Сергей Карякин: шахматист и звезда / Sergey Karjakin, Star Chess Player

Sergei Kariakin interview

Audio Content: Russian chess grandmaster Sergey Karjakin discusses his recent World Championship match and his relationship with the game of chess.

This video can’t be embedded. Watch it here — at the new online television project from РБК.

Chess (шахматы) has long been a popular “sport” in Russia. The country produced many of the twentieth century’s chess grandmasters and World Champions, including Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik. An interesting linguistic and cultural idiosyncrasy is the fact that chess really is referred to as a “sport” (вид спорта) in Russian, and its players are called “athletes” (спортсмены).

National interest in chess was reinvigorated in late 2016 when the Russian grandmaster Sergei Kariakin (or Sergey Karjakin, which seems to be the transliteration he usually uses) unexpectedly came very close to winning the World Champion title from the reigning champion, Magnus Karlsen of Norway. Karjakin is a chess prodigy who was the youngest person to ever achieve the “grandmaster” (гроссмейстер) designation; he was twelve years old when he won this honor in 2003.  Karjakin learned to play chess in Ukraine, his native country. In 2009 he moved to Moscow to continue his chess career and was granted Russian citizenship that same year. The 2016 World Chess Championship (Чемпионат мира по шахматам) occurred over the course of a few weeks in November. Karjakin had won the right to face off with Karlsen by winning the “Candidates Tournament” in March. The November contest was closely fought all the way through. At the end of twelve games, each player had only one victory, while the other ten games had ended in a draw. The two opponents then played four games of rapid chess as a tie break, with Karlsen emerging as the victor after wins in games three and four. Thus the Norwegian managed to defend his World Champion title, but Karjakin — or one of the many other talented Russian chess players — will likely have a chance to return the championship crown to Russia at the next World Chess Championship in 2018.

In the video featured here, Karjakin gives an interview to a journalist from the business media company РБК. In the portions of the interview included in the below transcript, he talks about his relationship with his opponent, his love of chess, his newfound stardom and his hobbies besides chess. In the second part of the interview, which goes beyond the scope of this post’s transcript, the two of them start to talk about politics and money. Karjakin seems to prefer to avoid politics, but when questioned he does say that “of course” the annexed province of Crimea belongs to Russia — an unsurprising point of view, given that he grew up in the Russian-oriented eastern part of Ukraine. He also discusses his income (his award for a second-place finish was 450,000 euros) as well as the high costs of hiring the best chess coaches for his training.

Заметки о языке:

• As already mentioned above, one interesting aspect of this video is the use of the terms “вид спорта” and “спортсмен” to refer to chess. Although it can sound odd to foreigners, this is normal usage in Russian. Also note that the word for chess, шахматы, is always grammatically plural. The word is an amalgam of the words for “check” (шах) and “checkmate” (мат).

• Karjakin’s speech is reasonably comprehensible but not always as clear as it could be — he sometimes partially swallows syllables or runs them together. However, this is a fairly common style of articulation for native speakers of Russian, so this clip makes for good practice in developing listening comprehension. Compare Karjakin’s style to that of his interviewer, for whom clearly articulated Russian is a professional expectation.

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