The thrills and spills of Round 1 were, unfortunately, long gone. In comparison, Game 2 of the Magnus Carlsen Vs Fabiano Caruana World Chess Championship match proved to be a bit of a damp squib.
It was “insipid”, the chess journalist John Saunders told Your Correspondent, perhaps a little harshly.
While yesterday’s dicey draw lasted an epic 115 moves – the longest game Carlsen and Caruana have played against each other – today’s lasted 49 moves and was quite obviously a draw very early.
It also appeared to be played almost entirely within Caruana’s prep – which could be a worrying sign for Carlsen.
That is not to say it didn’t have its intrigue. Carlsen, while never looking in serious danger, had the worst of it and at points – particular around move 23 – was under heavy pressure.
As a result, the champion, looking super-smart in a light grey suit, ate up his time on the clock at an alarming rate – a problem Caruana had faced the previous day.
In a fairly obvious reversal from what happened in the opener, Caruana played speedily and manoeuvred himself into a small advantage. Carlsen, meanwhile, had a lot to think about.
The match now stands at 1-1 going into the rest day on Sunday. But that is probably a surprise to no-one – World Championship matches are often cagey.
Carlsen-Caruana Game 2 was ‘insipid’
Carlsen, who must have been kicking himself for not pressing home his advantage the previous day, started with 1.d4 choosing not to face Caruana’s new pet opening the Petroff.
The game then went into a line of the Queen’s Gambit Declined, unusual for the American who seems to prefer the Slav. Chessable author and QGD specialist GM Alex Colovic will have been pleased to see that.
But the American took Carlsen into a line he had never faced before, according to the databases. Carlsen and Caruana also seem never to have played a Queen’s Gambit Declined with the champion as White.
On move 11 there was a nano-second of drama when Carlsen, with 1hr 21mins on his clock almost touched a piece by mistake. Almost.
— Chessable (@chessable) November 10, 2018
It wasn’t long though before the talking heads at the venue started declaring the game would be a draw.
Magnus made to suffer
Australian GM Ian Rogers could be heard saying in the media room: “Magnus has nothing, absolutely nothing.”
By move 20 Carlsen was an hour down on Caruana’s clock and it took a flurry of moves to make the time control.
In the end, Carlsen was made to suffer somewhat and had to hold a pawn-down rook endgame.
“This was not very good,” Carlsen said afterward. “I was surprised in the opening. I thought I had chances to a small advantage. I miscalculated something.
“Then I had to beg for a draw, but that went without problems. I am not happy about this, but it’s better than losing.
Carlsen added: “He played a completely new move that actually doesn’t look natural to me. I have to look at it later. We’ll see if it was a surprise in this game or if he found something new.”
Game 3 starts on Monday at 3pm GMT.
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Leon is a national newspaper journalist from London, England. He is an avid chess fan, and writes regularly about the game. Apart from chess, he loves cricket, Tottenham Hotspur FC and spending time with his son.