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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.
It was clear that Caruana surprised Carlsen in game 2 with 10...Rd8 with possible very sharp continuation. White managed to draw but the momentum was changed. I think Caruana will be much calmer now. How will Carlsen handle this game?
Caruana vs Carlsen
1 e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 Here we go, we have a repeat of game 1. The question is who will uncork the first novelty? Very interesting psychological play by both players! Game on!
The first deviation is 5. d3 Bg7 6. O-O instead of 6. h3. Surprise! 😄 It is nothing special chesswise, but clearly Caruana did not want to repeat the potential problems of game 1.
6...Qc7 It is interesting that Carlsen played this right away. Immediately, it is putting doubt in his opponent's head. Carlsen wants to show that he expected 6. 0-0 and is fully prepared for it. So Caruana now must think how to avoid possible home prep. A complete mind game! More common moves are 6...Nf6 or 6...e5.
7 Re1e5 After 7 Re1 e5 the game is back to similar territory as with 6...e5. Transposition of moves.
Caruana seems to have returned to his childhood favorite...
Back in 2004 he has played this same line, but there his opponent played 6...e5
[Event "Budapest FS06 IM"]
[White "Caruana, Fabiano"]
[Black "Martini, Balazs"]
1 e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O Bg7 6. d3 e5 7. Be3 Qe7 8. h3 Nf6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. a4 b6 11. Nd2 Nh5 12. a5 Rb8 13. axb6 axb6 14. Ne2 Qc7 15. c3 Nf4 16. Bxf4 exf4 17. d4 Rd8 18. Nf3 Qe7 19. Qc2 g5 20. e5 Be6 21. c4 h6 22. Rad1 Rd7 23. Rd2 b5 24. cxb5 Rxb5 25. Nc3 Rb4 26. dxc5 Rxd2 27. Qxd2 Qxc5 28. Re1 Qb6 29. Ra1 Qb8 30. Nd4 Rxb2 31. Qd3 Qxe5 32. Nxc6 Qc5 33. Ra8+ Bf8 34. Ne4 Qxc6 35. Qd8 Qxa8 36. Qxa8 Rb1+ 37. Kh2 Rb4 38. Nf6+ Kg7 39. Qa1 Kg6 40. Ne8 Rb8 41. Nc7 Rb6 42. Qa8 Bg7 43. Qg8 Bd7 44. h4 gxh4 45. Nd5 Rf6 46. Ne7+ 1-0
8 a3 World Championship play versus tournament play is so different. The preparation level for a 12-game match, or 14 in my match in 1996, is so much deeper and intense. There are a lot of guess work by both teams. The team with better guesses and better prep has big advantage!
The 8. a3 the idea is to prepare b2-b4 and after the exchange on b4, opening the a-file
More common is first 8. Be3 b6 and then 9. a3.
Carlsen needs to make a decision: allow b2-b4 and just continue developing on the Kingside or try to prevent it with a7-a5
8...Nf6 Now the logical follow up is 9. b4
It is too late to play 9. Be3 as then Black has 9...c4 and if 10. dxc4 Nxe4.
9. b4 Now we will see a completely different dynamic as in game 1.
9... O-O Sacrificing (temporarily) the pawn on c5. Interestingly even though we are out of official theory, but so far both sides are playing rather fast. If White captures the pawn with 10. bxc5, Black will win the pawn back soon enough after 10...Nd7 11. Be3 and f5! followed by chasing the Bishop away with f5-f4.
10 Nbd2 I prefer the white side here. It is a little easier to play, but of course far from anything decisive. Carlsen spent quite a bit of time here. What to do? 10...cxb4, 10...Nd7, 10...Be6 or even 10...Bg4. Choices, choices! 😁
10...Bg4 The idea is to take some pressure off the e5 pawn. If 11. h3 then Bxf3. The c8 Bishop has very little play, so to exchange it for the Knight on f3 is not a bad idea. White is slightly better in this position. Perhaps Carlsen will change his opening choice in game 5? 😄
This is certainly a much better white game for Caruana than game 1. It clearly seems to me that he got a hold of his footing after a strong game 2. Even though there is no decisive result so far, the momentum has swung quite a bit.
11 h3 Bxf3 12. Nxf3 As expected, Carlsen exchanged his Bishop for the Knight. One of the things I do not understand sometimes in World Championship play is why some players insist of repeating the same opening choices? This is another underwhelm opening choice for Carlsen.
12...cxb4 13. axb4 a5 This is basically survival mode. Carlsen hopes to trade a lot of pieces off to hold the endgame. He needs to mix things up drastically in the next few games. The missed opportunity in game 1 now looms larger. Having said that, Caruana needs to find a way to convert while Carlsen is still wobbling. Otherwise, the momentum will shift back. Sometimes, 1 move in 1 game can change the entire outcome of a match this important!
14bxa5Rxa5 Unless one has played in long Classical World Championship matches, it is hard for most chess players to understand the importance of psychology, home preparation, momentum, and other rarely seen off the board factors.
Carlsen has a big edge in match experience, but Caruana has adjusted very well after a shaky game 1. Big kudos to his team for preparing him nicely. This now has become a really interesting psychological battle.
15 Bd2 Raa8 Caruana will try to put his Bishop on c3 and Queen on b2 to put pressure on both e5 and b7 pawns.
16 Qb1 Nd7 17. Qb4 White is slightly better and has a more comfortable position, it should be hold-able for Carlsen.
17...Rfe8 What to do? White is better. White has space advantage. White has better pawn structure. But how to take advantage of it? This is what Carlsen is counting on. Black can sit back and defend.
18 Bc3 Black can play almost anything and still is OK. 18...h5, 18...Bf8, 18...b5
One thing Caruana must keep in mind is Carlsen is very resourceful. He has no problem playing slightly inferior positions. Therefore, Caruana must develop strong patience and not wears himself out like Foreman vs Ali "Rumble in the Jungle'.
18...b5 19. Rxa8 Rxa8 20. Ra1 Rxa1+ 21. Bxa1 Now, it seems that white got nothing out of the slight advantage. This is now practically equal. But Caruana must not fall asleep here as Carlsen can be very dangerous in this type of "boring" positions. He became a World Champion because of his ability to grind.
21...Qa7 It is a big sigh of relief for Carlsen as he is no longer in any danger. He can just relax and grind. As I said in my pre-match assessment, Caruana is superior in opening prep but Carlsen is better positionally. Objectively, the position is equal now.
22 Bc3 Carlsen can force the trade of Queens if he wants to 22... Qa2 23. Qb2 Qxb2 24. Bxb2 f6 =
22...Qa2 Look at that! Carlsen is following the suggestion. Maybe I should type quieter so Carlsen won't hear? :)
23 Qb2 This is a quiet signal that they are OK with a draw in peace
23...Qxb2 24. Bxb2 f6 25. Kf1 Kf7 26. Ke2 Nc5 This is now 99.99% draw, unless someone falls asleep and loses on time.
27 Bc3 Ne6 The position should result in a draw. But I am afraid Carlsen will play on a while to burn off some anger that he got outplayed in the opening again.
28 g3 Bf8 Carlsen has nothing. All he is doing is trying to grind hoping that Caruana will get careless. Seriously, neither side has anything here.
29. Nd2Ng5 While most grandmasters would take a draw here, look at what Carlsen is doing. He is slowly provoking Caruana. He has no problem doing little poking for hours and hours. The problem is many will fall asleep mentally and lose to him. It is like some sort of hypnotism.
30 h4 Ne6 31. Nb3 h5 You may see something like Bd6 then g5. He wants to create either a passed pawn, or creating a stand alone pawn for white on a dark square. This is why white has to be alert. These little moves can prove to be a pain down the line.
To be clear, Caruana is not losing. But this does not stop Carlsen from trying to win. I personally believe Caruana made a small psychological mistake by agreeing to a draw too early in game 2. He should have played out that drawn endgame to send a message to Carlsen that 2 can play same game.
32 Bd2 Black has to consider the following: Is it better for him to trade off Knights, Bishops, both, or keep everything, Each scenario can change the dynamic of the game. This is a difficult decision for most amateur or club players.
32...Bd6 33. c3 c5 34. Be3 Even though the game should still end in a draw, the momentum of the game has shifted. Now it is Carlsen who is the one to do the pushing and Caruana the one who is defending. Even within a game, you can see the momentum going up and down.
34...Ke7 35. Kd1 Kd7 Look at that! The lazy Kings now want to get into the action. Black can try to make a play on the Queenside or Kingside. It is he who is dictating the pace now.
36. Kc2f5 You are witnessing the beauty of chess (if you like this type of chess). Black faked it on the Queenside. As soon as the White King shifted to the Queenside, Black made a play on the Kingside. Still draw but this is a good lesson for club players.
Some were asking me if Caruana should offer a draw. The answer is no. He knows Carlsen will not accept and it shows sign of weakness. You do not want to do that against Carlsen.
37 Kd1 fxe4 38. dxe4 c4 39. Nd2 Look at what happened? In just a few moves, Carlsen managed to do this. White now has 4 pawns on dark squares while Black has only 1. Even though in this position it may not mean much, in some others, that can be lethal. Endgame lesson for club players.
39...Nc5 40. Bxc5 Bxc5 41. Ke2 Remember what I said before? Carlsen was thinking about what to trade off. Now he sees that white has 4 pawns on dark squares, he traded his Knight for Bishop so he can exploit them, then bring his King in on the Queenside. This is a master at work folks!
This is a very good endgame lesson for the average club players. Even it may not be enough to win, you can see the deliberate effort from Carlsen to slowly change the dynamic of this game. He is working to shift every little possible advantage to his side.
41...Kc6 White now must bite back by creating some counter play not to allow the Black King to freely roam down the Queenside. This is the blueprint to draw. White cannot afford to play defensively.
Speaking from personal experience in World Championship matches, this is where Caruana and his team must find a solution. He got excellent positions out of the openings in the last 2 games with nothing to show for it. What went wrong? How to improve. This is why you have a team of seconds.
42 Nf1 This is the right plan. Caruana wants his Knight on the more flexible e3 square. This game is still heading to a draw. But Carlsen enjoys this type of maneuvering. So I expect another long game. And this is why I said fitness is so important. Long games is expected.
42...b4 43. cxb4 Bxb4 44. Ne3 Kc5 Another shift in the position. Now Carlsen has just created a passed pawn for himself.
But Caruana is fine as long as he is making plays on the Kingside. 45. f4 exf4 46. gxf4 Ba5 This is the correct play by Caruana. This is why he is #2 in the world and the rightful challenger to Carlsen.
47 f5 gxf5 48. Nxc4 Kxc4 49. exf5 ½-½ Excellent defense by Caruana. Game 4 tomorrow!
In case if you are wondering, Black's Bishop in on the wrong corner. So all white has to do is put his King on h1 and draw. Black cannot make progress so draw.
I really try not to go into the detail computer lines. Anyone can read those things off their engines. I am trying to give you more from my personal world championship experience, and the thinking and maneuvering from both players. Hope you do not mind! That's my coaching side! 😃