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Fifty Ways to Win 100,000 Euros: Method 2, Get Lucky Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
June 16, 2014
GMs Fabiano Caruana and Sergey Karjakin, Photo Cathy Rogers

Sergey Karjakin has led a fortunate life.

The youngest Grandmaster in the world at age 12, Karjakin, now 23, has represented two countries, married twice and last Friday won the elite Norway Chess tournament for a second time.

In 2013 Karjakin dominated the first super-tournament in fjordland, winning his first four games and almost reaching 5/5 before being tricked by then world title challenger Magnus Carlsen.

In that tournament Karjakin demonstrated a very effective method of winning the 100,000 Euros first prize; playing better than everyone else.

Playing in Stavanger in 2014 Karjakin showed that a different path to the 100,000 Euros prize was possible; give your opponent chances to go wrong.

Of course it is not so simple just to ask your opponents to blunder in a tournament which Alexander Grischuk described as the strongest 10-player tournament of all time.

Nonetheless, Karjakin seemed to have a guardian angel on his shoulder; how easy is it for a series of world class players to get the answer to every one of the following questions wrong?

Stavanger 2014 Round 3

White: S.Karjakin
Black: S.Agdestein
Position after White's 48th move.

The start of the tournament had not gone well for Karjakin – a draw with Topalov and a loss to Aronian – but the third round against bottom seed Simen Agdestein offered hopes for redemption. Unfortunately Karjakin, after achieving a near-winning position from the opening, has been outplayed and Agdestein just has to make the right choice between two moves to be sure of bringing home the full point.

Question 1

Should Black

(a) Play 48...Kf7! and leave White without checks after 49.g8(Q)+ Kxg8 50.e8Q+ Qxe8 51.Qxd5+ Kg7 ?
(b) Play
48...f5?! and leave White with counterplay after 49.g8Q+! Rxg8 50.Qxh3 ?

Agdestein answered wrongly.

The following day Karjakin fell into some fine opening preparation by Grischuk and could find nothing better than to give up the exchange.

Stavanger 2014 Round 4

White: A.Grischuk
Black: S.Karjakin
Position after Black's 22nd move.

"Probably the sacrifice is bad - I thought that I should be better,” said Grischuk, "but it is easier for White to play.

Question 2

Should Black

(a) Keep his queenside rock solid with 22...b6! ?
(b) Risk allowing the White rook to enter the position via c5 after 22...b5 23.Nf3 f6 24.Ne1! a5 25.Rc3! Rc8 26.Rc5! ?
Grischuk erred.

The next day Karjakin played inaccurately against Peter Svidler in an innocuous position until the following critical moment was reached:

Stavanger 2014 Round 5

White: P.Svidler
Black: S.Karjakin
Position after Black's 31st move.


Question 3

Should White
(a) Intensify the pressure on the kingside with 32.Nh4!, knowing that 32...Ne7 simply drops the b pawn after 33.Bxa8 and 34.Rxb5 ?
(b) Waste time with 32.h3?! and leave the position roughly equal after 32...h6 (because now on 33.Nh4 Ne7 34.Bxa8 Rxa8 35.Rxb5, Qd7! hits the h3 pawn) ?

Svidler missed his way.

The following round Karjakin made his own choice, to force a draw with White in a theoretical line of Carlsen's Berlin Defence, widely considered a professional decision.

Then came the game which turned the tournament around for Karjakin...

Stavanger 2014 Round 7

White: A.Giri
Black: S.Karjakin
Position after Black's 130th move

Giri had been pushing for a win for almost eight hours, missing one clear win, but finally Karjakin had found a way to draw.

Question 4

Should Giri
(a) Continue the repetition of moves which had already been going on by (again) playing 131.Ka2 Qg2+ 132.Kb1 ?
(b) Try 131.Rc4?? and allow Karjakin to force mate with 131...Bc3! ?

Giri messed up.

Suddenly Karjakin had vaulted into a tie for first place with Carlsen, Kramnik and Caruana, and he had to meet the latter two as opponent in the final two rounds.

Stavanger 2014 Round 8
White: S.Karjakin
Black: V.Kramnik
Position after White's 28th move.

Karjakin has achieved nothing from the opening and had begun repeating moves with Rf4-g4-f4.

Question 5

Should Kramnik
(a) Accept the repetition and agree to a draw, retaining the co-lead of the tournament?
(b) Play for a win via 28...Ne4!? And risk unbalancing the position in your opponent's favour after 29.Kb2 Kh7 30.Nxe4 dxe4 31.Ne5 Nb4 32.Rf5 c5 33.Rd1 cxd4 34.exd4 Rd8 35.Nc4 ?

Kramnik decide to play on...

If you answered (b) to all questions, don't feel bad; your score is shared by players with an average rating above 2750.

So to the final round where a double-edged game has turned in Caruana's favour and the Italian has a chance to overtake Karjakin as leader.

Stavanger 2014 Round 9

White: F.Caruana
Black: S.Karjakin
Position after Black's 31st move.

Question 6

Should Caruana

(a) Break down Black's defences via 32.Ne4! Qe7 33.Bxd7 Rxd7 34.Rc6 Rb8 35.d5!
(b) Hand Black a winning passed a pawn after 32.Na4? Bxc6 33.Rxc6?!  
Qb4! 34.Nc3 a4 35.Qc2 a3 36.Rxb6?! Rc8! 37.Rc6 Rxc6 38.bxc6 Qc4!

Caruana forgot about the sixth bullet.

So Karjakin surged to victory in Norway Chess 2014, half a point ahead of Carlsen.


After the tournament Karjakin expressed his happiness with the way the tournament had turned out, attributed his success to his new wife, Galiya Kamalova, who he said was of inestimable psychological assistance.  And a good luck charm.

At the end of the tournament Grischuk, referring to his final round win, said, “Better lucky than good.” Even better to be Karjakin and enjoy both attributes (albeit in different years).

No Logo Norway Chess 2014
Final scores:
1.Karjakin(Rus) 6;

2.Carlsen(Nor) 5.5
3.Grischuk(Rus) 5;
=4.Caruana(Ita), Topalov(Bul) 4.5;
=6.Aronian(Arm), Giri(Ned), Svidler(Rus), Kramnik(Rus) 4;

Postscript: To counterbalance any impression that Karjakin leads a charmed life, two days after the tournament Karjakin arrived in Dubai for the World Rapid and Blitz Championship... without his luggage.