World Chess Championship: Can Karjakin trump Carlsen?

World Chess Championship gets underway in New York on Friday with two-time defending champion Magnus Carlsen taking on Sergey Karjakin. The match will be spread over 12 games in classical format. In the case of a tie, rapid and blitz games will be played on November 30.

Magnus Carlsen Sergey Karjakin

Sergey Karjakin (right) starts as the underdog against Magnus Carlsen, who is a year younger but much stronger and more experienced at this level.

From his hotel room in New York, Sergey Karjakin would have noticed all the noise generated by Donald Trump’s stunning victory over Hillary Clinton in the United States presidential election. He would not mind doing a Trump himself, at the World Chess Championship, which opens at Fulton Market Building on Friday.

The 26-year-old Russian starts as the underdog against Magnus Carlsen, who is a year younger but much stronger and more experienced at this level. He is the reigning champion and is already the strongest chess player the world has ever seen. He is, of course, the World No. 1 with an Elo rating of 2853. Karjakin is ranked No. 9 with 2772 points.

But such difference in rating may not mean much in the actual match, for Karjakin is a great fighter who doesn’t give up easily.

And he knows how to rise to the occasion like he showed at the Candidates tournament in Moscow earlier in the year. He had won that tough event featuring most of the world’s elite players to earn the right to challenge Carlsen,who, by virtue of being the champion, is seeded directly into the title clash.

This title match has already generated a lot of interest across the globe. The possibilities of such a match had arisen over a decade ago: Karjakin had become the world’s youngest Grandmaster at the age of 12, in 2002, and two years later, Carlsen got his Grandmaster title at 13.

The Norwegian may have travelled further and faster since then, but the Ukraine-born Karjakin has always been among the world’s best, though he has had to wait for some time before becoming the challenger to the world crown.

Carlsen mounted his first challenge in 2013, in Chennai, where he defeated local hero Viswanathan Anand. It was a masterly display by Carlsen in the match against a rival who had won the World title five times but who was older by 21 years.

A year later, in Sochi (Russia), he faced Anand, who had staged a magnificent comeback after the Chennai debacle, once again in the World championship match. Though the Indian genius put up a much stiffer fight, Carlsen prevailed once again.

Carlsen could expect an even stronger challenge in New York. Karjakin is young and will be keen to prove himself on the world’s grandest stage. Their combined age makes this the youngest ever World championship, the history of which dates back to 1886.

Carlsen may have no apparent weakness and may be incredibly difficult to beat. But Karjakin has won against him in the past, though he has lost more, and he won’t be the man who is playing under pressure in New York.

The match will be spread over 12 games in classical format. In the case of a tie, rapid and blitz games will be played on November 30.