Qualification: FIDE Chess World Cup Winner
FIDE Rating: 2760
Most Played Opening (W/B): Sicilian, Sicilian
*(Till Tata Steel Championship) Career Stats: Wins- 620, Draws- 802, Loses- 320
After years of staying in the shadow, Russia has re-emerged among the best in Chess. Here is the 2015 Chess World Cup Winner Sergey Karjakin making his way to the Candidates Tournament 2016. Karjakin proved his brittle at the World Cup when he emerged champion against his own country man Peter Svidler in a highly contested battle.
Karjakin shook the world when he announced himself as the youngest Grandmaster at the age of 12. He is known to be a dark horse since quite an early age. He defeated the erstwhile reigning champion Vladimir Kramnik in 2004 in Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting. He is also credited to being the only human to beat a computer in the Man vs Machine World Team Championship in Bilbao, Spain during the same year. A surprising fact from Bilbao is that, he was the youngest and the lowest rated player in the Championships.
With such great achievements, he has been counted among the elites but has never been able to reach the World Championships before.
Karjakin’s high draw rate indicates toward a very cautious play, which is unlikely to change during the Candidates. This makes his qualification from the tournament a further challenge but the fact that he was second during 2014 Candidates Tournament is hard to ignore.
How Sergey Karjakin fared since 1st January 2015?
Total games: 166
A win percentage of 38.55% makes him a pretty strong contender in the general scheme of things. But these are not just any ordinary opponents that the Russian would be up against; all of them are equally hungry for a shot at the top. He has had glorious runs at the Chess World Cup, where he lost only twice before reaching the final.
His experience of playing the Candidates in 2014 helped him overcome a 0-2 deficit after Peter Svidler crushed him in the early stages of the final. Karjakin made a startling return and took the crown away at the end.
Chances against Magnus Carlsen
Sergey Karjakin is a mere ten months older to the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen and in many ways equally talented to the Norwegian prodigy. As Carlsen was on a journey to the top, Karjakin used the time to steady himself, while constantly making his mark at important tournaments.
Developing in the shadows of Magnus Carlsen has put some anger in the Ukraine born player, but if he wins the Candidates will he manage to offer stiff competition to the Norwegian is rather a difficult question to answer. His extremely cautious play can certainly frustrate his opponents but is it good enough to become a World Champion, perhaps not. But his ability to surprise must be kept in mind.