The two highest-rated players in the world lock horns this week for the eagerly-awaited Carlsen-Caruana World Chess Championship match.
As difficult as it is to imagine, the top two fighting it out is unusual for a world title match. In fact, it hasn’t happened since 1990 when Anatoly Karpov tried – and failed – to wrestle back the crown from Garry Kasparov.
This time, it seems clear the 2018 WCC between Fabiano Caruana and defending champion Magnus Carlsen could be one of the most closely contested matches in modern history.
Here we have collected some of the key stats you need to know before the match starts. Enjoy!
Carlsen-Caruana: In stats
In classical tournaments both have participated in, Carlsen has finished first 11 times. Caruana, only three.
In 2018, Caruana has won two tournaments – Grenke and Norway Chess – ahead of Carlsen, with the pair finishing equal first place in St Louis with Levon Aronian.
Head-to-head, Carlsen has won 10 classical games against Caruana, while the challenger has won five.
Final preparations for London! pic.twitter.com/EXD2iCTshR
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) November 5, 2018
Caruana’s last win against Carlsen in classical play was in St Louis way back in August 2015 – and Carlsen has won three times against him since then.
The pair start the match with just three points between them in the Fide rankings. Carlsen is on 2835, and Caruana is on 2832. There has never been a match for the world title between players so close to each other in the rankings.
There is a huge 172- point rating gap between the two in blitz – with Carlsen far stronger and expected to win 7.5/10 games at this time control.
In rapid, the difference is also very large – 91 points, again in Carlsen’s favour.
However, Caruana is certainly capable of going on a hot streak. At the Sinquefield Cup in 2014, Caruana went on a seven-game winning run and finished a full three points above second place Carlsen. It was up there with one of the most dominant performances in history.
FUN FACT: When Caruana became a GM in July 2007 aged 14 he not only beat Bobby Fischer’s record as the youngest in US history but also, due to his dual citizenship, was also the youngest-ever Italian GM.
The stats largely favour Carlsen – particularly if it goes to tiebreaks – but over the last year Caruana has been edging closer and closer to the number one spot.
Following a disappointing performance at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament way back in January, Caruana has had a near-perfect year.
He won the Candidates, erasing memories of his near-miss in Moscow two years ago, won Grenke and bested Carlsen on the champion’s home turf to win Norway Chess.
However, it must be said Caruana lost to Carlsen in the opening round of Norway – and remember, Caruana hasn’t beaten Carlsen in classical time controls now for three years.
In August the pair finished neck-and-neck at the Sinquefield Cup. Yet again though the omens were perhaps not good for Caruana in the head-to-head. He was outplayed while playing the Petroff Defence, which has become something of a specialty for him, in a game that ended in a draw when Carlsen couldn’t ram home his advantage.
At the Chess Olympiad last month the US narrowly missed out on gold in the last round, but Caruana put in an imperious performance on top board.
Carlsen, of course, was absent in Batumi and instead played his last tournament at the European Chess Club Cup in Greece where he only just clung onto his number one rating.
The pair go into the match with just a hair’s breadth between them in the ratings – it could barely be more exciting.