Karjakin’s Retreat

Last week’s poll question was ‘What small changes do you want in Candidates qualifying?’ By far the most popular answer was ‘No changes needed’. Not surprising, as the recent Candidates had an exciting finish.


A week tomorrow, an elite event starts in Stavanger – AltiBox Norway Chess 2016. A great field will compete, including Carlsen, Kramnik, Giri and not Karjakin. After his Candidates triumph, Karjakin decided to withdraw from the Norwegian event. So there’s my poll question: Was it reasonable of Karjakin to withdraw from the Norwegian event? Yes, of course – he must be exhausted and preparing for his world title match against Carlsen is the top priority. No, he said he would play, so he should be true to his word.

I could instead have asked who will win the Norwegian event. Presumably Carlsen, but I will say Giri. If I say it often enough, I will be right eventually.

25 thoughts on “Karjakin’s Retreat”

  1. Reasonable certainly especially in light of their former treatment towards him and especially cancelling this segment of the Grand Chess Tour. Norway chess has repeatedly shown that it is not, ahem, very classy. Having said that a signed (if it WAS signed) contract IS binding. If such is case, Karjakin will need to pay significant damages and FIDE should also oversee some form of discipline.

  2. As far as I’m aware Karjakin is not Altibox Norway’s property, therefore it is reasonable for him to refuse to play if he feels it’s against his wishes.

  3. I was surprised at the percentage of No’s in this Poll. I would have thought that chess players especially would have been more sympathetic to Karjakin’s situation.

    By the way, my understanding was there wasn’t a written contract but rather a verbal agreement. Cut the guy some slack he is human after all, this is huge for him his country and his sponsors, so his desire to have some rest and commit his entire focus towards his preparations for this soon upcoming match is entirely understandable to me. Normally you can recover from physical exhaustion much faster than mental and nervous exhaustion, in this case he needs to recover from all three.

    I hope the match will be a competitive one, and I wish Karjakin good luck, he will need it.

  4. The contract failed to stipulate any penalty for withdrawing. Contract yes, binding no. After his treatment he’s well within his rights, both legally and morally. Of course, not sure the decision was made by him…

  5. @Andre

    What did Pert tweet, and which Pert? I am aware Malcolm Pein made a rather negative comment (chickening out), but had not heard anything about either one of the Perts.

  6. @Andre

    A contract without stipulated penalty for withdrawing does not mean there is no penalty. It just means the injured needs to prove the specific loss incurred in case he wants to sue the other party. “Contract yes, binding no” – hmmm, what do you think contracts are made for? Please inform yourself before spreading such nonsense in public.

  7. By the way, I think the poll is fundamentally flawed. I believe many people including myself would have liked to vote for an option like

    “Karjakin’s decision to withdraw is generally understandable. However, he should have negotiated an amicable solution with the organizers instead of just cancelling on short notice through the Russian Chess Federation.”

  8. You can sign a contract and in it, probably is included a clause of what happend if you withdraw.
    For me it is reasonable Karjakin do not attend (probably he should have notify it before, just after the candidates tournament is finished), and the organizers are also right applying the penalty.
    Maybe the organizers will increase penalty consecuences next years.

    Chess is tough game, and if Karjakin do not feel 100% ready to play the tournament, I think it is better for him and the tournament he do not play.

  9. @Chris

    Sure, it’s just a quick and dirty poll. If your view is too subtle for “Yes” or “No” to encapsulate it, then there is the option “Other” and the comments box to explain (as you did).

  10. @John Shaw/David yes you are correct, I did mean Malcolm Pien. My deepest apologies to the Pert twins for any confusion this may have caused.
    As for the contract; I like many people, have not seen it. But I am not aware of attempts yet to seek reparations from Karjakin or the Russian chess federation. Of course contracts can be broken, what makes them binding is stipulation of penalties if either party fails to meet their obligations.
    Instead we now have a replacement who wants to be there. Would you have preferred Karjakin to have forfeited all his games? Their treatment of a twice former winner over the last year has been unpolished, to say the least. Their opinions should have been held behind closed doors, with simply a public announcement made once the replacement found.

  11. I think morally Karjakin is off the hook after Norway Chess ditched him last year.

    And yes, the big loser in this conflict between Norway Chess and Karjakin is … Malcolm Pein.

  12. @Phille
    How do you come to that conclusion?
    You can argue if you want they “ditched” Karjakin last year but we are talking about a contract presumably signed by him in 2016 for 2016
    You can’t sign a contract and then decide a few weeks later actually no I don’t want to play.
    Karjakin and he’s advisors are in the wrong.

  13. Andre’ :
    Of course contracts can be broken, what makes them binding is stipulation of penalties if either party fails to meet their obligations.

    What makes you repeat such an obviously wrong statement? Once a contract is entered into it is of course binding for the parties. Regardless of whether the contract stipulates a penalty for defaulting or not.

    It is up to the injured party to decide whether they want to sue the defaulting party for damages. In practice most cases are settled out of court. I wouldn’t be surprised if Norway Chess decided to not sue Karjakin and just not invite him again. Which would be a pity for both Karjakin and the chess fans worldwide. For this reason I believe Karjakin had better negotiated an amicable settlement with the organizers to begin with.

  14. Everything has changed for Karjakin after winning The Candidates it promotes a ‘mere super GM ‘to a WC finalist , with much higher status and earning power. Few will remember who wins Norway 2016 but every chess fan will remember who wins Carlsen vs Karjakin match.
    Of course Karjakin may owe organisers some compensation depending on the details of any contract.

  15. @Chris
    What may be obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to others.I have a working knowledge of Chinese contract law, whereby if your contract is not ‘watertight’ then good luck trying to enforce it. The laws of your country are undoubtably different again, which will influence your understanding of contract law. Scandinavian contract law appears weak and outdated based on ‘fairplay and honesty’. Hard to enforce.
    If Karjakin can break his contract with no real penalty then he was not bound by it. It was not ‘worth the paper it was written on’. The only recourse that seems to have been left to the organisers is petty jabs in thier press release. http://norwaychess.no/en/2016/04/06/disrespectful-of-karjakin/
    Thank you for sharing your opinions in this matter.

    What is of more interest is what kind of message will this send to team Carlsen? By snubbing Carlsens home court is Karjakin saying he will fight the World Champion only on his terms? The Russian Chess Federation looks to be gearing up behind their man like we have not seen in years. I’ll be interested who will make up his support team come the World Championship. Will he be eating blue yogurt at any time he wants? 🙂

  16. @Andre’: How would a working knowledge of Chinese contract law or a paper on specific shortcomings of Scandinavian contract law be relevant for our discussion? Your statement

    If Karjakin can break his contract with no real penalty then he was not bound by it.

    makes no sense in any jurisdiction. It has the same logic as a statement “if a shoplifter doesn’t get caught his theft was no crime”. Please have somebody explain you the basics of contract law or check Wikipedia.

  17. @Chris
    Once again thank you for sharing your point of view. Let us keep this civil.
    I mentioned Chinese contract law as that is where my background lies. It (vs yours) will naturally shape an individual’s basic starting point in the discussion. The paper I referenced is not about specifics, rather the general view that Scandinavian contract law has proven to be hard to enforce and needs to be updated to the 21st century.
    My original quote was ‘contract yes, binding no’. This turn of phrase was an attempt as a short summation of the situation, but you seem to be stuck on the use of the word binding. Perhaps a way for you to understand my intended point would be if the sentence read
    ‘contact yes, but he has not been bound by it during the course of events’, or
    ‘Karjakin has broken his contract without penalty’, or
    ‘The contract has proven to not protect the rights of Norway Chess’.
    The quote you use of “if a shoplifter doesn’t get caught his theft was no crime” is hard to compare to this case. Karjakin did not do anything with with subterfuge. It all happened beforehand and in the open. I do not believe Karjakin has acted like a successful thief.

    We seemed to have reached an impasse over my use of the word ‘binding’, one which I do not believe we will overcome. I attempted to move the conversation past this point with a tongue-in-cheek paragraph on what this means. Unfortunately the hint was too subtle. Let us both move forward with our lives and return…

  18. @ Andre’

    Don’t worry, no bad feelings from my side. Your rewordings let me suspect the source of our communication problem. You might not be aware that the word “binding” is a technical term in legal terminology. For many centuries one of the most important principles in civil law has been that contracts are binding (“pacta sunt servanda”). Compare also Wikipedia’s definition: “A contract is a voluntary arrangement between two or more parties that is enforceable at law as a binding legal agreement.” You will agree that against this background a statement like “contract yes, binding no” just makes no sense.

    On the other hand our disagreement probably goes beyond semantics. For example I am not sure how you can arrive at the following conclusion:

    After his treatment he’s well within his rights, both legally and morally.

    Concerning moral rights, everybody will apply his own standards. But legally, Karjakin is clearly not within his rights, he has put himself in default of a contract.

    I agree that further discussion on this issue is probably futile and will move on.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top