharge myself was also an item on my agenda. The United Arab Emirates suited us very well to this end. The air temperature was around +30 there, and we had a great training session. By the way, I can now disclose the "classified" name of my fourth assistant – Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Then let us know the names of the other three non-classified ones, please.
– They are Yuri Dokhoian, Vladimir Potkin and Alexander Motylev. We did a great job, accumulating ideas and enjoying some time off along the way. When I returned to Moscow I was in a great physical and mental state indeed! 

– And how many ideas out of those accumulated have worked out well for you all in all – some five-to-ten percent or so?
– (laughing). This is always the case that you can profit from only a small share of what has been prepared in advance. With this said, I still managed to put Anand up against significant opening problems even though he is known for his excellent home preparation. The same is true about some other games as well. It may well be that they proved not so spectacular after all, but I would get good positions out of my openings and it would certainly add to my confidence. It goes without saying that my good start in the tournament was something else that boosted my confidence as well.

– Do you think the amount of tension in the candidates tournament to be much higher than in any other usual competition? 
– There is no doubt about it being higher by far. Let’s now imagine the exact same situation happening in a Wijk aan Zee tournament, for example: Caruana and I face each other in the ultimate round and we share equal amount of points, with additional tiebreakers better for me. I do not think that Fabiano would go for broke in this case: well, I suppose we would have drawn our game to share 1-2 places - that would be a normal flow of events. But because the difference between the first and the second places is so colossal here, it was only natural of us to plunge into a lot of fighting. And this is exactly the way the entire tournament used to unfold for me: I needed to get myself accustomed to the unceasing company of a great deal of stress. I was able to handle it better than my opponent.

– The successful start was replaced by a certain recession, wasn’t it?  
– Yes. I began to subconsciously dry out the games, even though it was necessary to act otherwise and to allow myself some freedom in play instead. This is exactly what happened following my loss to Anand when I needed to start winning again. Such moments, of course, require scanning for errors, but this work definitely belongs to the future. In any case, the most important thing is that I managed to win, while everything else has absolutely no importance any longer!

– How did you succeed in shaking yourself up after your failure to Anand and go on to simply bust Topalov on the following day?
 The most important thing is that I opened the game with e2-e4, which is my favorite move that I have been getting along with throughout my entire chess career! (smiling). I was pleased to see the sharp Sicilian arising on the board as Topalov decided to give me a big fight. Unfortunately for Veselin, he was in a bad shape and committed a bad blunder shortly after, upon which White’s victory, in principle, was only a matter of pure technique.

– And what was your mood before the decisive game with Caruana, taking into consideration other than simple tournament standings?
– I was in such a mood as to let him play for a win if he needed to, whereas I would simply try to play chess by making the strongest moves possible. I should pay due tribute to Caruana for his having successfully heated up the situation on the board. He needed to play for a win as Black after all, and he did outplay me at some moment of the game. Afterwards, however, being to time trouble, he lost the thread of the game, and then I also threw in e4-e5... Even though the correctness of this move needs testing, from the practical point of view I seem to have provoked a sharp struggle at a very opportune moment, and shortly after I was in a good shape already. Objectively speaking, the game should have ended in a draw, but because Fabiano had no other choice but to win, he pushed it too far.

– The engine says that the e4-e5 break would be very strong way back at the end of the opening on move 18. Have you looked into this possibility?
– It goes without saying that I was constantly on the alert of this idea during the entire course of the game, but at that particular moment it escaped me altogether. Yes, I absolutely needed to concentrate and find this resource!

– At that moment you probably wanted to play it solid yet, didn’t you?
– Well, yes, I felt the significance of the hour bearing down on me to a certain degree and it did me more harm than good. 

– Finally, what do you think about the tournament's organization? Did you like the hotel, the venue?
– I assess the organizational aspects as completely normal. There used to be certain issues, but these are all minor details really. This is especially true with such a victory in your hands when all similar petty annoyances tend to sink into natural oblivion! It's nice that we used to stay and play right in the heart of the city. As for individual shortcomings of the playhall, they do not matter that much indeed. Every evening Volodya Potkin and I would embark on our lengthy walks. My massage therapist / doctor also used to come from time to time to help me during the tournament, and then we would go out for our walks altogether.