Sergey Karjakin: Magnus needs to invent something new in chess to be the strongest again


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Sergey Karjakin, the former World Chess Championship challenger, has said Magnus Carlsen is weaker now than he was at the last title match and needs to reinvent himself to be the strongest again.

Speaking to Chessable during Game 11 of Carlsen’s match against Fabiano Caruana, Karjakin said:

  1. Carlsen was stronger when I played him in 2016
  2. Carlsen is still recovering from a chess crisis
  3. Caruana has a better team around him than Carlsen
  4. Both players should be unhappy with the quality of games
  5. The format for the championship should be changed to 13 games
  6. Carlsen needs to invent something new in chess to be the strongest again


The Russian star, who lost to Carlsen in tie-breaks in 2016, was interviewed at the venue in London shortly after he made the ceremonial first move 1.b4. Unsurprisingly, that was taken back by Carlsen and replaced with 1.e4.

Sergey Karjakin made the ceremonial first move
Sergey Karjakin made the ceremonial first move

The match stands all-square at 5.5-5.5 after 11 games. There is one game left before it goes down to tie-breaks.

Highlighted course

Grandmaster Gambits: 1. e4 - Part 1

Here is the interview:

Sergey Karjakin in full

You made the first move today, 1.b4, Magnus laughed and then you exchanged some words. What was said?

Sergey Karjakin: Yes, we had a chat, I played 1.b4 and he started to laugh. I told him that he had people to advise him what to play, but that was my advise and he found it funny. He has a good sense of humour.

>> For Magnus, the time for talking is clearly over: Our Game 9 report

How do you think Magnus has approached this match? He seems to have been out-prepared by Fabiano, do you think he has been too, relaxed, too casual?

Sergey Karjakin: Yes, but basically I think Caruana has a better team and more people working for him, and he works more on the openings than Magnus does, so it is not a big surprise.

Sergey Karjakin spoke to Chessable
Sergey Karjakin spoke to Chessable

But he has a bigger team, is that because of the American money he has behind him. Does he have an advantage?

Sergey Karjakin: No, I think it is not a question of money, it is a question of how do you feel, what are you more comfortable with because I know from my experience if you work with five coaches all together it may be too much information. You are just not able to remember so many things. Normally, Magnus is like, he doesn’t need too many people near him and he feels more comfortable that way.

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana shake hands to start Game 11
Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana shake hands to start Game 11

Do you think he has made an error there, that if Caruana has a big team that Magnus has made an error in the way he has approached this tournament.

Sergey Karjakin: It is difficult to say. I think this match is not about the openings, but mistakes later and Magnus is clearly very unhappy with his first game when he was winning and he didn’t win and also in one of the other games when he was much as White. It was a big shock for Magnus, I would say, he is missing some opportunities.

>> Magnus Carlsen brands World Chess Championship sound-proofing failure ‘unacceptable’

But also at the same time, Caruana has also been missing things. He was much better in one game as black, the computer even said it was mate in 30.  And also he was much better in one game as white but he also spoiled that in one move. So the quality of the games, for both players they can be unhappy with it.

When you played him in New York, do you think Magnus was a different player then? In one of the press conferences, where he said his favourite player was himself three or four years ago. When he played you was he stronger then?

Sergey Karjakin: Well, yes, his rating was higher, his results were better and probably at that time he was stronger. But let’s be honest, he didn’t play that great. And then probably he got into some kind of chess crisis during the match and that is still with him two years later.

But at the same time, it’s not something very serious and I feel like he can still recover and play his best chess, he’s good enough to do that.

So do you think you knocked his confidence a little bit back then in the New York match, that you set this off?

Sergey Karjakin: Well, I don’t know maybe just a little bit. He was unhappy how the match was going and it was clear it was very difficult for him for a very long time. Yes, I think he took a long time to repair but now after two years it is not only about that match it is about the players getting used to how he plays. They know he has his best chances in the endgames and they are much more prepared for the seven-hour games against him. He needs to invent something new in chess to be the strongest again.

We’ve had 10 draws and there is now a possibility that Caruana could become the first player to win a classical World Chess Championship match without winning a classical game. Magnus could also become the first to defend it without winning a classical game. If that happens would it in some way devalue the title?

Sergey Karjakin: Yes, I think actually the system should be changed. I think matches like this are possible but my suggestion is if you want to see a very big fight then we should play something like 13 games with one player plays seven games with White and the other player plays six, but the player who is playing White he needs to score +1 and if he doesn’t the player who plays more games with Black wins.

Carlsen Vs Caruana
Carlsen Vs Caruana


Highlighted course

Grandmaster Gambits 1. e4 - Part 2: Aggressive Lines

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