World Chess Championship pits model against Putin’s puppet
By Michael Kaplan November 12, 2016 | 11:17pm
It’s the battle of the fashion model versus Putin’s puppet.
A ferocious takedown between two prodigies will take place downtown over the next few weeks — and the fight is over chess. In one corner, it’s the dashing Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, who boasts the support of famous fans such as Jay Z and has starred in advertising campaigns for jeans and sports cars. Challenging the 25-year-old A-lister is Sergey Karjakin, a seemingly mousey dad from the suburbs of Moscow who has a surprising amount of force behind him: not just his own scheming talent, but also the power of Vladimir Putin.
“Putin wished me good luck and asked how my training is going,” Karjakin, 26, told The Post. The Russian government, he said, “gives a lot of things for me to feel comfortable. They pay my coaches and organize training sessions.”
For Karjakin to bring the championship back home, he said, “is really important — for me personally and for my country.”
Not since 1972, when Brooklyn’s own Bobby Fischer wiped the floor with defending champ Boris Spassky, have the stakes of the biennial World Chess Championship (WCC) been quite so high. Carlsen and Karjakin will duke it out in a best-of-12-games match which could run through Nov. 30 at the South Street Seaport.
“Magnus’ only goal at the beginning of a match is to keep it even — and then he usually wins later on,” says Støstad. “Karjakin will try rolling over him at the beginning.”
It’s something the latter has been preparing for his whole life. Whereas Carlsen reportedly had a well-rounded childhood — according to a book by his former coach Simen Agdestein, he enjoyed ski-jumping, soccer and “Donald Duck” comics — most of Karjakin’s life has been intensely focused on chess. Born in Crimea, Karjakin was named chess’ youngest-ever grandmaster, at the age of 12 (Carlsen earned the title at 13).
National pride is a driving factor for Karjakin. Russia, after all, has a long tradition of churning out chess victors — Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov — that has been interrupted in recent years.
“The Russians really, really want to win this,” a chess insider told Page Six this past week.
Even though Putin annexed Karjakin’s homeland of Crimea, the chess wizard is a major supporter of the Eastern strongman — and vice versa.
“He’s more Putin than Putin,” the chess insider told Page Six, adding that even Russian military officers who have attended Karjakin’s matches have seemed “embarrassed by [his] jingoism.”
It’s been reported that Karjakin has his pick of federal properties to use as training headquarters.
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