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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.
Carlsen vs Caruana
1 d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 It is smart for Carlsen to avoid the Petroff, a Caruana specialty! I expect a long strategical battle today! The QG is VERY common in WC matches.
5 Bf4 0-0 I used to like to play this line a lot.
6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Qc2 Nc69. a3 Qa5 10. Rd1 Magnus had this position after 10Rd1 several times already (against Nakamura)
10...Rd8 The encouraging sign is Caruana's speed of play today. He is much faster and seems to be more confident. 10...Be7 used to be the most popular, while lately lots of games with 10...Re8.
While 10...Rd8 is not a new move, according to my database Magnus never faced it before. That is why he is taking his time.
The most common move here is 11. Nd2, played by Petrosian before in the 60's. If black plays 11...dxc4 then White has a comfortable position.
However, if 11...d4 it can lead to interesting complications where Black sacrifices a piece. So this is why Carlsen is trying to decide how to proceed here.
Carlsen usually prefers quiet position advantage then squeeze while Caruana excels more in dynamic positions. So Carlsen must decide what type of game will he allow. This is all about match strategy, and sometimes Carlsen is known to play inferior moves just to shift the dynamic of the positions.
11 Be2 Ne4 Carlsen chose to play it safe to avoid the likely home-prep of Caruana in the complicated 11 Nd2 d4 line. The guessing game in World Championship matches is intense. Players must try to figure out what surprises the opponents have. Sometimes, lots of bluffing 😅
If 12. O-O Nxc3 13. bxc3 as Black cannot take the pawn on a3. If 13... Qxa3?? 14. Ra1 traps the queen or if 13...Bxa3? the Bishop gets into trouble after the pin with 14. Ra1.
12 O-O Nxc3 13. bxc3 h6 Of course Caruana did not fall for the elementary trap. 🤣 Hey, but this is educational for the novice players at home 😃
What you are seeing is the behind the scene thinking of these players in a World Championship match. I remember this from my own match in 1996. A lot of guessing game and my team did a better job surprising my opponent.
So when you see players sitting and thinking in what seems to be "normal" positions, what they are doing is try to figure out the potential landmines of home preparation. It is not like they are day dreaming or think about dinner 😅
14 a4 Ne7 Now you can see why Caruana is a worthy challenger. He is very diligent with his training. I have known him since he was about 6 years old when he started playing his first tournaments at my Chess Club in NY. Lou, his Dad, has always been very supportive of his chess. And he was never afraid to ask for advice so his son can have the best path forward.
15 Ne5 Bd6 White has bad pawn structure with isolated a and c pawn. His only consolation is Black's c8 Bishop is inactive. So if Caruana can get his Bishop out, it will be a completely different ball game. It is clear that Caruana out prepared Carlsen in game 2.
Just like yesterday, White is in an uncomfortable position. Carlsen needs to put the brakes and try to consolidate and hold this game. I do not like his position at all. Caruana plays really fast today, and much more confidently.
16 cxd5 Nxd5 17. Bf3 If 17... Nxf4 18. exf4 Bxe5 19. Rxd8+ Qxd8 20. fxe5 = Carlsen smells danger and hopes to trade pieces to head to equal endgame to salvage this game and fight another day. Caruana on the other hand should try to keep up the intensity in this game and not simplify.
In chess, especially in a World Championship match, momentum is so important. If Carlsen converted yesterday, things could have been so different. But he let Caruana off the hook and it may come back to bite him.
17...Nxf4 18. exf4 Bxe5 It is interesting that Caruana is following the line I suggested. Black is completely fine, maybe even easier to play. But I thought he may be suited to keep things complicated a little longer to burn more time off Carlsen's clock.
19 Rxd8+ Qxd8 20. fxe5 They are following the exact same suggestion I made. White has 2 isolated pawns. Black has a slight development problem with the Bishop on c8. So I evaluate this to be equal and the game should head to a peaceful draw.
20...Qc7 Now white needs to maintain pressure on the b7 pawn and keeps the Bishop back on c8. Forget about the e5 pawn for now. So 21. Rb1 is a good option.
21 Rb1 Carlsen is very smart. He knew that he was outplayed in the opening in spite of having white. So he changed the dynamic of the game immediately, and now they are heading to a "boring" endgame where he is certainly safer. This is why the man is the Champion! 🏆
One of the big problems in chess for many players, including Grandmasters, is how to change the dynamic of the games mid-stream. Some have their minds set on some ideas, and they refuse to change course. To be successful, one must be FLEXIBLE and OBJECTIVE. Hard to do for many!
21...Rb8 22. Qd3 Bd7 23. a5 I am not terribly impressed with this move. I prefer 23. Qd6.
Carlsen is still OK. But I think this game, even if it ends in a draw, will give a big boost in confidence for Caruana. It also sends a message that Caruana's team is strong and they are doing their jobs well. The question is how will players react as the match momentum constantly shifts from game to game.
This is one possibility 23... Bc6 24. Qd6 Qxd6 25. exd6 Bxf3 26. gxf3 Kf8 27. c4 Ke8 28. c5 Kd7 29. Rc1 Rc830. Rb1 Rxc5 31. Rxb7+ Kxd6 32. Rxa7 Rc7 33. Ra8 Kc634. Kf1 Kb7 35. Rg8 g6 36. Ke2 Ka6 37. Ra8+ Kb5 38. Ke3 Rc3+39. Ke2 g5 40. Rh8 Kxa5 41. Rxh6 Rc2+ 42. Ke3 = But it is white who has to play accurately to hold.
23...Bc6 This is a very dangerous moment for Carlsen. Even though it may look "drawish", he has to be so accurate to hold. Not so easy as he has much less time.
24 Qd6 Qxd6 25. exd6 =+
When I conducted this World Championship poll, out of the 1,200+ votes, about 71-72% picked Carlsen to beat Caruana. Do you still agree after seeing this game?
25...Bxf3 26. gxf3 Kf8 This is "technically" a draw. But white has to be accurate. White needs to push c4-c5 quickly. No time to waste. Otherwise, he can be in big trouble!
27 c4 Ke8 28. a6 b6 29. c5 Kd7 30. cxb6 axb631. a7 Ra8 32. Rxb6 Rxa7 33. Kg2 e5 34. Rb4 Yesterday, Caruana held a R and P endgame with one pawn down. Now Carlsen has to do the same but in a tougher position. Not an easy task!
34...f5 35. Rb6 Ke6 36. d7+ Kxd7 Carlsen needs to push f4 now. This is an important pawn structure to hold.
37 Rb5 Ke6 38. Rb6+ Kf7 39. Rb5 Kf6 40. Rb6+ Kg541. Rb5 Kf4 42. Rb4+ e4 43. fxe4 fxe4 It should be a draw now.
44. h3 Ra5
45 Rb7 Rg5+ 46. Kf1 Rg6 I realize that the Norwegian fans are probably nervous now as they see that Carlsen has 1 less pawn. But be assured that Carlsen is not a World Champion on TV. He is really good and he "should" hold this game.
47 Rb4 Rg5 48. Rb7 Rg6 49. Rb4 ½-½ It is nice for Caruana to agree to a draw and not push for 100 moves like yesterday. The Norwegians can go back to their business now.
So after 2 games, the score is 1-1. This is a strong bounce back and a boost of confidence for Caruana. Now it is the best of 10 games!