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World Chess Championship is all tied after 11 games with nothing but draws



World Chess Championship 2018
Draws, draw, and more

Tristan Fewings/Getty Images
for World Chess

  • The
    2018 World Chess Championship
    is dead-even after 11
    consecutive drawn games.
  • That’s never happened before.
  • Game 12 will be a test of whether American challenger Fabiano
    Caruana wants to risk it all with the white pieces against
    three-time champ Magnus Carlsen of Norway or take the match to

After an unprecedented 11 draws, the 2018 World Chess
Championship has come down to a final classical game, being
played today in London between defending champ Magnus Carlsen of
Norway and challenger Fabiano Caruana of the United States.

The No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world are separated by just a
year in age and a few ranking points: 27-year-old Carlsen is at
2835, and 26-year-old Caruana is at 2832. So the march of equal
results shouldn’t entirely be a surprise, although it’s never
happened before. In 2013 and 2014, Carlsen was able to defeat
former World Champion Vishy Anand of India with decisive wins
over the board in classical time controls, without going to rapid
or blitz tiebreakers.

That wasn’t the case in 2016 when Russian’s Sergey Karjakin
challenged Carlsen and won a single game (Carlsen also won a
game, the remainder were draws, and Carlsen defended his title in
the “Armageddon” rounds that followed).

On Monday, Caruana has the white pieces and a slight statistical
edge, but the big question is whether he’ll press for a win,
overextend himself, and hand the title to Carlsen; or whether
he’ll angle for a draw and take his chances in the tiebreaks. The
latter is risky, as Carlsen is the world’s best rapid and blitz
player, while Caruana is ranked notably lower.

Read more:

American challenger Fabiano Caruana missed his best chance to win
a game against Magnus Carlsen at World Chess

Caruana’s preparation for the match has generally been better
than Carlsen’s, but while both players have enjoyed good winning
opportunities, neither has converted. Caruana, not an aggressive
player, has sought to negate whatever small advantages Carlsen
has snared — a major difference from Anand’s brand of power
chess, where he countered Carlsen’s talents by launching
redoubtable assaults from his side of the board.

Caruana’s preparation versus Carlsen’s uncanny ability to find
the right responses, even when he’s in trouble

Magnus Carlsen WCC 2016
Carlsen in

Getty Images for

In the competitive games for the WCC, we’ve seen Carlsen
repeatedly caught in Caruana’s superior opening preparation, but
able to find the best moves to equalize. Caruana, meanwhile, has
missed some tactical shots — or, if you accept that he possesses
computer-like calculating skills, followed such moves down their
lines of play and decided they were too risky. 

The 11-all scoreline has set off the usual bout of complaints
that there are too many draws in super-Grandmaster chess. The
Carlsen-Caruana draws have been fascinating studies in peaceful
outcomes, and there have even been a few novelties uncorked, as
well as many Sicilian Defences with the black pieces (the
Sicilian is regarded as one of black’s best chances to play for a
win). But the chess has been rather studious, and it’s proven
that at the top level, the use of analysis engines means that
it’s difficult to rattle the best competitors.

For many fans, a decisive result on Monday would be thrilling and
would make up for the march of draws; America would also have its
first World Champion since Bobby Fischer in 1972.

But coming off a rest day, neither player should be prone to a
blunder brought on by stress, so one of these guys is going to
have to go for it. The prospect of a sharper Sicilian looms, as
that was the opening employed Game 12, now showing an advantage
for white after 12 moves, the result of an early punch thrown on
the kingside by Carlsen with the move 12. h5.

Sharp Sicilians are notorious for getting out of hand for black —
and Carlsen, having trounced Karjakin in the tiebreaks two years
ago and knowing the Caruana is the lesser “fast” player, could
aim for a draw, although the initial moves of Game 12 suggest he
might have winning on his mind.

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