The Dark Side of Chess: When Is a Grandmaster Not So Grand?

Malinin, who died in November, always denied paying for results. But in a letter published in Russian on an obscure chess website, he ac...


Malinin, who died in November, always denied paying for results. But in a letter published in Russian on an obscure chess website, he acknowledged playing an unusual role in the Sudak tournament.

The most notable game, he said, was one he agreed to lose.

Malinin told the story this way in his letter:

With Karjakin’s title as the world’s youngest grandmaster slipping away after his unexpected draw with Semyonova, Karjakin’s father, Aleksandr, approached several players to whom his son had lost points and offered them money to replay their games. Firman said he was among those to receive an offer of cash for an arranged draw.

Malinin, who had points to spare, agreed to replay his game with Karjakin. He said he did so for free and therefore did not consider it cheating. The two replayed a game that normally would have taken up to six hours; in the replay, Malinin said, it was played “in a blitz” — a high-speed variant of chess. Karjakin won.

Minutes later, the newly crowned grandmaster ran into the tournament’s main hall, radiant and proud as “a peacock,” according to Areshchenko, who was present.

Asked about the episode in an interview with The New York Times, Karjakin said he would ask his father about it. He later said that he is not in touch with his father and had no further information about the tournament. Phone calls and text messages sent to Karjakin’s parents were not answered.

The fruits of Karjakin’s victory, though, came quickly. The next year, he played at the tournament in Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands, a town known as the Wimbledon of chess. In Paris, he joined the prestigious NAO chess club. Only a few months earlier, Karjakin had traveled to tournaments in Europe by bus. Now, as the world’s youngest grandmaster, he was greeted by the president of Mexico.

“I was just swarmed with invitations,” Karjakin said in an interview, talking about the aftermath. “I became widely popular.”

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