The Chess World Championship Match kicks off
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FIDE’s 2018 World Chess Championship kicked off last week, with reigning champion Magnus Carlsen attempting to defend his title against the American newcomer Fabiano Caruana.
The first 4 games of the match resulted in draws, both contributing to the tension of the event and showing the thorough preparedness of each of its competitors.
The championship is taking place from 9 - 24 November at The College in Holborn London, featuring a total of 12 high-pressure games, which, if resulting in a draw, will lead to a tiebreaker at the end of the month.
An introduction to the players
Magnus Carlsen has long been referred to as the Mozart of chess and, due to his number one ranking over the past seven years, he's widely considered the greatest player who’s ever lived. He won his first World Championship title from Viswanathan Anand in 2013 and has reigned as the sport’s most dominant figure since.
For an example of the superhuman abilities that Carlsen employs, check out the video below where he plays three simultaneous matches, while blindfolded and with a third of the time afforded to his opponents.
In short, Carlsen was born and raised to be a chess mastermind.
Fabiano Caruana, on the other hand, represents the greatest challenge that Carlsen has faced in his reign as World Champion, as 2018’s match is the first time that the two highest rated players in the world will be squaring off. While Caruana didn’t grow up with quite the mystique of his opponent, he was no slouch growing up, having moved from the US to Madrid at age twelve to begin his professional career as a chess player.
Fabiano Caruana. Image credit: Andreas Kontokanis
What to expect from the match
While Magnus is best known for his searing gameplay in both bullet and blitz chess, which have shorter time constraints, the World Championship match is set to follow a more classic format, allowing each player significant time to think in between moves.
While neither player shows much weakness in their game, they each come with their distinct strengths
Carlsen, on the other hand, earns his mastermind status in the middle and end games, where he may make an unorthodox move or two to bring games into uncharted territory. This forces his opponent to stray from what they may have prepared and simply play chess
Player mindsets heading into the Championship
Although the games themselves are poised to be tense and mentally straining for both players, the press conference during the event’s opening ceremonies showed that both players are handling the building pressure quite well.
When Fabiano was asked for a figure that he’d like to be compared with to counter Magnus’s 'Mozart' label, the unassuming American quipped that he’d pick someone in the “hip-hop or rock genre.”
Carlsen, on the other hand, was at one point asked if he goes into the match with any female support, to which the
While both players seemed to be enjoying themselves at the press conference, one can only wonder if those good spirits will persist as the million dollar prize pool looms over their moves on the squared circle for the next 3 weeks.
The match so far
Many agree that game one of the match was the most exciting of the first 4, as Carlsen surprised most (including his opponent) by establishing an early advantage with the black pieces. This is of particular note as the person playing white gets the first move and typically holds what's called a "tempo" advantage. In high-level games, this more often than not leads to black playing defensively and looking for a draw. Magnus threatened to pull away around move 40, but ultimately missed a few key moves allowing Fabiano's defensive play to secure him a draw. Although the competition was dead even after the first round, both players seemed content with the result after an exhausting 7-hour, 106-move game.
As a response to day one, Fabiano came out of the gate swinging with the black pieces for game two, surprising the reigning champion on move 10 with a take that hadn't been played in
Games three and four were a bit more straightforward, with each resulting in what both players would agree to a draw position in under 50 moves.
A NRK journalist asked Magnus Carlsen what was he thinking when he saw Fabiano Caruana's 10...Rd8. His answer: "Oh, shit, mainly." Then he dropped some knowledge about the Karpov v Korchnoi 1978 match. You've got to love this guy even if you're not a fan. pic.twitter.com/abjT3qjWh7— Olimpiu G. Urcan (@olimpiuurcan) 11 November 2018
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To find out more about the Chess World Championship, including how to stream the event, visit the World Chess website here.