Sergey Karjakin Versus Gary Kasparov…

Garry Kasparov was almost alone in failing to praise Sergey Karjakin after the World Championship match, describing the challenger as “drab”. The dictionary meaning of drab according to Cambridge dictionary is:

drab:     adjective

UK /dræb/ US /dræb/ drabber, drabbest disapproving

She walked through the city centre with its drab, grey buildings and felt depressed.
I feel so drab in this grey uniform.


In an interview for Radio Svoboda, Kasparov went on to say that it would have been a debacle (or “misunderstanding”) if Karjakin had become the 17th World Champion. Karjakin hit back in some of his post-match interviews, describing Carlsen as a more universal player than Kasparov and saying the former champion “does everything against Russians, so naturally he was supporting Carlsen”.

Garry Kasparov is now based in New York, but was conspicuously absent from the World Championship match. That was no doubt partly due to his icy relationship with the World Chess Federation, but also his political views could hardly be more distinct from those of Crimean-born Karjakin, who said on his arrival back in Moscow (captured on video here):

Garry tweeted during the Champions Showdown in St. Louis:
“I think the players in this world championship are in different leagues. Karjakin is excellent—Carlsen is special.”

And then after the match was over:

Congratulations to Magnus! His lack of preparation angered the goddess Caissa, but not enough to drive her into the drab Karjakin’s arms.

In an interview with Radio Svoboda he went into much more detail about the match. Highlights include:

It’s obvious that Carlsen played this match significantly below his capabilities. I don’t know what amount of opening and psychological preparation he did, but from the way Carlsen played it’s obvious that he nevertheless was unable to take his opponent seriously. It’s clear that Magnus is the favourite and surpasses Karjakin in almost all stages of a game of chess, but a match is an encounter between two characters, so the mental resilience for the struggle is very important. It seems to me that at the start of the match Magnus was looking beyond Karjakin, thinking of how his chess career would develop and what he’d manage to do to promote chess in America.

What happened in the third and in particular the fourth game just doesn’t fit into my conception of how Magnus can play. If in the third game the win was elusive, in the fourth by move 20 Magnus had a won position, the evaluation of which didn’t change for 25 or 30 moves. He could have won on many occasions and it didn’t even require any complicated calculation of variations. The fact that Karjakin ultimately managed to build a fortress strikes me as having come as a shock to Magnus, and in the following four games, while the initiative didn’t exactly switch to Karjakin, he at least played pretty confidently. When Magnus once more pushed too hard in the eighth game he was punished for it. Nevertheless, even those twists and turns in the match didn’t change the overall assessment. After all, Magnus is a World Championship level chess player, while Karjakin is simply a strong grandmaster whose fighting qualities enabled him to reach a match for the World Championship title.

In your tweet you called Karjakin “drab”. That means that, as a former World Champion, you weren’t satisfied with his level of play, or there are some other reasons?

I was only commenting on the chess aspect. Karjakin as World Champion would have been a debacle. After all, the 16 World Champions, starting from Steinitz, are a series of outstanding masters whom chess can be proud of. It would have been very strange, the stars would have had to align in an unusual configuration, for a chess player of Karjakin’s level to beat a player of Carlsen’s level.

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