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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 - Caruana
1 c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Bc5
They are cranking out the first 6 moves like they are in a rush to meet the Queen! Carlsen just wants to mix things up a little and play chess, and hopefully avoid any crazy home prep by Caruana and his team.
7 O-O O-O 8. d3 Re8
Some fans are complaining that the games have been boring and not enough action. Their jobs is to try to win the match. For one, it is to hold on to his title, and the other wants to take it away. They are not in London to entertain the fans. They will do what they think is best.
9 Bd2 Nxc3 10. Bxc3 Nd4
This so far could not have been surprising to Carlsen, as Caruana quite predictably choose this line against the English lately.
In fact, he played 8...Re8 back in April
[Event "GCT Blitz Paris 2018"]
[White "So, W."]
[Black "Caruana, F."]
1 c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Bc5 7. O-O O-O 8. d3 Re8 9. Bd2 Nxc3 10. Bxc3 Nd4 11. Rc1 Bb6 12. Re1 Bg4 13. Bxd4 exd4 14. a3 c6 15. Nd2 a5 16. Bf3 Be6 17. Qa4 Bc7 18. Ne4 Bd5 19. Nc5 Rb8 20. Bxd5 Qxd5 21. Qc4 Red8 22. b4 axb4 23. axb4 Qh5 24. b5 Ba5 25. Rf1 cxb5 26. Qxb5 b6 27. Qa4 Qxe2 28. Na6 Ra8 29. Nc7 Rac8 30. Qb5 Bc3 31. Nd5 Qe6 32. Nf4 Qd6 33. Rb1 Rb8 34. Rfc1 h6 35. Rc2 Rdc8 36. Re2 Qc6 37. Nd5 Kh7 38. Qb3 Re8 39. Rc2 Re5 40. Nxc3 Rc5 41. Qxf7 dxc3 42. d4 Rc4 43. d5 Qg6 44. Qxg6+ Kxg6 45. Rb3 b5 46. Rcxc3 Rxc3 47. Rxc3 b4 48. Rb3 Kf5 49. Kf1 Ke5 50. Ke2 Kxd5 51. Kd3 Kc5 52. Kc2 Rf8 53. f4 Re8 54. Rd3 Kc4 55. Rd7 Re2+ 56. Kb1 Kb3 57. Rd3+ Kc4 58. Rd7 Rxh2 59. Rxg7 Kb3 60. Kc1 Rh1+ 61. Kd2 Kb2 62. f5 Rf1 63. g4 b3 64. Ke2 Rf4 65. Ke3 Rf1 66. Ke2 Rf4 67. Ke3 1/2-1/2
11 b4 Bd6 Structurally, this is like a reversed Sicilian Dragon but where White has an extra tempo. 11. b4 is first deviation from the So-Caruana game. Yes, the position looks harmless, but Caruana must remain focus. This is exactly the type of position Carlsen wants, and he got it.
Of course after 12. Nxd4 exd4 13. Bxd4 Black regains the Pawn right back after 13...Bxg3 14. hxg3 Qxd4.
12 Rb1 We are seeing the typical Magnus, avoiding the clash in the opening. The strategy seems clear. Carlsen wants a more "boring" type of positions where he can grind his opponent down with no risk. Caruana on the other hand wants more dynamic positions. So the hidden game is how to achieve those positions.
12...Nxf3+ 13. Bxf3 a6
Let me tell you some behind the scene secrets in World Championship matches. It is a complete mind game. Before the match, the team of seconds will comb through all the opponent's games, especially the more recent ones. Their job is to find any kind of "weakness" or any kind of "struggle" in any type of positions in any opening. Then they will come up with a plan of what to prepare for, and work on surprises.
Of course nothing is ever 100% correct because the other team also has surprises. So it is up to the players themselves, arm with all the preparation, to figure out where the potential home prep landmines are, then try to avoid it.
This is why someone like Carlsen, who believes in his middlegame and endgame strength, prefers to go around deep theories, and just play chess. So sometimes when you see the players "think" in what seems to be non-complicated positions, it means they are trying to figure out what the opponents prepared for them and how to avoid it.
14 a4 White's goal is to break through with b4-b5 at the right moment and ideally trade of all the Queenside pawns, leaving only Black's b7 pawn as a target. However if immediately 15. b5 Black could respond with 15...cxb5 16. axb5 a5
14...c6 I expect b5 to come soon from Carlsen. I like his position, very easy and straight forward to play without any risk. Black has to work on equalizing. Very smart choice by Carlsen and his team.
15 Re1 Perhaps a little too cautious? I would have played 15. b5. Hard to understand.
Another thing many fans at home fail to understand is at this level, one mistake can cost them the match. Very few players can play like Tal and win World Championships today, especially with the vast improvement of computer power. Unsound moves & ideas will be severely punished immediately.
15...Bd7 16. e3 Qf6 17. Be4
White is not better or worse, only equal, and Carlsen is fine with that. He relies on space advantage and his incredible patience. He is counting on Caruana making inaccuracies in this type of position. But objectively speaking, the position is equal.
17...Bf5 And now if 18. Qf3 Bxe4 19. Qxf6 gxf6 20. dxe4 =/+= Equal and relaxing endgame with little risk.
18 Qf3Bxe4 19. Qxf6 gxf6 20. dxe4 as expected. Now the chances of a drawn endgame is 99% with 0.9% winning chances for Carlsen, and 0,1% for Caruana in case if Carlsen over pushes.
20... b5 21. Red1 Carlsen will try to make some plays against Caruana's Queenside pawn. The problem is even if he can trade his 2 pawns for 3, Black can still hold on the Kingside a pawn down. So the likeliness of a decisive result is slim, very slim. Of course anything is possible.
21...Bf8 Now Carlsen has two options, to trade the a pawn for b, or leave it be and allowing black to play bxa4. However, he cannot play a5 as this will put his b4 and a5 pawns on dark squares where Black Biship can attack them.
22 axb5 axb5 So Carlsen decided to trade his a for b pawn. Black has a weak c6 pawn while white has a b4 target with his own pawn.
23 Kg2 Carlsen can try to squeeze but this game will head to another draw.
23...Kg7 25. Be1 Rdc8 26. Rc2 It will be hard for White to make much progress. But that never stopped Carlsen from trying to squeeze water from stone before. I highly doubt that it will work against Caruana though.
26...Ra4 27. Kf3 Black can just play Kg6 and sit tight as White cannot really do much.
27...h5 28. Ke2 Kg6 29. h3 Carlsen wants to bring his King to the other side. But the potential problem is the Black King can get in via g4. So h3 stops it for now. Still equal and still heading toward another draw.
A slew of moves to simplify things even further 29...f5 30. exf5+ Kxf5 31. f3 Be7. Neither side can really make much progress without crazy risk. So the game is still moving right along toward a peaceful end.
32 e4+ Ke6 33. Bd2 Bd6 I understand that the players are shuffling pieces and making moves. But I cannot find a single plan to give either side any advantage or winning chances.
The white smoke went up! 34 Rbc1 and Carlsen offered a draw, and it was promptly accepted by Caruana.
So what is my conclusion? I think 15. b5 offered some small advantage for Carlsen. 15. Re1 was too passive which allowed Caruana to consolidate.
The score after 4 games is 2-2!