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World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Challenger Fabiano Caruana of the U.S. will be playing a 12-game chess match to determine who will be the World Chess Champion.
In case of a 6-6 tie, the World Chess Championship title will be decided by a tiebreak of two rapid games of 25'+10", followed by two 5'+3" blitz games. Armageddon will be the final game if the dead lock could not be broken.
The match will be played in London from November 9-28, 2018, with a prize fund of over 1 million euros.
Caruana vs Carlsen
1 e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 We have a Rossolimo!
5 d3 Bg7 6. h3 Nf67. Nc3 Nd7 This is a mind game! They want to surprise each other.
8 Be3e59. 0-0 This is not an overly sharp line. Black is doing fine. Black usually would play 9...Qe7 here. Fabiano had a game in this line I think back in 2005.
The opening selection in a World Championship match is always fascinating. When I played in my World Championship match against Xie Jun, I completely shocked her by playing 1. e4 when I was known for 1. d4. It was a mental game.
9...b6 is rare in high level chess but very playable.
From the speed of play, I think Carlsen has successfully surprised Caruana with opening choice in game 1. The mind game has begun.
Do not fall for the "Mind Game Joke" Carlsen tried to pull by releasing the video of his 3 Ps preparation: Pizza, Poker, and Premier League Football. He prepared hard and definitely not taking Caruana lightly.
10 Nh2 Caruana is following an idea from a similar game he had against Nakamura in 2015. That game ended in a draw even though Caruana pushed hard to win. The idea is to prepare for f4.
Now white has 2 logical plans: To push f4 or to play Qd2 with the idea of Bh6.
11 f4 exf4 12. Rxf4 Caruana chose the f4 idea. Now the plan is simply. White will load things up on the f file and go for an attack on the Kingside.
12...Be6 I think both sides are satisfied with how the game is going so far. This game is also an important psychological battle. Caruana wants something where he can push without much risk to calm the nerves. Carlsen wants to get rid of a black game. This is a win win situation for both players!
13 Rf2 I can tell you from personal experience that playing in a World Championship match can be exciting, fulfilling but also nerve wrecking. One small mistake in a match could doom you. So it is much easier for the fans sitting at home with Stockfish to question players' decisions. But for the players themselves, a lot of things go through their minds during the games and match.
14 Qd2 to clear the 1st rank for Raf1 while putting pressure on the h6 pawn. White will continue to try to formulate an attack on the Kingside.
14...g5 15. Raf1 I expect Carlsen's King to flee to the Queenside for safety. So something like Qd6 at some points is logical to clear the way.
15...Qd6 As expected, Carlsen clears the path for his King to hide on the Queenside. A smart decision!
I like the approach to game 1 so far from both players. There are a lot more than what you see on the surface. Carlsen showed that he can surprise Caruana in the opening, an area some believe Caruana is stronger. It is always a hard guessing game as to what to prepare for.
As I mentioned in my pre-match assessment here https://gamesmaven.io/chessdailynews/news/my-world-chess-championship-assessment-IB14B75INk-7m7t0TOQq5w/, Caruana needs to speed things up a little bit. He does not want to get too far behind on the clock.
16 Ng4 0-0-0 17. Nf6 Nd7 Now I do not like this plan from Caruana at all. He can get in serious trouble quite quickly. Black's Bishop pair can be very dangerous. All of sudden, Black can turn the table by attacking on the Kingside. I do not like this at all.
18 Nh5 Be5 This is exactly what I pointed out in my pre-match assessment. Caruana had his eyes on this World Championship match opportunity for a long time. But he MUST control his nerves and stay objective. He cannot attack carelessly and get behind on the clock. This is why the World Championship experience is so important!
Now the tide has clearly turned. Caruana has to be objective and realize that he is in trouble. This is the time to try to hold and salvage this game. If he thinks that he is OK and not consolidate, this game may be over very soon.
19 g4 One idea is 19...f6 followed by Bf7. Carlsen must be happy at this moment. To use a boxing analogy, Caruana tried to be aggressive and left himself open. Carlsen got in a good jab and Caruana needs to regain his composure quickly before the big blows come. Make sense? 🤣🥊
19...f6 20. b3 Bf7 As expected. The White Knight on h5 is now screaming at Caruana: "I am stuck, I am stuck, and I cannot get out! What are you doing to me? Help!"
21 Nd1 Nf8 22. Nxf6 Ne6 23. Nh5 I do not understand this sequence by Carlsen. He kind of let Caruana off the hook. Very strange!
23...Bxh5 24. gxh5 Nf4 25. Bxf4 This is a possibility 25... gxf4 26. Rxf4 Bxf4 27. Qxf4 Qxf4 28. Rxf4 Rdf8 29. Rxf8+ Rxf830. Kg2 Rg8+ 31. Kh2 and it is about equal.
25...gxf4 26. Rg2 This is an inaccuracy due to time pressure. As I said earlier, as well as in my pre-match assessment, Caruana MUST play faster. This will cause him big trouble if he does not fix it.
26...Rhg8 27. Qe2 Rxg2 28. Qxg2 Now Caruana's biggest task is to make time control without any additional inaccuracies.
28... Qe6 29. Nf2 Rg8 30. Ng4 Qe8 Black is slightly better here due to the vulnerability of the White King.
31 Qf3 Qxh5 Now the White King needs to run to the Queenside ASAP. Too dangerous staying put.
32 Kf2 It looks like Caruana has a good chance to survive game 1. But he MUST make a mental note to himself for game 2, DO NOT overthink and get into time pressure. It is hard enough to battle Carlsen on the chess board. It will be even harder if you give Carlsen time handicap.
32...Bc7 33. Ke2? Qg5! Now Caruana is in deep trouble again! Black is threatening h5!
34 Nh2 The problems are compounding because of time pressure! I wish Caruana would follow my advice here https://gamesmaven.io/chessdailynews/news/my-world-chess-championship-assessment-IB14B75INk-7m7t0TOQq5w/. A loss in game 1 with white would be devastating!
34...h5 35. Rf2 The white King is still vulnerable and the Knight is stuck. The Black Queen can sneak to the other side with Qg7 to cause havoc for White!
35...Qg1 is inaccurate. It simply gives white an extra tempo with Nf1 to get the Knight out of the miserable h2 square. 35...Qg7 would have been stronger.
36 Nf1 In spite of the inaccuracy, Carlsen's position is still better.
36...h4 Another inaccuracy for Carlsen. This is an area where Carlsen declined comparing to his peak. This kind of small inaccuracies sometimes allow his opponents to escape.
37. Kd2 Kb7 38. c3 A slew of mutual inaccuracies by both sides due to time pressure. 🤔 Ouch! Who will make the last mistake?
38...Be5 39. Kc2 Qg740. Nh2 Bxc3 Both sides make time control. The problem is white is still in trouble, but much less than before.
41 Qxf4 Bd4 White is still slightly worse. But the dodged the big bullet thanks to Carlsen's series of small mistakes.
This game 1 is very crucial to both players mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. A win by Caruana can give him wings to win this match. But a loss with white against Carlsen right at the start may be devastating. This is the battle ground game. The one who seize this first game will have a huge advantage!
This is a key crossroad! Does Caruana want to trade Queen or does he have the patience to be squeezed by Carlsen for another few hours? Very tough decision!
42 Qf7+ I think Caruana made the right decision. I think he has a better chance to hold if the Queens are off the board.
42... Ka6 43. Qxg7 Rxg744. Re2 Rg3 45. Ng4 Rxh3 46. e5 Caruana's chance to hold is greater than ever, which will be a big mental boost. However, he needs to fix his time management issue in game 2 and beyond.
46...Rf3 47. e6 Now Rf8 is the only move for Carlsen. Otherwise, Caruana's pawn is unstoppable.
47...Rf8 48. e7 Re8 49. Nh6 h3 50. Nf5 Bf6 Caruana still has to be careful. There are still some tricks left. He must stay focus to hold this very important game.
The good news is Caruana's position is better than half and hour earlier. The bad news is Carlsen will squeeze him until breakfast tomorrow.
51 a3 b5 52. b4 cxb4 53. axb4 Now Carlsen can take on e7 with 53...Bxe7. It will be R+3 Ps v R+2 Ps endgame!
53...Bxe7 54. Nxe7 h2 55. Rxh2 Rxe7 As expected, this will now be the R & P endgame battle! The question is did Caruana memorize the Dvoretsky Endgame Manual?
56 Rh6 Kb6 57. Kc3 Rd7 58. Rg6 Only Carlsen can win this position, although unlikely that Caruana will blow it. After all, he is the 2nd ranked player in the world!
58...Kc7 59. Rh6 Rd6 60. Rh8 This game will likely head to a draw. A big relief for Caruana, and more frustration for Carlsen!
60...Rg6 61. Ra8 Kb7 62. Rh8 Rg5 63. Rh7+ Kb6 64. Rh6 Rg1 65. Kc2
65...Rf1 66. Rg6 Rh1 67. Rf6 Rh8 68. Kc3 Ra8 69. d4 Rd8 70. Rh6 Rd7 71. Rg6 Kc7 72. Rg5 Rd6 73. Rg8 Rh6 This game is clearly heading to a draw. But Carlsen cannot stand the idea of not squeezing some more out of frustration.
In World Championship play, sometimes a game like this can change the entire dimension of the match! The Carlsen in his peak would have closed this game out. The next game will now play a much bigger role. Can Caruana stabilize and can Carlsen get this off his mind?
74 Ra8 Rh3+ 75. Kc2 Ra3 76. Kb2 Ra4 77. Kc3 a6 78. Rh8 Ra3+ 79. Kb2 Carlsen cannot make progress unless a pair of pawns are traded. Even with that, Caruana should hold comfortably.
79... Rg3 80. Kc2 Rg5 81. Rh6 Rd5 82. Kc3 Rd6 Carlsen continues to maneuver but no progress. Caruana will not blow this one.
83 Rh8 Rg6 84. Kc2 Kb7 85. Kc3 Rg3+ 86. Kc2 Rg1 87. Rh5 Rg2+ 88. Kc3 Rg3+89. Kc2 Rg4 90. Kc3 Kb6 Still no progress. He has to try to trade the a for the b pawn. But that would still not be enough.
91. Rh6 Rg5 92. Rf6 Rh5 93. Rg6 Rh3+ 94. Kc2 Caruana is holding steadily. Draw will occur. The only question is when.
94... Rh5 95. Kc3 Rd5 96. Rh6 Kc7 97. Rh7+ Rd7 98. Rh5 Rd699. Rh8 Rg6 100. Rf8 Sorry Carlsen fans, I simply do not see a path for a win. Caruana's fans, you can breathe now!
Maybe Caruana should ask the Chief Arbiter to continue the game blindfolded to prove to Carlsen that he can do it! 🤣😂
100...Rg3+ 101. Kc2 Ra3 102. Rf7+ Kd6 103. Ra7 Kd5 104. Kb2 Rd3 105. Rxa6 Rxd4 The good news is it is still a draw. The bad news is now Carlsen can play for another 50 moves since a pawn exchange was made!
106. Kb3 Re4 107. Kc3 Rc4+ 108. Kb3 Kd4 109. Rb6 Kd3 110. Ra6 Rc2 111. Rb6 Rc3+ 112. Kb2 Rc4 113. Kb3 Kd4 114. Ra6 Kd5 115. Ra8 ½-½
This was a big escape for Caruana, a very important game mentally! At the same time, I am sure Carlsen is extremely frustrated! The game was in his hands! Until tomorrow .....