7 October 2015

The Faceoff

Tie-break of the Chess World Cup in the review of Vladimir Barsky.

"For the first time in my life I was part of a real fistfight rather than of a chess match!” tweeted the 2015 World Cup winner Sergey Karjakin. At the closing ceremony FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said half-jokingly half-seriously that the world would see nothing of the kind in the next hundred years. It would be a great idea to verify this statement, of course, but that's up to everyone to do it personally, provided his or her luck would have it!

The tension of the tie-break was fantastic indeed. Game four of the classical format witnessed Svidler performing so sluggishly that it produced an impression that the final day would see no fight and that Karjakin would just have an easy ride winning the trophy. But there happened nothing of the kind as even after having lost the first rapid game (and his third in a row, for that matter), Peter refused to give it up and went on winning a convincing victory in game four instead. He followed it up by literally crushing his opponent as Black in the first ten-minute game, but failed yet another time to make a draw with white pieces. Sergey displayed his incredible will-to-win spirit and his mental strength and equalized the overall score one more time.

The outcome of the first blitz game was sealed by nervousness. Both players committed a lot of mistakes, but Svidler was the last to blunder when he let his rook en prize undefended in a position in which he was an exchange up. As for game ten, it turned out to be the last one as Karjakin succeeded in holding an unpleasant position. The final score of the final is 6-4, and this without having made even a single draw along the way! 

The end of the match was followed by a joint press conference and a closing ceremony at the “Four seasons” hotel almost immediately after.

Sergey Karjakin, "Anyone could win today - both Peter and me. It has been an absolutely "random" match! But, of course, I feel happy to have won the World Cup. This is perhaps my highest achievement in life so far. I'm also happy that I have qualified into the Candidates Tournament."

Peter Svidler, "I agree with what was said by Sergey. Of course, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of regret as I had so many opportunities to finish off the match in my favor. However, the fact that I failed to do so means that I did not deserve it, but it feels unpleasant nonetheless. I was winning the classical game three in one move; well, as for game four it should be better forgotten. Then again, I was unable to make a draw with the white pieces and I had winning chances in the last game as well. Since we were both very tired, the level of performance turned out to be lower than in previous rounds. Once I have qualified into the Candidates Tournament I wanted to win the World Cup also, but unfortunately it has not happened that way. It is undoubtedly a bitter feeling. But I will alive! "

The World Cup Director Mahir Mamedov, "Many thanks belong to the two outstanding chess players of our time for such a fantastic match, the like of which has never been seen before. Behind the scenes I heard of such a word: if Sergey Karjakin has a son to call him Peter!"

Sergey burst out laughing and then replied, "We might give this proposal a good consideration!"

"But you are not obliged to do that," Peter Svidler added.

Sergey Karjakin said that he dedicated his victory in the World Cup in Baku to his friend, the late Azerbaijani grandmaster Vugar Gashimov, with whom he was very close. 

"Shortly before his death Vugar told me that now I need to play for the two of us. And today's victory is our common victory!" highlighted Sergey. Karjakin also thanked Sarkhan Gashimov, Vugar’s brother, for psychological support and valuable pieces of advice offered to him throughout the duration of that lengthy and challenging tournament.

Sergey Karjakin at the tomb of Vugar Gashimov. Photo taken from S. Karjakin’s twitter
More information about the picturesque closing ceremony is to be found in our photo gallery. After its completion the 2015 World Cup winner Sergey Karjakin shared his impressions with Eteri Kublashvili about the dramatic final and the tournament as a whole.

– I feel great joy because it was an extremely tough match and I had to go all out 100%. In the final run I turned out to be more durable than Peter, but, of course, no victory can do without luck. I was doing everything that depended on me.

– What were your feelings after you were defeated in the second game of the final?

– It was by all means one of the most difficult moments, but I convinced myself that I needed to go out to fight as Black because if I managed to win then I would already have definite chances in the last game as White. Therefore, I started off to a pretty sharp play to win, went through a losing position, but somehow managed to confuse my opponent and he finally blundered. After that I started to believe in myself again, I started to believe that I still had chances in this match.

– How difficult is it to come back? You were up against a must-win situation more than once in this tournament.

– I have had quite a history of successful tournaments in terms of "must-win" situations. First of all, I want to recall the 2010 World Rapid Chess Cup in Odessa, where I won four games "on request" and took the first place in the final run. And here it has already been as many as five similar occasions! This is just a pure madness. I simply tried to play chess and avoid getting plunged into thinking that I was supposed to win by all means.

– Who supported you during the World Cup?

– First and foremost, of course, it was my spouse who lent her support to me from afar. In addition to that, there was a backup team of a certain number of coaches. Today I can give you the name of Sarkhan Gashimov, who backed me up. I am very glad that I have so many friends and fans!

– Would you drop into social networking websites or Facebook while taking part in a tournament?

– I avoid getting much involved in it because it's a distraction from the tournament after all. However, when I lost the first two games, I did look in. And, by the way, I am willing to dedicate my victory in this match (partly as a joke, of course) to Konstantin Landa and to everyone else by whom I was officially "buried" after the end of the second game and who stated that the match was all over then! Without their "support" I would have found neither strength nor motivation required to win this match!

– Can you say that your ascent has started with the match against China?

– It is true to a certain degree, because I have had quite an extended period of recession. Then I went to China. The match there was anticipated to be of a quite stubborn nature, but in the end I managed to win all the four mini-matches. After that I was on the rise indeed. I demonstrated a pretty decent level of play in the Russian Championship Superfinal, in which I took the second place, while having always been claiming the top one, but eventually Evgeny Tomashevsky proved a bit stronger. Here, on the whole, I was playing reasonably well. Towards the end, however, when the inner resources have been depleted, it was the nervousness that has come into play on the majority of occasions.

– Did you like it here in Baku?

– Yes, I quite liked it here in Baku! As it is not my first time here, I have already formed my impressions about the city. I used to take a several hours walk every day, so my overall impressions are rather excellent. 

– What is your opinion about the organizational aspect?

– The organizational aspect of the tournament was just superb! I have specifically pointed it out and these are not just bare words because I have something to measure it up against and I know that it is not always the case that the organization would be on a such good level. 

– What is your next tournament?

– The World Rapid and Blitz Chess Championships start in Berlin in just four days to be later followed up by the European Chess Cup. The main event for me, however, is the Candidates Tournament that is scheduled for March. 

Pictures by Vladimir Barsky and Eteri Kublashvili