By ALEX HAWGOOD
Name Sergey Karjakin
Hometown Simferopol, Crimea
Now Lives A secluded three-story house in Gorki, a suburb of Moscow, with his wife and newborn son. “The house is spacious and no one bothers each other,” Mr. Karjakin said. “If my wife, Galiya, is playing with our son on one floor, I still can concentrate on my training.”
Claim to Fame Mr. Karjakin is a highly decorated, baby-faced chess grandmaster who is ranked No. 9 on the list of top 100 players by the World Chess Federation. “I don’t play chess for fun, it’s my job,” he said. “And I happen to love my job very much.”
Big Break As a chess prodigy, he picked up his first pawn at age 5 after watching a match on television. By 12, he became the youngest person ever to reach grandmaster status, a record that still stands. He has since garnered numerous trophies, most notably a first-place tie at the 2012 Grand Prix tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and winning the prestigious Norway Chess competition two years in a row, 2013 and 2014. “After the very first day I started to play chess, I have been improving each day from that point on,” he said.
Latest Project Mr. Karjakin recently started a chess school at Moscow State University, where he is a frequent lecturer and host of public lessons. “I tell people of all ages that if you’re ready to spend five or six or more hours a day on chess, you will have a good future,” he said.
Next Thing After winning the Candidates Tournament in Moscow last March, Mr. Karjakin became a challenger to Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the reigning 25-year-old world champion. The World Chess Championship match with Mr. Carlsen takes place in New York, starting Nov. 11, at the newly revamped Fulton Market building at the South Street Seaport. “I always have it in the back of my mind that I want to beat my opponent, but he is not my enemy,” he said.
Power Player Perhaps surprisingly, being an international chess superstar comes with many of the same perks as Hollywood A-listers, including flashy sports cars and parties like the championship gala on Nov. 10 at the Plaza hotel, for which the actor Adrian Grenier will be the host. “Recently in Moscow it became a trend to add some intellectual chess flavor to V.I.P. social events,” he said. “I like being part of it, but mainly to promote the game among different audiences.”