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An American finally has a shot at winning the World Chess Championship for the first time since Bobby Fischer in 1972



World Chess Championship 2018
Fabiano Caruana at a press event before the 2018 World
Chess Championship in London.


It’s been a long, long, long, long wait. Very, very, very long.
But for the first time since American Bobby Fischer defeated
Boris Spassky of the USSR in 1972, an American is competing for
the World Chess Championship.

Miami-born, Brooklyn-raised Fabiano Caruana won the Candidates
Tournament earlier this year and will take on three-time world
champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway in London. The match commences
on Friday, and as was the case for the 2016 WCC — won by Carlsen
over Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin in New York — it
will run for 12 rounds, with tie-breaks in the event of an equal
result after the classical games. (Carlsen will begin with the
white pieces in Games 1.)

Champion and challenger are the world Nos. 1 and 2 players,
by the FIDE rating system: Carlsen stands at 2835; Caruana at
2832. They’re nearly the same age. But Carlsen, at 27, has ruled
the chess world for years. Caruana, 26, has long been considered
a likely WCC contender, but despite some spectacular results, his
road to London has been uneven. (He also used to be officially
affiliated with Italy, and he holds dual US-Italian

When I spoke with him before the Sinquefield Cup, a major
tournament in St. Louis, a few months back, he reminded me that
his loss at the 2016 Candidates could be attributed to
effectively running out of energy. He corrected that in

Read more:

2018 is going to be a very big year in chess as Magnus Carlsen
goes for a World Championship 4-peat

Fighting back against the World Champion

World Chess Championship 2018
Magnus Carlsen in London.

Caruana has a solid record against Carlsen (although
Carlsen has more victories). Most recently, at the Sinquefield
Cup, Caruana pulled out a stunning draw in a flat-lost position
with black, dismaying Carlsen who had taken a moment to leave the
board and record a short, silent, taunting video in a private
“confessional” booth. Ultimately, Caruana shared a three-way tie
for first at the event, with Carlsen and Armenia’s Levon

Carlsen struggled against Karjakin in 2016, needing the
shorter tiebreaks to notch his third title. Against Caruana,
he’ll face a trickier foe than he has in the past. Against Vishy
Anand for his first two WCCs, he was able to blunt the older
man’s all-court power game with resourceful defense and a
patented ability to build gradually on small advantages. Karjakin
sought to suck all the life out of positions and negate Carlsen’s
talent for incremental domination.

Caruana, by contrast, is a calculating machine. While
Carlsen might consider just a few options and retain a manageable
position, playing for an endgame and relying on his vaunted
talent for recalling thousands of patterns, Caruana can emulate a
computer analysis engine’s ability to peer deeply into positions
an come up with nearly inhuman resources.

A very modern World Chess Championship

World Chess Championship 2016 First Move
Carlsen at the 2016


Neither player is particularly flamboyant or attacking in
style. Carlsen likes to sit at the board for a long time and wear
down his opponents, while Caruana aims to throw in extensive
opening preparation and out-deep-think the other guy. As usual,
the world is hoping for some thrilling games, but with these two,
there’s liable to be a lot of draws, especially if they stick to
Grandmaster openings, such as the Berlin Defense in the Ruy Lopez
or the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

“Magnus is difficult to beat,” Caruana told me. “He makes
the most of every chance he has, and he wills things into being.

But in the three or four conversations I’ve enjoyed with
Caruana over the years, in our most recent I sensed a much more
confident competitor. 

“When I’m on form, I can play better than Magnus,” he said.
And I believed him. 

After Fischer won the World Championship in 1972, in
Iceland at the height of the Cold War, he never defended his
title, descending into eccentric behavior before passing away in
2008. Caruana has in his career turned in some crushing
Fisher-like performances, and he’s often been compared to the
legendary and infamous American prodigy regarding his

But it’s clear he doesn’t want to follow in Fischer’s
footsteps entirely.

“I hope to have a longer career than he did,” Caruana

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