2020 FIDE Candidates Tournament: Everything you need to know about the most competitive event in chess

By Leon Watson / On / In Chessable news, World Chess Championship

Get ready for the fast-approaching 2020 Fide Candidates tournament – the penultimate stage of the World Chess Championship cycle and, without doubt, the most exciting until the final showdown.

This is an all-play-all tournament to decide who has the right to challenge the king of chess, Magnus Carlsen. It is the nearest chess gets to a Bruce Lee film.

Where and when is it?

The FIDE Candidates 2020, the tournament’s proper name, is scheduled for March 16, when the opening ceremony will take place, to April 4. It has a prize fund of €500,000 and there will be a total of 14 days of play, excluding tie-breaks.

The event will be held in Yekaterinburg, a Russian city east of the Urals, at the Hyatt Regency, a five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the city.

Who will win the right to face Magnus Carlsen?
Who will win the right to face Magnus Carlsen?

Yekaterinburg is famous for being the site of the Romanov executions in 1918 when Russia’s ruling family, including  Tsar Nicholas II, were executed.

Will Yekaterinburg be the first step on the way to the present Tsar of chess being deposed? We’ll find out in November when the World Chess Championship takes place.

Who is taking part?

The eight competitors qualified for the Fide Candidates tournament via a variety of routes. Here is the line-up:

  1. Fabiano Caruana (USA, 2842) – qualified as the Challenger of the World Championship match 2018
  2. Teimour Radjabov (AZE, 2765) – qualified as the winner of the FIDE World Cup 2019
  3. Ding Liren (CHN, 2805) – qualified as the finalist of the FIDE World Cup 2019
  4. Wang Hao (CHN, 2758) – qualified as the winner of the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament 2019
  5. Alexander Grischuk (RUS, 2777) – qualified as the winner of the FIDE Grand Prix 2019
  6. Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS, 2774) – qualified as one of two top finishers in the FIDE Grand Prix 2019
  7. Anish Giri (NED, 2763) – qualified by rating as the player with the highest average rating for 12 rating periods from February 2019 to January 2020
  8. Kirill Alekseenko (RUS, 2704) – was given a wild card by the organizers

What is the Fide Candidates tournament format?

The Fide Candidates tournament is an eight-player double round-robin. In the end, Carlsen’s next challenger will emerge.

Round 1 will take place on March 17 and then the pattern will be three rounds of play and then a rest day, followed by three more rounds of play.

If necessary, tie breaks will be held on the final day along with the closing ceremony.

Here are the pairings for Round 1:

Radjabov Caruana
Ding LirenWang Hao
GiriNepomniachtchi
GrischukAlekseenko

 

You may notice one of the rules is that players from the same federation play each other in earlier rounds. So for example in round 1 Ding Liren and Wang Hao will play each other.

In the FIDE Candidates 2020 tournament the players have 100 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, then 15 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1. No draw offers are allowed until after move 40.

Who is the favorite?

At this stage, it seems most people’s tips are either the 2018 Candidates tournament winner Caruana or Ding Liren, the impressive Chinese number 1.

Ding went on an incredible 100-game unbeaten streak of classical chess games from August 2017 to November 2018. If you want to find out more about that, check this out: The Golden Streak: Ding Liren’s Tactics & Strategy in 100 Unbeaten Games.

However, Carlsen has since bettered that and remains on his own record-breaking unbeaten run. Don’t discount Ding though, he is still considered a big threat.

Caruana, meanwhile, is way out in front as the FIDE Candidates 2020 favorite. He has experience of getting through this stage and facing Carlsen, plus he is the world number 2 and closest to Carlsen in the ratings.

Caruana, who challenged Carlsen last time, is the FIDE Candidates 2020 favorite
Caruana, who challenged Carlsen last time, is the FIDE Candidates 2020 favorite

Unibet, the betting company that takes an interest in chess and recently sponsored Carlsen personally, currently has the following odds:

  • 21/20 Caruana
  • 9/4 Ding
  • 7/1 Grischuk
  • 8/1 Nepomniachtchi

Where can I watch the Fide Candidates 2020?

We recommend our partner chess24, where you can follow all the Fide Candidates 2020 games live with commentary here. Other streams are available, of course.

But on Chessable we will also be releasing our own Candidates 2020 tactics course so you can not only keep up with the action, but learn lessons from it. This course will be released soon – stay posted!

Drawing conclusions: GM ALEX COLOVIC on the big debate in chess

By GM Alex Colovic / On / In Chess Comment, World Chess Championship

There have been many debates, and not only recently, about draws in chess. It is no wonder after the game’s flagship event, the World Chess Championship, saw a record 12 in a row.

A lot of different things have been suggested, the most popular being to ban the draw, as a result, to ban the draw offer and to change the result system (3 points for a win and 1 for a draw).

Sergey Karjakin, the Russian former world title challenger, even came up with his own suggestion, which he told Chessable about in this interview.

I have given this problem some thought. As I see it, the core of the issue isn’t the draw as a result, but rather the draw as a result of a not-played-out game.

Carlsen-Caruana Game 2
Carlsen-Caruana Game 2

Draws can be fascinating and if we are looking at things objectively, it is the most probable result of the game of chess. After all, there are two armies of equal size and quality and if their commanders deploy them well it is very probable that there won’t be a winner. 

The so-called Sofia (or Corsica) Rule seeks to ban the draw offer in an attempt to weed out the not-played-out games. This practice has generally been accepted as more or less normal, but I feel it does take away something of the psychological warfare that is chess.

The Sofia Rule

Often a chess player will offer a draw for various reasons: it can be a bluff, it can be a show of bravado (a weak player offering a draw to a strong one), it can be a distraction (giving your opponent one more thing to think about), it can be a confusion tactic (and not only in time-trouble), it can be a temptation.

The draw offer makes chess a richer game from a psychological perspective, but if made early in the game (for whatever psychological reason) the opponent may, in fact, accept it and then we return to the problem of the not-played-out games. I suppose you cannot have it all and the Sofia Rule is a compromise of sorts.  

I can live with the Sofia Rule, it has actually helped me on more than one occasion when I was tempted to offer a draw but I knew I couldn’t so I was forced to continue and eventually win. But I cannot agree with the proposal to eliminate the draw as a result.

Is there a solution?

The draw exists because if the drawn game is played until the end then either bare kings will remain on the board or one side will be stalemated. If you decide to call the stalemate a win for the stronger side the number of draws in chess will decrease dramatically. All King+Pawn/Knight/Bishop vs King endgames will be winning. But that is very wrong.

I will try to illustrate my point with an example. Have you ever tried teaching a beginner to deliver a mate with a King and Queen versus a lone King? You explain everything, making it as clear as possible what a mate is and what a stalemate is.

The talented beginner nods with understanding and yet he or she continues to deliver stalemate after stalemate. And here lies the ultimate finesse of chess (borrowing Walter Browne’s beautiful syntagm) – in chess you must be precise until the end! Stalemating an opponent with a King and Queen versus a lone King is sloppy and it should never occasion.

It cannot be the same if a player mates or stalemates you, receiving the same 1 point. How much degradation chess would suffer if it didn’t matter if a mate or stalemate was delivered? It would lose its appeal as the wisest game known to man.

There is never a “doesn’t matter” in chess (and neither there is in life) and mental effort is required to play it well. When executed accurately it is very rewarding and “it can make people happy” (Tarrasch).

Making the mate and stalemate equal will kill all that. It will become a “doesn’t matter” and chess will cease to be the game I fell in love with when I was 6. I hope we will never see that happen.

I don’t think there is solution” to the problem of not-played-out draws. Mostly because I think it is not a problem. Yes, they do exist and they are annoying, but with the social media having such a vast influence I think the players are aware of it and are becoming less reluctant to risk the wrath of the public. It is a normal process and I think it should suffice.

After all, there are “not-played-out” football matches that end 0-0 and there were attempts in the past to introduce penalties as tie-breakers as a way to eliminate draws, but eventually they were abandoned.

Chess is perfect as it is and we shouldn’t mess with its rules. If the players want to fight nothing can stop them. Even a finely-timed draw offer.

Watching the World Championship (and Stockfish), by GM ALEX COLOVIC

By GM Alex Colovic / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, World Chess Championship

I was lucky to have the opportunity to visit the recently finished match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana at The College, in London’s Holborn armed with Stockfish.Watching the games where they take place is a unique experience.

>> 13 famous chess games from world chess champions & what you can learn

This was even more so for the World Championship match because I was not alone watching the games – there were a lot of strong players around me with whom I could share opinions and discuss variations.
He doesn't need Stockfish... Magnus Carlsen holds the trophy aloft
He doesn’t need Stockfish… Magnus Carlsen holds the trophy aloft
The main feeling I had while following the games was one of uncertainty. I was never certain what was happening on the board. Yes, I did have an idea of what is probably going on, but there never was certainty.Quite similar to playing a game myself. And this feeling was shared with the distinguished Grandmasters who were also present.

Stockfish – the answer?

Having to use one’s own brain to figure things out is extremely difficult. The players who are better at this are the better players.

>> Squeaky-bum time as World Chess Championship goes to tie-breaks: Our Game 12 report

Following the game from home is quite a different story. The whole difference can be summed up in one word – Stockfish. The engine is the answer to all questions, even the ones I didn’t know I wanted to ask.I switch the engine on and everything is clear. I understand why a move was played in an instant. There are no doubts, everything is easy.The moment I switch the engine off the fog of uncertainty encompasses me immediately. Even if I remember the engine’s recommendations, it’s all unclear why a move should be played and why not another one. It’s back to having to figure out things by myself and this is tough.Becoming aware of this distinction made me appreciate how strong the best players are. This was most evident when I followed the games with the commentary from Svidler and Grischuk (and later Giri).The most fascinating thing was to observe how these guys were constantly finding clarity in the mess in front of them by using their brains only. The moves they were suggesting were natural, strong and were never blunders.And they did this very quickly. Compared to me, they were like engines.

A better understanding

Things weren’t always clear to them, but their lack of clarity was less than mine. It was on a different level. If Stockfish made us equal in understanding everything when turned on, without it these guys were understanding much more than me.Clarity is what makes chess players strong. The bigger the clarity, the better the understanding of the position, what move needs to be played and why, the stronger a player is.>> World Chess Championship 2018: A quick round-by-round summaryAnd how to obtain clarity? Alas, no shortcuts here – the usual chess work of calculation, analysis of classical games, study of openings and endgames cannot be substituted.The engine can help too, as it gives you the answer to any question, just try not to rely on it too much. When you sit to play your own game it is your brain that needs to be in shape, not the finger pressing the space bar.Good luck!
13 famous chess games from world chess champions & what you can learn

13 famous chess games from world chess champions & what you can learn

By Jabe Esguerra / On / In World Chess Championship

Studying famous chess games can raise your overall understanding and feel for the game. Every game is a chance to learn a bit about everything: from tactics and strategy, positional play, opening theory, to endgame technique.

You get to see the interplay between different elements in chess (often studied in isolation) and how the master uses them to his or her advantage.

But whose games should you study?

>> World Chess Championship 2018: A quick round-by-round summary

If you haven’t picked a chess hero to follow yet, then join us as we take a look at the crème de la crème of chess: the world champions and the famous games typical of their style.

Let’s get started!

Magnus Carlsen with text overlay

1. Wilhelm Steinitz (1886-1894)

Many consider Wilhelm Steinitz as The Father of Modern Chess – and rightly so. He began his career by playing in the same swashbuckling-style common in the 1860s. However, Steinitz is best known for inventing the positional way of playing, whose principles he illustrated through his writing and games.

A close study of the first world champion’s efforts over the board will show the post-beginner player how to win games by acquiring small advantages, such as a lead in development, better pawn structure, more active pieces, etc.

>> Squeaky-bum time as World Chess Championship goes to tie-breaks: Our Game 12 report

Being a pioneer, Steinitz also played in an experimental fashion to test and illustrate his theories, such as using the king as fighting piece in the opening and middlegame!

Featured Game: Wilhelm Steinitz – Louis Paulsen, Baden-Baden 1870

The game was played before Steinitz completed his transformation as a positional player. However, it has all the hallmarks of a Steinitz game: an opening variation named after him, a king in the front lines, a gradual build-up of his position, and a fantastic mating attack!

2. Emanuel Lasker (1894-1921)

Emanuel Lasker held the title for 27 years! His recipe for longevity and massive success is a combination of deep strategic understanding, endgame skill, defensive grit, and psychology.

Lasker often played in a way that’s most uncomfortable for his opponents. If the man across him excelled in tactical slugfests, he steered the game to drier positions. If his opponent prefered a simple technical game, Lasker took calculated risks to muddy the waters.

Featured Game: Emanuel Lasker – Jose Capablanca, St Petersburg 1914

Lasker’s encounter with Capablanca at the St Petersburg tournament in 1914 highlights the former’s fighting qualities. He needed to win to have a shot at first place while his opponent only needed a draw.

Lasker’s solution:

To play for a queenless middlegame where Black must play actively with the bishop pair while White tries to exploit his superior pawn structure.

3. Jose Capablanca (1921-1927)

Jose Raoul Capablanca earned the nickname The Chess Machine when he went undefeated for eight years (1916-1924), a period which included a match with Emanuel Lasker for the crown!

Even more impressive, however, Capablanca’s nickname holds true under the scrutiny of today’s chess engines.

A study by Ivan Bratko and Matej Guid published in the ICGA Journal measured the average difference between the moves played by the world champions and the best-evaluated moves according to computer analysis.

Their verdict:

Capablanca was the most accurate chess player of them all!

Featured Game: Jose Capablanca – Savielly Tartakower, New York 1924

The third world champion was almost unbeatable in simple and clear positions, where planning and positional play trump deep calculation. His endgame technique was head and shoulders above the competition, and many of the endgames he has played are just as instructive today as they were decades ago.

Let’s check out one of those legendary endgames now!

4. Alexander Alekhine (1927-1935 and 1937-1946)

His (Alekhine’s) style worked for him, but it could scarcely work for anybody else. His conceptions were gigantic, full of outrageous and unprecedented ideas. – Bobby Fischer

Alexander Alekhine had a heavy-handed style. He played to gain the initiative right out of the opening and embraced complex middlegames without hesitation.

Watching the World Championship (and Stockfish), by GM ALEX COLOVIC

Alekhine’s calculating ability was second to none, allowing him to produce combinations with a sting in the tail. His most famous chess games often feature opponents entering a line they thought they had evaluated to be equal or favorable – only to realize that Alekhine had seen a move or two ahead.

Featured Game: Richard Réti – Alexander Alekhine, Baden-Baden 1925

Alekhine was at a slight disadvantage right out of the opening. His opponent Richard Réti had the upper hand and was slowly gaining ground on the queenside – until Alekhine counterattacked on the kingside. The 10-move combination by Alekhine was a sight to behold!

5. Max Euwe (1935-1937)

Max Euwe was an extremely productive man in and out of chess. He was a world chess champion, a professor of mathematics, an amateur boxer, a revered author, and the president of FIDE from 1970 to 1978.

Euwe’s approach to chess was objective and logical.

He is logic personified, a genius of law and order. One would hardly call him an attacking player, yet he strides confidently into some extraordinarily complex variations. –  Hans Kmoch

If the situation at the board called for positional play, Euwe patiently maneuvered. If the position required sacrifices and combinative play, he lit up the fireworks with gusto.

Featured Game: Max Euwe – Alexander Alekhine, World Chess Championship 1935 (Game 26)

The chess world dubbed this epic encounter between two chess giants as The Pearl of Zandvort. Euwe took advantage of every tiny opportunity to improve his position and went head-first into a positional sacrifice to beat his illustrious opponent.

6. Mikhail Botvinnik (1948-1957, 1958-1960, and 1961-1963)

Mikhail Botvinnik became sixth world champion by winning the 1948 World Chess Championship tournament, a five-player round-robin which included Vasily Smyslov, Paul Keres, Samuel Reshevsky, and Max Euwe.

Not only did Botvinnik win the tournament, but he did so convincingly. He finished three points (14 points in 25 rounds) ahead of a field with an average rating of 2729!

Botvinnik steamrolled the competition by seeking balanced but tense positions that require full concentration and nerves of steel – and then outplaying them. He also came armed with thoroughly-prepared openings, world-class endgame technique, and remarkable analytical skills.

Featured Game: Mikhail Botvinnik – Jose Raoul Capablanca, AVRO 1938

This battle between the old and new guards saw the material and time elements of chess in conflict. Capablanca established a strong knight on the queenside and won a pawn, while Botvinnik was quietly brewing a storm on the kingside. The end features the deflection sacrifice to end all deflection sacrifices.

7. Vasily Smyslov (1957-1958)

We can only be happy Vasily Smyslov became a chess professional instead of a baritone singer in 1950.

Smyslov had a harmonious style of play, from which everyone can learn from. He was always striving for perfect coordination among pieces and pawns.

He is truth in chess! Smyslov plays correctly, truthfully and has a natural style. – Vladimir Kramnik

Victory was only a matter of time when Smyslov achieved harmony at the chess board. And whether the finish required trading down to a winning endgame or forcing immediate resignation with a tactical stroke, Smyslov was up to the task.

Featured Game: Vasily Smyslov – Mikhail Botvinnik, World Chess Championship 1957 (Game 12)

Botvinnik sprung a prepared variation which could’ve unnerved a lesser player. But he was facing Smyslov. The opera-singer-turned-chess-professional found his way out of the mess, after which he held on to the initiative until he brought the point home.

8. Mikhail Tal (1960-1961)

Mikhail Tal was perhaps the most creative attacker in the history of the game. Tal treated chess as an art, preferring aesthetically pleasing variations over safer routes to an advantage.

Confident in his creativity and calculation skills, Tal played sacrifices and attacks that are near-impossible to refute over the board. Opponents had to find a series of absolute best moves to survive Tal’s onslaught – and they erred more often than not.

Featured Game: Mikhail Tal – Jack Miller, Los Angeles 1988 (Simul)

Yes, this featured game was from a simultaneous exhibition, played when Tal was decades past his prime. Nevertheless, this brawl with an amateur perfectly illustrated Tal’s motto over the board: beautiful attacking chess whenever possible!

9. Tigran Petrosian (1963-1969)

Tigran Petrosian was impenetrable at the chess board.

Petrosian was content to play for small advantages and approached every game with a heightened sense of danger. He could sniff his opponent’s attacking potential before the latter even realized it, giving him enough time to prepare and render the attack ineffective.

This safety-first approach meant Petrosian drew more games than average. But, boy, was he tough to beat!

Case in point:

Petrosian played in the 1955 USSR Championship. And while he only got fifth place, he didn’t lose a single game against 2649-rated opposition!

Featured Game: Tigran Petrosian – Samuel Reshevsky, Lugano Olympiad 1968

Samuel Reshevsky was a superb positional player with an extraordinary fighting spirit. But in this game versus “Iron Tigran,” Reshevsky never got the chance to showcase his qualities as a player. Petrosian saddled him with weaknesses, nipped his counterplay in the bud, and outplayed him in the arising rook endgame – all done within 42 moves.

10. Boris Spassky (1969-1972)

Boris Spassky was a universal player, comfortable with just about any type of position. He was a beast when he has the initiative, capable of taking down the best players of his day with a well-orchestrated offensive. But Spassky also defended tenaciously when on the receiving end of an attack.

The universal chess style, characterized by the ability to play quite different types of chess positions, is considered by many to derive from that of Boris Spassky. – Garry Kasparov

Spassky’s universality proved to be an invaluable asset. It allowed him to vary his approach based on the opponent and make the most out of equal, better, and even worse positions.

Featured Game: Boris Ivkov – Boris Spassky, Santa Monica 1966

Boris Spassky had the Black pieces when he faced Boris Ivkov during the seventh round of the 2nd Piatigorsky Cup. Ivkov was reluctant to fight and drew most of his games, a problem for Spassky whose tournament position was under pressure from a trailing Fischer.

How did Spassky win with the Black pieces against an opponent who was playing to split the point? Let’s find out.

11. Bobby Fischer (1972-1975)

Many consider Bobby Fischer as the greatest chess player of all time. And why not?! He single-handedly dismantled the Soviet chess machine in 1972 and even posted a 20-game winning streak on his way to the crown!

Fischer was similar to Capablanca in that he loved clarity at the board. He gravitated to positions where he has a clear-cut strategy, which he pursued with unparalleled vigor.

However, unlike Capablanca who was happy to take draws against his most dangerous opponents, Fischer played to win whoever was across the chess board. He also embraced complications and attacked if he believed it’s the most efficient way to win.

Featured Game: Bobby Fischer – Boris Spassky, World Chess Championship 1972 (Game 6)

The game was memorable for many reasons. For starters, Fischer opened with the Queen’s Gambit for the first time in a serious game – and he played it to near-perfection! Spassky was so impressed with Fischer’s play that he had to give a standing ovation and join the crowd in their applause.

12. Anatoly Karpov (1975-1985)

Style? I have no style. – Anatoly Karpov

Anatoly Karpov was a well-rounded player – as one would expect from a man who held the title for a decade. However, a close examination of his games reveals that he is a master strategist and ruthless technician.

Karpov was in his element when he has a small but enduring advantage. He was especially effective when playing against the isolated pawn and hanging pawns, making these dynamically balanced structures seem like losing!

Karpov also had a tremendous will to win. He didn’t mind going the distance in positions where other grandmasters might have split the point, relying on his strategic understanding and ability to outplay the opposition.

Featured Game: Anatoly Karpov – Garry Kasparov, World Chess Championship 1985 (Game 4)

The game features an opening novelty which left Kasparov with an isolated queen’s pawn, the bishop pair, and more active pieces. However, Kasparov erred on the 20th and that was all Karpov needed to put the pain on his opponent.

13. Garry Kasparov (1985-2000)

When you combine the work ethic of Fischer and Botvinnik along with Alekhine’s tactical flair and Tal’s daring, you get Garry Kasparov.

The thirteenth world chess champion was dynamism personified. He had no equal in combinative play and had a fine-tuned sense for dynamic positions. Kasparov didn’t hesitate to sacrifice pawns and pieces to gain the initiative, and very few players could cope with him when he got the type of game he wanted.

Featured Game: Garry Kasparov – Veselin Topalov, Wijk aan Zee 1999

The pilgrimage to the North Sea village of Wijk aan Zee, Holland takes place each January. As it is one of the most important tournaments on the chess calendar, the best players in the world regularly compete there. After sixty-five events, the following game towers above all others and has been proclaimed “The Pearl of Wijk aan Zee.” – Yasser Seirawan

Famous chess games will be continued!

We wrap up this tour of the most famous chess games by world champions. Stay tuned, however, as we will update this post in the coming days with additional games from Kramnik, Anand, and Carlsen. Plus, we also have a surprise coming up for Chessable blog readers. 🙂

‘Til then!

 

Images of Jose Capablanca, Bobby Fischer, and Garry Kasparov are taken from Wikimedia.org and are licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

Magnus Carlsen crushes Fabiano Caruana to win World Chess Championship in tie-breaks

By Leon Watson / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Uncategorised, World Chess Championship

It has been the longest staredown in history – 12 long drawn-out games. But after 50 nerve-shredding hours of play, one black-eye, and an embarrassing data leak, the world chess champion has been crowned in London.

Norway’s rock star of chess Magnus Carlsen held onto his title in commanding style on Wednesday as he crushed US challenger Fabiano Caruana in a penalty-kick style sudden-death playoff that followed three weeks of deadlock.

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen picks up a prize fund of £487,000 plus 20% of the worldwide pay per view proceeds, while Caruana takes home £400,000.

Caruana, who was bidding to be only game’s 17th king and the first American for 46 years, pushed Carlsen all the way but could not hold on at the end.

Heartbreak for Fabi

“It’s heartbreak for Fabi because he had been doing so well over the course of the 12 games,” said International Master Anna Rudolf.

Chess legend Garry Kasparov, meanwhile, paid tribute to Carlsen’s brilliancy in playoff situations where the time controls get faster.

Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen

“Carlsen’s consistent level of play in rapid chess is phenomenal,” said. “We all play worse as we play faster and faster, but his ratio may be the smallest ever, perhaps only a 15% drop off. Huge advantage in this format.”

The grueling three-week match, every minute of which has been broadcast live in Norway across two channels, was poised on a knife-edge after a record 12 straight draws in the classical version of the game.

Moment of weakness

The previous record had been just eight in Kasparov’s 1995 match against Vishy Anand.
Carlsen, 27, and Caruana, 26, then had to enter overtime to battle it out in rapid and, if needed, blitz – two much faster forms of the game – to find a victor.

Carlsen had the advantage of playing with the white pieces for the first of four mini-games and won swiftly after Caruana blundered. It was the first moment of weakness the American had shown all match.

Carlsen then followed up in the second game as Caruana wilted under the pressure in the fully-enclosed sound-proofed glass tank they were playing in at The College, Holborn. It left Carlsen two nil up and needing just a draw. He then won the final game to secure the result and a very painful end for the American.

Carlsen, who has held the title now for five years, was the heavy favourite going into the playoffs. He is the world’s number one rapid and blitz player, while Caruana is only ranked 8th and 16th respectively.

The main section of the match was described by some as one of the most boring in history as the ultra-high level of play from Carlsen and Caruana only resulted in the world’s top two players battling themselves to a standstill.

However, off the board, there were a series of incidents that have spiced up the match, held in London for the first time since 2000.

‘It was so, so tense’

In round 5, Caruana played without knowing a clip that appeared to reveal tightly held secrets of the American challenger’s preparation had been uploaded to YouTube shortly before the game.
Carlsen’s team had seen it and informed the champion, but Caruana only found out at the post-match press conference.

Then it was Carlsen’s turn. In round 5 he turned up sporting a bandage and a black eye having collided with a Norwegian TV reporter while playing football the day before.

Carlsen Vs Caruana
Carlsen Vs Caruana

He missed a winning chance with an impatient move and the match remained deadlocked.

Added to that, Carlsen has complained about the enclosed glass “fish tank” being too cold and at one key moment the sound-proofing allowing Russian voices to disturb the players.

Lucy Hawking, the novelist daughter of British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, was invited to make the ceremonial first move in the playoff.

She said afterward: “The atmosphere in there was electric! It was so, so tense.”

Carlsen is a former child prodigy who has been dubbed everything from the “Mozart of chess” for his symphonic style to the “Justin Bieber of chess”, for his good looks and trendy quiff. He has modeled for a fashion label, been named one of Cosmopolitan’s sexiest men and given interviews to teen girl magazines.

In 2004 he became a grandmaster aged just 13 years and 148 days, making him the second youngest ever at the time after Russian rival Sergey Karjakin.

Carlsen won his first world championship in 2013 against Anand before becoming the highest-rated player in the history of chess with a peak rating of 2881 in 2014.

He then defended his title again in 2014 and in 2016 against Karjakin.

Carlsen dominates the international chess scene but until today has had an up and down year that has included a record run of draws in classical chess.

World Chess Championship 2018: A quick round-by-round summary

By Leon Watson / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Uncategorised, World Chess Championship

The World Chess Championship 2018 has been an enormous amount to take in – however much of a superfan you are.

By our (rough) calculations, there have been 637 moves and around 48 hours of chess in total.

Not to mention novelties, shocks, surprises and the odd celebrity.

So to make it easier to get a handle on, we’ve boiled each game down to its bare bones in our quick round-by-round summary of everything that has happened so far:

Round 1

White: Caruana

Opening: Sicilian Rossolimo

Result: Draw.

Andrey Guryev, Vice President and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Chess Federation, CEO of PhosAgro, Woody Harrelson, Arkady Dvorkovich, President of FIDE, Stepahne Escafre, The Chief Arbiter of the Match, Ilya Merenzon, CEO of World Chess, Magnus Carlsen, the reigning World Chess Champion and Fabiano Caruana, US Challenger during the First Move Ceremony (Round 1) of the FIDE World Chess Championship Match 2018 on November 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for World Chess ) *** Local Caption *** Andrey Guryev; Woody Harrelson; Arkady Dvorkovich; Stepahne Escafre; Ilya Merenzon; Magnus Carlsen; Fabiano Caruana
Woody Harrelson makes the first move, or tries to

Moves: 115

Length of game: Seven hours

Flash verdict: A marathon grind leaves Carlsen kicking himself after missing a winning opportunity with 34… Qe5. He nearly became the first champion to win Game 1 of a world title match as black in 37 years.

Thrills from Carlsen, and spills from Woody: Our Round 1 report


Round 2

White: Carlsen

Opening: Queen’s Gambit Declined

Result: Draw.

Carlsen opened with 1.d4
Carlsen opened with 1.d4

Moves: 49

Length of game: Three and a quarter hours

Flash verdict: Caruana comes back faster, more confident and better prepared. He surprises Carlsen in the opening and the champion then has to defend for the entire game and at the end hold a pawn-down rook endgame.

Speedy Caruana can’t break through Carlsen’s defences: Our Round 2 report


Round 3

White: Caruana

Opening: Rossolimo Sicilian

Result: Draw.

Carlsen-Caruana Game 3: a bore draw
Carlsen-Caruana Game 3: a bore draw?

Moves: 49

Length of game: Four and a quarter hours

Flash verdict: Caruana gets a promising position out of the opening but then wavers and has to defend doggedly against Carlsen.

‘Deadlock’ in Carlsen-Caruana match after third draw: Our Round 3 report


Round 4

White: Carlsen

Opening: English Opening

Result: Draw.

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano shake hands before the start of Round 4
Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano shake hands before the start of Round 4

Moves: 34

Length of game: Less than three hours

Flash verdict: Not much going on here in this 34-move draw, although Carlsen did offer a novelty with 11. b4, played in less than three hours. Much more interesting was what was happening off the board with Caruana’s YouTube controversy.

Fabiano Caruana’s prep accidentally uploaded to YouTube


Round 5

White: Caruana

Opening: Rossolimo Sicilian

Result: Draw.

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales makes the ceremonial first move
Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales makes the ceremonial first move

Moves: 34

Length of game: Three-and-a-quarter hours

Flash verdict: Carlsen weathers early fireworks from Caruana to negotiate a peaceful result.

Carlsen snuffs out Caruana’s ‘fireworks’: Our Round 5 report


Round 6

White: Carlsen

Opening: The Petroff

Result: Draw.

Sky News anchor Kay Burley makes the first move
Sky News anchor Kay Burley makes the first move

Moves: 80

Length of game: Six-and-a-half-hours

Flash verdict: An epic. Carlsen narrowly avoids a devastating defeat as he saves a miraculous draw.

Sky News host Kay Burley on chess: ‘It’s so glitzy and fabulous’


Round 7

White: Carlsen

Opening: Queen’s Gambit Declined

Result: Draw.

England junior Shreyas Royal made the first move
England junior Shreyas Royal made the first move

Moves: 40

Length of game: Three-and-a-half-hours

Flash verdict: The same as the second game until Caruana’s rare 10. … Qd8!? but that was the only highlight. Carlsen rues his conservative play (castling instead of playing the sharper 15.Nce4) as the match drifts.

Magnus Carlsen isn’t exactly loving all these draws: Our Game 7 report


Round 8

White: Caruana

Opening: Sveshnikov Sicilian

Result: Draw.

World champion Magnus Carlsen
World champion Magnus Carlsen

Moves: 38

Length of game: Three hours and 43 minutes

Flash verdict:  Carlsen escapes with a draw after Caruana plays the slow 24. h3?! to let him off the hook after three hours and 43 minutes.

Magnus Carlsen brands World Chess Championship sound-proofing failure ‘unacceptable’


Round 9

White: Carlsen

Opening: English Opening

Result: Draw.

Magnus Carlsen's black eye
Magnus Carlsen’s black eye

Moves: 58

Length of game: Three hours and 43 minutes

Flash verdict: Carlsen, sporting a bandage over a black-eye, misses a winning chance with an impatient 25. h5 that allows Caruana to hold for a peaceful result.

For Magnus, the time for talking is clearly over: Our Game 9 report


Round 10

White: Caruana

Opening: Sveshnikov Sicilian

Result: Draw.

Magnus Carlsen's net worth is boosted by his partnership with Iskvar bottled water
Magnus Carlsen’s net worth is boosted by his partnership with Iskvar bottled water

Moves: 54

Length of game: Five-hour and 19 minutes

Flash verdict: Carlsen weathers Caruana’s surprise 12.b4 move to hold on for a nervy draw in a marathon game.

A result, at last! #TeamCarlsen triumphs in Chessable blitz as John Bartholomew shows how to win


Round 11

White: Carlsen

Opening: The Petroff

Result: Draw.

Sergey Karjakin made the ceremonial first move
Sergey Karjakin made the ceremonial first move

Moves: 55

Length of game: Two hours 15 minutes

Flash verdict: A quiet draw. Carlsen got surprised in the opening then shut it down. Tie-breaks clearly on the players’ minds as it goes to the final game.

Sergey Karjakin: Magnus needs to invent something new in chess to be the strongest again


Round 12

White:  Caruana

Opening: Sveshnikov Sicilian

Result: Draw.

The post-match press conference at the end of Game 12
The post-match press conference at the end of Game 12

Moves: 31

Length of game:  Two hours and 57 minutes

Flash verdict: Caruana pushed, Carlsen got the advantage. Carlsen declined an opportunity to go for the win in the finale to the classical games and offered a draw while ahead to go to tie-breaks. A tame end.

Squeaky-bum time as World Chess Championship goes to tie-breaks: Our Game 12 report

What happens now? After Carlsen-Caruana Game 12 ends in a draw, here’s the tie-break rules

Squeaky-bum time as World Chess Championship goes to tie-breaks: Our Game 12 report

By Leon Watson / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Uncategorised, World Chess Championship

Another draw. The final scheduled game, Game 12, of the 2018 World Chess Championship ended in a draw. That’s an incredible TWELVE in a row.

Perhaps this is what we expected, with Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana separated by just three rating points going into the match.

But while for some today’s game had an air of predictability about it – even if the timing of the draw on move 31 caught everybody off-guard – it leaves us firmly in squeaky-bum time.

Carlsen-Caruana Game 12
Carlsen-Caruana Game 12

The match goes to tie-breaks on Wednesday when either the US challenger will become the first champion to have won the crown without winning any classical games in a title match, or Carlsen will be the first to defend it without winning a classical game.

One thing is for sure: Carlsen is the favourite. While Carlsen and Caruana are separated by just a hair’s breadth in classical chess, there is a chasm – at least at the elite level – between them in rapid and blitz: 100 points.

Carlsen is the world’s top-rated rapid player and top-rated blitz player, while Caruana is rated No 8 and 16 respectively. It’s also been 13 years since Carlsen lost a tiebreak.

However, if rapid and blitz aren’t sufficient to separate the champion from the chaff, the match will go down to Armageddon – chess’s version of a penalty shoot-out.

Was it boring?

Hell, no. This was another dynamic game with Caruana pushing – perhaps over pushing – and Carlsen seeing a serious advantage but not taking the opportunity, perhaps because he was satisfied with a draw. There were gasps of surprise when it ended in a draw – Carlsen could have pushed on but chose to be conservative.

But the question is, are all these draws good for chess?

In the post-match press conference, English Grandmaster Daniel King seemed to think so: “I hope it generates a lot of interest because it [the match] has been incredibly close.”

Carlsen Caruana Game 12 post-match press conference
Carlsen Caruana Game 12 post-match press conference

He added that Carlsen “took us all by surprise” when he offered the draw with a small advantage, at least according to the chess computers.

A thrilling end?

Tarjei Svensen, the Norwegian journalist, tweeted: “Well, for the fans, a draw today was great. We get to see a thrilling tiebreak now. Nothing better than that.”

Carlsen also seemed sanguine about the prospect of tie-breaks.

Carlsen revealed afterward that his intention before the game started was to hold the draw and head for the tie-breaks, and therefore he was not in the right mindset to take any risks and play for the win.

“Everybody could see that I wasn’t necessarily going for the maximum, I just wanted a position that was completely safe where I could put some pressure. If a draw hadn’t been a satisfactory result, obviously I would have approached it differently.”

Speaking about the final position, Caruana declared: “I was a bit surprised by the draw offer…I can never be better here and I don’t really have any active ideas. If anything Black is better but I thought I was over the worst of it. It was much more dangerous a few moves ago.”

Later on he admitted: “I’m mainly relieved because I thought it was quite close today, I was very worried during the game.”

Former top 10 player Grandmaster Judit Polgar said afterward that, by deciding to take the safe route and not take advantage of an inaccuracy from Caruana on move 25, Carlsen may have put his title at risk.

“This mistake could cost him the crown,” she said. “He did not try, he did not want to win it in classical chess. This shows something we’ve never seen before by Magnus, and it’s not a good sign necessarily.”

What happens next?

Here’s what happens next as we enter tie-breaks and possible Armageddon situation:

  1. Play will start again on Wednesday at 3pm at The College in Holborn.
  2. Carlsen and Caruana will play a best of four rapid games with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
  3. If still tied, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment).
  4. If all five mini-matches are drawn, one sudden-death ‘Armegeddon’ match will be played where White receives five minutes and Black receives four minutes. Both players will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. In the case of a draw, Black will be declared the winner.
  5. Around an hour and a half after the result, the ceremony will take place and the winner is crowned.

What happens now? After Carlsen-Caruana Game 12 ends in a draw, here’s the tie-break rules

By Leon Watson / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, World Chess Championship

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana have draw all 12 of their classical World Chess Championship games – and now the match goes to tie-breaks.

The two have been battling away in London for three weeks now and are all-square. We are now entering overtime.

Carlsen Caruana Game 12 post-match press conference
Carlsen Caruana Game 12 post-match press conference

The match has been one of the most fiercely contested in history – never before have so many games ended in a draw.

Here’s what happens next as we enter tie-breaks and possible Armageddon situation:

  1. Play will start again on Wednesday at 3pm at The College in Holborn.
  2. Carlsen and Caruana will play a best of four rapid games with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
  3. Carlsen will start with the White pieces, after the draw was made following Game 12
  4. If still tied, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment).
  5. If all five mini-matches are drawn, one sudden-death ‘Armegeddon’ match will be played where White receives five minutes and Black receives four minutes. Both players will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. In the case of a draw, Black will be declared the winner.
  6. Around an hour and a half after the result, the ceremony will take place and the winner is crowned.

Sergey Karjakin: Magnus needs to invent something new in chess to be the strongest again

By Leon Watson / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, World Chess Championship

Sergey Karjakin, the former World Chess Championship challenger, has said Magnus Carlsen is weaker now than he was at the last title match and needs to reinvent himself to be the strongest again.

Speaking to Chessable during Game 11 of Carlsen’s match against Fabiano Caruana, Karjakin said:

  1. Carlsen was stronger when I played him in 2016
  2. Carlsen is still recovering from a chess crisis
  3. Caruana has a better team around him than Carlsen
  4. Both players should be unhappy with the quality of games
  5. The format for the championship should be changed to 13 games
  6. Carlsen needs to invent something new in chess to be the strongest again

 

The Russian star, who lost to Carlsen in tie-breaks in 2016, was interviewed at the venue in London shortly after he made the ceremonial first move 1.b4. Unsurprisingly, that was taken back by Carlsen and replaced with 1.e4.

Sergey Karjakin made the ceremonial first move
Sergey Karjakin made the ceremonial first move

The match stands all-square at 5.5-5.5 after 11 games. There is one game left before it goes down to tie-breaks.

Here is the interview:

Sergey Karjakin in full

You made the first move today, 1.b4, Magnus laughed and then you exchanged some words. What was said?

Sergey Karjakin: Yes, we had a chat, I played 1.b4 and he started to laugh. I told him that he had people to advise him what to play, but that was my advise and he found it funny. He has a good sense of humour.

>> For Magnus, the time for talking is clearly over: Our Game 9 report

How do you think Magnus has approached this match? He seems to have been out-prepared by Fabiano, do you think he has been too, relaxed, too casual?

Sergey Karjakin: Yes, but basically I think Caruana has a better team and more people working for him, and he works more on the openings than Magnus does, so it is not a big surprise.

Sergey Karjakin spoke to Chessable
Sergey Karjakin spoke to Chessable

But he has a bigger team, is that because of the American money he has behind him. Does he have an advantage?

Sergey Karjakin: No, I think it is not a question of money, it is a question of how do you feel, what are you more comfortable with because I know from my experience if you work with five coaches all together it may be too much information. You are just not able to remember so many things. Normally, Magnus is like, he doesn’t need too many people near him and he feels more comfortable that way.

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana shake hands to start Game 11
Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana shake hands to start Game 11

Do you think he has made an error there, that if Caruana has a big team that Magnus has made an error in the way he has approached this tournament.

Sergey Karjakin: It is difficult to say. I think this match is not about the openings, but mistakes later and Magnus is clearly very unhappy with his first game when he was winning and he didn’t win and also in one of the other games when he was much as White. It was a big shock for Magnus, I would say, he is missing some opportunities.

>> Magnus Carlsen brands World Chess Championship sound-proofing failure ‘unacceptable’

But also at the same time, Caruana has also been missing things. He was much better in one game as black, the computer even said it was mate in 30.  And also he was much better in one game as white but he also spoiled that in one move. So the quality of the games, for both players they can be unhappy with it.

When you played him in New York, do you think Magnus was a different player then? In one of the press conferences, where he said his favourite player was himself three or four years ago. When he played you was he stronger then?

Sergey Karjakin: Well, yes, his rating was higher, his results were better and probably at that time he was stronger. But let’s be honest, he didn’t play that great. And then probably he got into some kind of chess crisis during the match and that is still with him two years later.

But at the same time, it’s not something very serious and I feel like he can still recover and play his best chess, he’s good enough to do that.

So do you think you knocked his confidence a little bit back then in the New York match, that you set this off?

Sergey Karjakin: Well, I don’t know maybe just a little bit. He was unhappy how the match was going and it was clear it was very difficult for him for a very long time. Yes, I think he took a long time to repair but now after two years it is not only about that match it is about the players getting used to how he plays. They know he has his best chances in the endgames and they are much more prepared for the seven-hour games against him. He needs to invent something new in chess to be the strongest again.

We’ve had 10 draws and there is now a possibility that Caruana could become the first player to win a classical World Chess Championship match without winning a classical game. Magnus could also become the first to defend it without winning a classical game. If that happens would it in some way devalue the title?

Sergey Karjakin: Yes, I think actually the system should be changed. I think matches like this are possible but my suggestion is if you want to see a very big fight then we should play something like 13 games with one player plays seven games with White and the other player plays six, but the player who is playing White he needs to score +1 and if he doesn’t the player who plays more games with Black wins.

Carlsen Vs Caruana
Carlsen Vs Caruana

 

For Magnus, the time for talking is clearly over: Our Game 9 report

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news, Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, World Chess Championship

A head injury sustained playing football wasn’t enough to put world chess champion Magnus Carlsen off in Game 9 as London’s big title match was left teetering on a knife-edge.

Norway’s 27-year-old rock star of chess tersely denied he was bothered by the very obvious black-eye as the latest round of his three-week-long contest with US challenger Fabiano Caruana ended all-square.

Magnus Carlsen's black eye
Magnus Carlsen’s black eye

It was the ninth game in a row that finished in a draw – a record for the 130-year-old competition, surpassing the eight-game run in 1995 match between Garry Kasparov and Vishy Anand.

>> Magnus Carlsen brands World Chess Championship sound-proofing failure ‘unacceptable’

It was also Carlsen’s 14th draw in a row – the longest of his career – and the first time a world champion has appeared at the board sporting a shiner.

Magnus Carlsen’s black eye

Carlsen sustained the injury when he collided with a member of the Norwegian media while playing football on his rest day.

The culprit was later named as NRK reporter, Emil Gukild, who also sported a plaster on his head.

Carlsen was assessed by his team doctor who passed him fit to play.

Asked afterward if he suffered any pain during Wednesday’s three-and-a-half hour game, Carlsen replied: “No.”

Clearly disappointed, he said: “I felt like I had a comfortable advantage and then I just blew it,. I was poor.”

>> Eurosport plots chess move: Game to be broadcast across Europe and Asia

Going into the game Carlsen had appeared to make light of the incident, saying on social media that “the match is heating up”.

But in the post-match press conference, the champion appeared annoyed and frustrated giving one-word answers to several questions.

Magnus Carlsen had the white pieces
Magnus Carlsen had the white pieces

Carlsen and Caruana’s game lasted 56 moves but neither player could find a breakthrough.

>> Sky News host Kay Burley on chess: ‘It’s so glitzy and fabulous’

The match, held at The College, Holborn, now enters game 10 of 12 on Thursday. In the event of a tie, the match will go to speed chess play-offs – the chess equivalent of penalties.

Australian Grandmaster Ian Rogers said: “It’s been friendly fire on both sides but no real breakthrough.”

See and train the game with our FREE Carlsen Vs Caruana course below:

Carlsen Vs Caruana
Carlsen Vs Caruana