In the aftermath of a successful hosting of the World Chess Championship that saw Magnus Carlsen defend his crown, the city of London is getting another gem of an event in the London Chess Classic. Fabiano Caruana is back in action after a valiant fight against Carlsen, losing in tiebreaks. This is the last tournament of the Grand Chess Tour with the winner taking $120,000 top prize, but there are other subplots that will make this finale a must-watch.

The week-long event (December 11th-17th) will be held at two different venues… the headquarters of DeepMind, the brainchild of Alpha Zero and the London Olympia. Alpha Zero, the self-taught artificial intelligence engine, has been in the news lately because of its highly-fancied matches with Stockfish, but more importantly its spellbinding games.

2018 London Chess Classic
December 11-17, 2018 (London, England)
Name
FED
Flag
Classical
Rapid
Blitz
GM Fabiano Caruana USA
2832, #2 2789, #10 2767, #16
GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave FRA
2778, #6 2786, #11 2937, #2
GM Levon Aronian ARM
2765, #11 2802, #7 2889, #3
GM Hikaru Nakamura USA
2746, #17 2844, #2 2858, #4
(Official Site)

The four players qualified by holding the top four positions in the GCT standings with Hikaru Nakamura holding the top position. Caruana was able to qualify by virtue of winning a playoff tiebreaker over Wesley So. While many speculated that Caruana would not play so soon after a grueling battle, he is coming “locked and loaded” with a chance to become the world’s #1 player.

Levon Aronian, a threat to win any given tournament, will attempt to hoist the GCT trophy. Along with Nakamura, he is one of the playing founders of the Sinquefield Cup having participated in each edition since the inception of 2013. Norway Chess 2015 was the event that spawned off the GCT tour with Veselin Topalov winning the inaugural event.

The real issue moving forward is coming up with new format with a variety of players. The same combination of players have competed every year which raises the question of the tour’s future. Will the GCT present any new ideas for the future or will we see the same players competing every event? That is the buzz going around in fandom circles.

According to the GCT official site…

After two Classical games on December 11-12, play switches to Rapid & Blitz on Dec. 13. The winners then go through to the 3-day Final, held at the traditional Olympia London venue on December 15-16 (Classical) & 17 (Rapid & Blitz). There will also be a Third Place Playoff.The 2018 GCT champion will take home a 1st prize of $120,000 (there’s $80,000 for 2nd, $60,000 for 3rd and $40,000 for 4th).

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Regulations: https://www.londonchessclassic.com/

Drum Coverage: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

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Adisa Banjoko is known to The Chess Drum audience as the founder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, an educational initiative fusing chess, hip-hop and martial arts. Since starting the HHCF in 2007, he has hosted tournaments, taught in Bay Area schools and spoke at universities from coast-to-coast. worked on remarkable projects including his exhibits at the World Chess Hall of Fame (Living Like Kings) and the Oakland Museum (RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom). In February 2012, he graced the cover of Chess Life magazine celebrating five years of service.

Chess Life (February 2012)

Adisa Banjoko’s Hip Hop Chess Federation
was the cover story of February 2012
U.S. Chess Life magazine.

Adisa on point at Harvard University

With RZA, one of the visionary founders of the Wu Tang Clan,
at the St. Louis Chess Club during opening of the
“Living Like Kings” exhibit.

On his 12th episode of Bishop Chronicles reveals the shocking story of how he almost died recently. The emotional segment reveals his days leading up to the crisis after twice blacking out randomly. After his wife demanded that he go to the hospital, they run test and make an alarming discovery. He was bleeding to death. They didn’t understand why. Reality hit home when they started asking him about his final arrangements and if he wanted to see a chaplain. He talks about the situation in very great detail in his own conversational style. Very moving!

Take a listen!

# # #

About HHCF: The Hip-Hop Chess Federation is the world’s first nonprofit (501c3) to fuse music, chess and martial arts to promote unity, strategy and nonviolence. They host lectures, panels, and celebrity chess events to help at-risk, gang-impacted and gang intentional youth make better decisions in life. The HHCF has been featured on Good Morning America, Forbes, Chess Life, VIBE and Rolling Stone.

Visit www.BishopChronicles.com today and LISTEN to some of the coolest interviews in entertainment, business strategy and technology on the net.

Connect with me on www.linkedin.com/in/abanjoko

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GM Pontus Carlsson in New Orleans with participants
in “Business Meets Chess & Kids” program

GM Pontus Carlsson returned to Perpetual Podcast with FM Ben Johnson to get an update on his recent activities and his ongoing initiative. He was recently in New Orleans “The Big Easy” to visit the hometown (and home) of Paul Morphy and engage in a number of outreach activities with the chess community. (See story here)

GM Pontus Carlsson by Paul Morphy Street

  • Pontus’ recent trip to New Orleans for a philanthropic initiative. He has helped launch Business meets Chess and Kids, an organization that pairs business leaders with underprivileged kids in tandem chess, with the goal of using chess as a form for networking and mentorship for the younger generation. Pontus told stories from his trip and talked about future plans for this inspiring effort.
  • Pontus gave a couple of great book recommendations and gave some advice for infrequent tournament competitors who are trying to shake off some rust (for example, say, the host of this podcast).
  • We talked about a couple of the themes emerging from the ongoing World Championship match, and Pontus shared some stories and perspectives from past experiences having met and talked with the likes of Magnus Carlsen, Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri.

Episode 101– GM Pontus Carlsson Returns

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway
Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Tiebreaks
 
1
2
3
4
pts.
Carlsen
1
1
1
3
Caruana
0
0
0
0
Match Score: 9-6 (6-6, 3-0)
Magnus Carlsen, World Champion

2018 World Chess Championship: TIEBREAKS
Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Magnus Carlsen retains world title!

Chess fans and commentators were still buzzing from the 12th game of the World Chess Championship. Social media was tossing around thousands of comments on whether Magnus Carlsen, the reigning champion, had “punked out” and went for the rapid instead of pressing for a win. With critics asserting that such a win would cheapen the victory, Carlsen later stated that he felt it was the best strategic decision to make. He was right.


“Based on the information I had at that point,
I think I made a very good decision.”

~Magnus Carlsen


Coming into the tiebreaks, Carlsen was a definite favorite. It was not just the rating difference is rapid, but he at least deserved that status as the reigning champion. However, he looked vulnerable during the 12 classic games and he was out-prepared in a number of games and at least two of them he was completely losing. One required a computeresque finesse which neither spotted.

Speaking of computers, chess.com ran an experiment on the final position of game 12 and it turns out that Caruana could hold the position together with alert play. The controversial finale lead to the four-game rapid.

Game 1

Carlsen trotted out the English Opening again and faced the interesting 3…Bb4!? instead of the Reversed Sicilian Dragon he got in games 4 and 9. This has been a Sicilian theme tournament that prominently featured the Rossolimo, Sveshnikov and Taimanov. This game ended up like a Reversed Rossolimo! However, Caruana never quite equalized.

The engines gave white a slight edge, but Caruana started to slip with 18…Nd6 and on 19.Rcd1 white initiated a series of tactics to gain an edge. A middlegame melee broke out and after 20.Nc5 Rxb2 21.Nxe6 fxe6 22.Bxc4 Nd4 23.Bxd4 exd4 white played 24.Bxe6+?! (diagram left below)

On 24.Bxe6?! Carlsen let his advantage slip after 24…Kf8 25.Rxd4 Ke7 26.Rxd7+. Caruana eventually misplayed the rook ending and went down in defeat. However, Carlsen should play 24.Rxd4! After 24…Kf7 he had the stunning 25.Kh1!! (diagram #2) This avoids the trap of 25.Red1? where black saves the game with 25…Ne5! If 26.Rxd8 then 26…Nxf3+ 27.Kf1 (27.Kh1?? Rh2 mate!) 27…Nxh2+ 28.Kg1 Nf3+ etc.

After 24.Bxe6+ Caruana’s active rook and passed c-pawn were poised to be the saving grace, but he allowed the white king off the back rank after 34…Rc3? Even then, the game was still salvageable! On 37.Rc7! black should play 37…Ra2+ and continue to harass the king. However, on 37…Kxe4? white plays the intermezzo 38.Re7+! preventing the black king from getting to f3-square. Carlsen mopped up the remaining black pawns and we’d see our first win of the match!

After this, the Norwegian gave a victorious fist pump.

Game 2

Another Sveshnikov following game 12 up to the more common 11…Qb8. In that aforementioned game, Carlsen went for 11…Bf5 and got a strong position, but certainly Caruana had done some homework. It appeared that Caruana had got the more preferable position.

Commentators were convinced white had found a path to success, but after 21.c5? white had become overzealous and threw away the advantage. Instead of tucking the king away, white had to save the c-pawn, but black’s raging pieces soon caught the white king in a dangerous crossfire. Caruana had to resign on move 28. Crushing defeat!

Game 3

Down two games, Caruana would have to win two in a row to save the match. This would be an insurmountable task since he had been unable to win a game despite getting promising positions. In the last game, Carlsen played 1.e4 continuing to keep Caruana off balance. This time it was a Sicilian Taimanov and Caruana opted for the speculative 5.Bc5!? White assumed a solid Maroczy Bind position while black opted for a modified hedgehog with the pawn on c5 instead of b6.

With the pawn on c5, the b5 thrust is not possible. So white felt emboldened to play 24.g4 and got a huge advantage. Caruana was in trouble with his position crumbling, he tried to find ways to swindle. It was not to be. In fact, white’s steamrolling pawns stopped any black counterplay and Carlsen closed out the 3rd game in impressive fashion.

The celebration had begun in Norway!

Magnus Carlsen hoisting aloft the champion’s trophy
Photo by World Chess

This match made several statements, but two of the most important are first, the gap has closed between Carlsen and the rest of the elite. The champion is still stronger, but he is not wielding the same dominance as he did four years ago. He was unable to win a classical game against Caruana and only one against Karjakin in the 2016 match. However, unless the format changes, other challengers will have to deal with Carlsen’s supremacy in the faster time controls where he is simply brutal.

As far as the marketability of chess, this match suffered because of the 12 draws. To those who either don’t follow chess or players who are unable to appreciate the nuance of elite-level play, it may not be exciting. This does matter. However, it is not a given that championship matches should sacrifice high-quality drawn games for exciting, error-filled decisive games. Where is the happy median? More games? An inclusion of disciplines (classical, rapid, blitz and 960)?

Chess certainly did not take a step backwards with Carlsen’s win, but something will have to be considered to ensure that classical matches maintain their prestige. Chess is not dead. We simply have to find a formula to enliven it. In fact, this match showed the tension, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Chess is alive!

Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com; other media content courtesy of World Chess (https://worldchess.com/)

Closing Ceremonies

Video by World Chess

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 12
Caruana
½-½
Carlsen
Match Score: 6-6
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 12
Monday, 26 November 2018

Carlsen faces scathing criticism after offering draw in better position.
The title will be decided via tiebreaks!

Carlsen offered a draw in this position. Notice the times on the clock! The gesture came as a shock to thousands of viewers and commentators.

The person shocked the most by today’s result was not GM Maurice Ashley who visibly lurched forward and exclaimed “What??!!” after hearing that Magnus Carlsen offered a draw in the 12th game of the championship match. After challenger Fabiano Caruana had lost his way in the middlegame, Carlsen was set to turn in one of this classic grinding wins to win the championship.

Such predictions were circulating around social media. While there is no need to provide a list of comments expressing disappointments, GM Vladimir Kramnik was probably the harshest when it stated that such a ploy should not be taken by a world champion. He then made a statement of support to Caruana!


“It’s a shame for Black to offer a draw in such position!”
~Vladimir Kramnik


What was interesting about the game was the heightened anticipation after a Sveshnikov was trotted out on the board. They repeated the 7.Nd5!? line, but Carlsen varied after 7…Nxd5 8.exd5 Ne7 which is not the main line and differs from 8…Nb8 tried in games 8 and 10. The text move offers a reasonable plan which is the shore up the kingside and support an …f5 thrust.

Fast forward.

White dawdled with his queen and viewers were afraid they were going to take a three-fold repetition. No chance! Black began playing useful moves including principled kingside castling and 22…Bg6! Now Carlsen started to assert authority on the position with 23…f5 At this point the tide had swung in black’s favor as a queenside attack was looming.

Caruana had embarked on a dubious plan of 18.f3?! 21.Rh2?! and 23.Rc2. This plan was to shore up the queenside for a pending black onslaught. However, after 27…Be8! 28.Kb1 Bf6 29.Re1, Caruana was shuffling wood trying to find the best setup. Instead of 29…a4? the stronger move was 29…Ba4! and subsequent sacrifices on b3 were evaluated as a winning attack for black.

White plugged up things with 30.Qb4! Now Carlsen started to shut things down… at least in his own mind. After 30…g6 31.Rd1 Ra8 he offered a draw!! Shock reverberated around the chess world which had been salivating for a decisive result. The reality was that Carlsen had already poised himself for a tiebreak and did not want to take a risk of losing the championship when he had not shown much during the match.

Psychology played a big factor in his decision, so he took what he thought may be the better odds in the tiebreaks. However, Hikaru Nakamura who was supporting a Carlsen victory, weighed in with a surprising statement about the match.

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

In game 12, Carlsen avoided the risk of running into special preparation by not repeating 8…Nb8 in the Sicilian Sveshnikov. He continued with 8..Ne7 and the game ended in a draw after move 31. Carlsen offered a draw when he had more time on his clock and his pieces were more mobile. I have been in situations when the stakes where quite high before but I typically played on at least a few more moves if slightly better. For instance, if Carlsen played 3 more moves, on one of the responses, Caruana might have taken significant time to respond sinking into time trouble and increasing the probability of making a mistake. Thus, my surprise was more from the time advantage aspect not the slight positional advantage since Caruana could still manage to draw in the final position.

GM Amon Simutowe
Photo by Fred Lucas

Many grandmasters including Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kraminik were not thrilled that Carlsen accepted a draw in a game in which he had a slight positional advantage and noticeable time advantage. Kasparov tweeted that he would reconsider his earlier opinion that Carlsen is the favorite in tiebreaks since tiebreaks require a lot of nerves and taking a draw in a slightly better position did not signify tough nerves.

Fundamentally, Carlsen’s decision to draw may not be as worse as many experts suggested in practice given what was at stake. It would have been easier for Carlsen to play for a win if he needed a win to for instance tie the match. Even Kasparov indicated it was easier for him to play for a win in his final game matches because his situations were typically all or nothing. Also statistically, I think Carlsen made a decent decision to draw. Since Carlsen is slightly better than Caruana in rapid chess based on their rapid ratings, the definition of better in this case is only more applicable over a slightly bigger sample of games.

A higher rating simply means a higher probability of winning and in this case the difference is not really that much at 2700+ level of play since players at this level have no technical weaknesses. Thus, it makes sense for Carlsen to try and win in a 4 game rapid match since he can get a chance to even the score if he loses than press for a win in a game in which a blunder could mean losing the title. Carlsen also indicated that he came into the last match to just get a draw. Changing the mindset during the game is sometimes difficult in practice.

Speculation occurred about Carlsen’s health, but nothing of the sort was mentioned during the press conference. Carlsen explained that he didn’t think he was that much better and mentioned the word “safe” a few times. However, Caruana had only eight minutes life and there was little risk in playing a few more moves since white was squirming. Harsh criticism was swift and some pro-Carlsen fans reacted… some even defected! Garry Kasparov also expressed his candid view…

When asked about the 12 draws and the format, Caruana gave a principled answer by saying that the two have played according to the current regulations, but added that, “If the powers that be want to change it, then we’ll work with something else.” Caruana also mentioned that he’s fine with playing more games and that neither player seemed to be suffering from fatigue.

Throughout the match it appeared from body language and facial expressions that Carlsen was rattled and perhaps his nerves have gotten the best of him. On the other hand Caruana seemed upbeat and cheerful. In this game however, he stated that the felt he was on the precipice of defeat and was relieved to get the draw offer.

Nevertheless, the two will play four rapid tiebreak games followed by a two-game blitz mini-match (up to five such matches until the tie is broken). If the match is still tied, an Armageddon game will be played if necessary. White will have five minutes, but be required to win. A draw with black wins the title. Technically, black can win the title without having won a game… Amazing!

Here is the presser conducted by a befuddled Danny King…

Press Conference (Game #12)

Video by World Chess

Video by GM Daniel King/Power Play Chess

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 11
Carlsen
½-½
Caruana
Match Score: 5½-5½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 11
Saturday, 24 November 2018

Match still drawn after 11 games…
Will tomorrow bring us a fierce battle or peaceful draw??

Today was a slow day and had the fans and commentators groaning. About the most exciting thing happened before the 11th Carlsen-Caruana game started. Sergey Karjakin, the championship challenger from 2016 made the first move today. A bit of levity helped ease the tremendous tension in the hall.

What was funny was not the 1.b4 move, but that Karjakin had stated in an interview that he wished that Caruana would win the match. So 1.b4 would certainly increase the American’s chances!

The game today was a double king pawn opening featuring the Petroff variation and Carlsen played one of the most aggressive lines after 5.Nc3 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 7.Be3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nd7 9.O-O-O. Opposite side castling always makes for an exciting battle, but this game only had one moment of tension and that was Carlsen’s 15.Nh4!?

Caruana stated that he was surprised at the choice. The commentary team at the St. Louis Chess Club gave 15…Ng4 16.Ng6! fxg6 17.Rxe6 Nxf2 18.Rde1 Nxd3+ 19.cxd3 Bf6 20.Rxe6 with unclear play. Actually white end up winning a pawn in yet another bishop ending, but the game was completely equal. Press Officer Grandmaster Daniel King gives his onsite assessment.

Video by GM Daniel King/Power Play Chess


“With the sample size of Carlsen’s Sicilian responses we have seen in this match, Caruana should be comfortable playing for a win in game 12. This is why I think it may be a risky idea for Carlsen to repeat the Sicilian in game 12 – but he is still Carlsen. Ultimately, Caruana’s decision whether to press for a win in game 12 may depend on whether he believes Carlsen is much better in tiebreaks and if the psychology of his mind set has already shifted to tiebreaks. In any event, at this stage of the match, I believe the majority of chess fans would prefer the result to be settled in tiebreaks.”

~GM Amon Simutowe


Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

Photo by Lewis Ncube

Press Conference (Game #11)

Video by World Chess

So what’s in store for tomorrow? The champion gave his impressions…

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In case you didn’t see it, Grandmaster Maurice Ashley made an appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the South African comedian known for his biting, politically-charged satire. Ashley had tweeted his appearance on the show and showed his excitement. Certainly chess would be at the center of the discussion.

Chess has struggled to get mainstream acceptance, but is often used in metaphors for everyday life. What they don’t know is that Ashley has attempted to make chess exciting and entertaining to follow with his unique brand of energy and flair. The segment couldn’t go without some barbs thrown. Take a look!

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2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
November 8th-28th, 2018 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
FINAL (Ju Wenjun vs. Kateryna Lagno)
 
Flag
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
pts.
Ju
China
0
½
½
1
½
½
1
1
Lagno
Russia
1
½
½
0
½
½
0
0
Drum Coverage

2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
Final, Tiebreaks (23 November 2018)

Ju Wenjun defends title!

Ju Wenjun beaming with championship trophy.
Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

For Ju Wenjun, she maintained the title with the class and dignity befitting of a champion and never showed any sign of giving up. While her relaxed body posture before her first game wreaked of overconfidence, the loss forced her to steady herself and she got the equalizer against Kateryna Lagno in the last classical game.

In the tiebreaks the rapid games were competitive with the first game being fought out of a Queen’s Gambit Accepted. This game had none of the twists an turns of the previous and ended in a peaceful draw. The second was similar in a Catalan variation. The game was very placid and by move 20 the game had clarified to another equal ending. No separation in the rapid, so onto the 10’+10″ blitz games.

After two uninspiring games, Lagno would have one more chance and opted for a Reti Opening. This game went and Lagno got a slight pull in the position, but not the type imbalance to give her a chance for a win. She then started to take chances and in an equal ending overlook a simple tactic and lost a pawn after 23.Bf1? after which 23…Nd1! wins a pawn. Ju ushered her queenside pawns up the board and one of the bishops had to fall on the sword. Ju would enjoy her first lead of the match.

Lagno’s 34…Qg6 tosses the queen.
Fatigue wins again!

In the second blitz game, Lagno opted for the Modern Defense which is extremely difficult to play since black cedes the center. Following the script, Ju seized the center and tried to increase pressure to constrict black’s mobility. Lagno played solidly, but in the end had a lapse of attention and dropped her queen in one move with 34…Qg6?? after which Ju snapped it off with 35.Nxg6. Shocking. Fatigue had claimed another victim.

Kateryna Lagno showed the ultimate fighter experience. She battled in her 4th tiebreak against a formidable defending champion and had her on the brink of elimination. The extra games finally took their toll as she lost both 10’+10″ games. The match ended when she hung her queen in one move. The only way of explaining this could be fatigue. Lagno played a total of 29 games.

Ju was congratulated and successfully defended her title. One of the effects of her retaining the title was to provide continuity for the cycle. How can one explain a champion holding the title for only six months? Before the tournament, it was announced the the women’s cycle would include a Candidate’s tournament in which the four semifinalists will qualify. There would also be a Grand Prix series and the World Cup would now be a qualifier. This is the same as the Open cycle.

Official Site: http://ugra2018.fide.com/
Live: https://ugra2018.fide.com/live/

Game from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship (Final, Tiebreaks)

Video by ugra2018.fide.com

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 10
Caruana
½-½
Carlsen
Match Score: 5-5
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 10
Thursday, 22 November 2018

Brutal battle in London… neither side breaks

Fabiano Caruana pondering after 21…b5!
Photo by World Chess.

Everyone weighed in on the fascinating battle at The College in Holbrun, London today. It appears that this match has everything, but wins. The 10th consecutive draw had many people talking about the match format. The games have been hard fought, but there is a tendency to believe a draw is not a natural result… at least not ten in a row. Could it be that fans want to see the flaws of these top players more than their strengths?

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave annotated a game at chess.com and remarked on the high level of the game. What is it that we want, quality chess or decisive results? In America, there is a highlight mentality with an emphasis on knockouts, homeruns, touchdowns, goals or someone getting beat down. Fans want a definitive result since that is what competition is about. Someone wins and someone loses, right?

Debate on draw reignited

Maurice Ashley has been a huge advocate of reducing the number of draws (and banning draw offers) in top-level competition, but other GMs have weighed in. At the press conference the question was raised on whether each draw should be followed by an Armageddon game so that there is a definitive result. However, that would mean that the match would be determined more by blitz than classical and indeed the two are very different disciplines. In addition, neither player would be in any shape to play such a game after a six-hour game. This idea was rejected by both players.

FIDE Vice President and British GM Nigel Short being interviewed by local TV station.

FIDE Vice President and British Grandmaster Nigel Short being interviewed by local TV station. One could probably successfully wager that Short spoke about one of three possible topics… (1) AGON (2) the number of draws (3) abolishing the stalemate rule. Well… maybe not the last one!

Carlsen stated that the length of the match should be 16 or 18 games to prevent the cautious nature of the games. However, these games have not been cautiously played… just too good. We are at a turning point in the philosophy that white has the advantage of the first move. In fact, there appears to be no advantage, just more theory in analyzing white advantages. It may be debated that theory for black may finally be catching up. Nevertheless, this match has been eye-opening on many levels.

Rock-em Sock-em robots

Back in the 60s and 70s there was a toy marketed in the U.S. called Rock-em Sock em robots where the two toy boxers were situated in a ring and would throw endless punches until someone got in a solid head shot and knock the opponents “block off.” This game was the epitome of a such a brawl. The game was so thrilling that commentators had trouble with the evaluations. The game another Sicilian Sveshnikov with 7.Nd5 but Caruana uncorked a new move in 12.b4!? After a short queenside skirmish, Carlsen went for 16…f5! and changed the tide of the game.

As Carlsen pieces were poised for a kingside onslaught, Caruana prepared a lateral defense with the peculiar 19.Ra3!? It appears that black has a freehand with a queen sally on the kingside, rook lift Rf8-f6-h6 and checkmate. Facing this prospect would probably cause lesser players to buckle. However, the most critical move of the game came on the queenside after 21…b5!

After 21…b5! white cannot take en passant because the rook and knight would be eliminated from active play after 22.axb6 Rxa3 23.Nxa3 f3! 24.gxf3 Ne5! and white is reeling.

The game’s pace quickened and mind-dizzying variations after 24.g3 included ‘only moves’ that stood on the precipice of disaster or triumph. During the press conference Caruana stated that he should have opted for f3 instead of g3. Carlsen kept coming, but Caruana defended like a boss. So many ways to go wrong. For example, on 27.Bb5?? black plays 27…Rf8-f6-h6 with Qh5 and get mated on the h-file.

Carlsen kept setting boobytraps like the sinister 35…Qe2!

After that flurry of middlegame fireworks the game went into a double rook ending with many imbalances. Carlsen went 44…Kd4? potentially losing the thread on the position. Even after going down a pawn the game was technically a draw. What a battle!

Here is the recap that you must see!

Press Conference (Game #10)

Video by World Chess

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 9
Carlsen
½-½
Caruana
Match Score: 4½-4½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 9
Wednesday, 21 November 2018

A record 9th draw with three remaining…
games, not draws

Carlsen was the subject of jokes and puns after tweeting a selfie of his black eye from pickup football match. He certainly looked like a fighter, came out swinging, but hit nothing. Photo by Niki Riga.

Magnus Carlsen came to the board looking like a prize fighter. He may have had a black eye, but at least he didn’t lose the fight. He didn’t win either. After earning a draw from a losing position, Caruana was upbeat during the press conference. On the other hand, another letdown for the champion.

Carlsen built up a winnable position, but a hasty moment cost him a sizable advantage. After the Caruana failed to convert an advantage in game 8, it was Carlsen’s turn to press for a win. Ironically, after the flogging Caruana was getting today, he came out smiling. Brings back memories of the “shhhhh” episode at the Sinquefield Cup.

Caruana would slip away… again.

Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali, 1971

Despite the nine draws thus far, the games have been exciting and quite instructive. Today’s game repeated the English Opening of game 4. One critical moment came when Caruana played 17…Bxf3?! This move got a lot of criticism and essentially ceded Carlsen a free hand. The subtlety was that white enjoyed space and a bishop with free reign while black’s bishop on b6 would be shut out of play for a long time. The key moment came when Carlsen played 24.h4 provoking a kingside weakness after 24…g6.

Carlsen did not have to rush because h5 would also be in waiting. Carlsen couldn’t resist and played 25.h5?! Caruana simply snapped off the pawn causing viewers to gasp initially. However, Caruana sent a message by playing 26…f5! showing that he has no fear. He followed up with 27…h4! when Carlsen has to take care not to fall prey to a sacrifice on e3. A pair of rooks came off, the h-pawn was taken and despite both kings being exposed, neither side was in any danger at this point. There were some tricks in the end, but both sides were frozen and Caruana would survive a difficult position.

Tomorrow is a key game. Zambian Grandmaster Amon Simutowe told The Chess Drum,

Based on how Carlsen is playing, it seems he has decided the match should be decided in playoffs – strange…

That much is not certain. Perhaps the champion will take his chances in the last three classical games, but it is clear that he has tried unsuccessfully to breach Caruana’s defense. Like another Brooklyn resident Mike Tyson who stated that his “defense was impregnable,” Caruana has shown a lot of poise during this match and has defended as well as Sergey Karjakin did in the 2016 match against Carlsen. However, Caruana is also getting tangible advantages with opening preparation… something Karjakin failed to do.

Carlsen may be a bit frustrated, but with three games remaining, he can’t afford to sit idle and “draw out” for tiebreaks. Caruana has two white games coming and we can expect some killer prep coming. If they should “draw out” for 12 games (amazing), Carlsen’s advantage over Caruana in a head-to-head rapid/blitz match may be overstated, but he will be the odds-on favorite for sure.

Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

Amon Simutowe at 2005 HB Chess Challenge

Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 8
Caruana
½-½
Carlsen
Match Score: 4-4
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 8
Monday, 19 November 2018

Caruana misses another opportunity… 12 draws?

The press room was buzzing after Fabiano Caruana was pondering over his 21st move. Then it happened…

After more than a half-hour, 21.c5! was on the board to the delight of fans and commentators, but that excitement would be short-lived.

Today’s game started off with the Sicilian Sveshnikov after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4! cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5!? This would proved to be an exciting encounter and the famed opening promises an imbalanced game with plenty of play. Caruana essayed a more positional approach with 6.Nbd5 d6 7.Nd5!? Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.a4!?

Carlsen essays 18…g5?!
It almost cost him dearly.

The game followed a few examples, but Caruana opted for 12.Bd2 with the idea of Bc3 at some point. Carlsen lashed out with 18…g5?! raising the ire of commentators. None other than Hikaru Nakamura who cited Garry Kasparov as saying Carlsen typically doesn’t like such moves. Was this desperation? While black’s position looks menacing, it would become apparent that black was overextended.

Win, lose or draw, this round would be the most exciting game yet. It was appear that we would finally get a decisive result. After the drum roll, Caruana played the crowd-pleaser. His 21.c5! had many merits, but the idea was to increase space, create a path for the d-pawn and simply threaten Bxe5 with steamrolling central pawns. The computer evaluation gave white as much as a two-pawn advantage.

There is always the issue of getting a strong position, but knowing how to execute the follow-up. Many fans had their chess engine humming when Caruana played 24.h3? The engines screamed for 24.Rae1 when white has tremendous pressure. After 24.h3 (24.Qh5! still had promise) 24…Qe8! black was back in the game. Carlsen managed to get the queens off and the shook hands ten moves later.

This was a disappointment for Caruana who has missed his chances. It appears that he has outprepared Carlsen, but it has been more than rattling off moves. He has confirmed the adage that one may have a computer, but still has to play the moves at the board.

Caruana didn’t seem too upset and must be pleased that he is getting his chances, but time is running out for him to convert his advantages. Team Carlsen seems to be reeling and has not been able to get much with white. Tomorrow be a critical moment.

Photo by Maria Emelianova/Chess.com

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 7
Carlsen
½-½
Caruana
Match Score: 3½-3½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 7
Sunday, 18 November 2018

Another draw… black is still good!

Todays’ battle in Holburn, London certainly didn’t create a “Fire on Board,” but there is still a psychological battle going on. In a photo (above) taken by the official photographer, there appears to be an expression of anxiety in the face of Magnus Carlsen. Meanwhile, Fabiano Caruana still appears relaxed. Perhaps that is not what it appears, but was it certain is that pressure is being ratcheted up gradually and Carlsen is feeling it.

Magnus Carlsen stated that he’s not worrid,
but his expressions say otherwise.
Photo by Mike Klein

Caruana has successfully held both back-to-back black games which many consider to be an accomplishment. It is ironic that black has had the most chances in this match. In fact, Carlsen characterized his play as “soft” and seemed to be a bit unnerved. In the press conference he mentioned not being pleased. Former world champion Viswanathan Anand made a serious observation about Carlsen…

“What is striking is the number of [good] positions he doesn’t convert [nowadays]. He used to win equal positions!”

This may have been in reference to Carlsen’s tongue-in-cheek comment that his favorite player of the past was “him four years ago.” Anand’s comment is very telling because it comes from an elite player who played Carlsen two championship matches and countless of other times in different formats. One could argue, however, that the field is simply getting stronger and offering more resistance.

Today’s game was another Queen’s Gambit that yielded white no appreciable advantage. There was an interesting lesson given by commentator Maurice Ashley on the subject of finding an imbalance in the position. He cited imbalance as “lack of proportion or relation between corresponding things” and related that to the lack of imbalances in game 7. Draw?

After 24.Bxg3 hxg3, Ashley perked up since the game was no longer symmetrical. A few moves later white played 28.Bxg6 hxg6. This game was destined to be drawn if there are moves like 26…Be4 and 32.Qd2 both leading to perpetual checks. The game actually ended in a three-fold repetition instead.

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

Video by GM Daniel King

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Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)

Play resumes today after a much-analyzed ending in game 6. The chess world was astounded by the complex ending and its intricacies were featured on multiple websites (See Danny King’s on site analysis). The lesson from that game is that there is such a small margin for error that even in calm positions there may be poisonous traps lurking.

The second half of the match should be interesting… or not. If both sides get cautious to avoid losing, two things can happen. There will be a drawfest and we will go to tiebreaks, or someone will lose patience, try to press and stumble. This happened in game 8 of the Carlsen-Karjakin match when the Russian almost rope-a-doped himself to a championship.

Will we see a “rope-a-dope” in second half?

Unfortunately for Karjakin, he got too cautious after taking the lead, lost game 10 and was trounced in the tiebreaks. Carlsen realizes the pressure because he’s been here before, but maybe Caruana’s lack of experience means he is operating with a clear conscience. With the match knotted at 3-3, look for Carlsen to come out with some killer prep in Game 7!

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2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
November 8th-28th, 2018 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
FINAL (Ju Wenjun vs. Kateryna Lagno)
 
Flag
1
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3
4
5
6
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8
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pts.
Ju
China
0
½
½
1
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Lagno
Russia
1
½
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Drum Coverage

The final for the Women’s World Chess Championship comes down to two players… defending champion Ju Wenjun of China (2568) and challenger Kateryna Lagno of Russia (2556). Both have traveled very different paths to get to this point. Ju has had a very smooth tournament truly demonstrating her superiority over the field. They both defeated Mariya Muzychuk and Alexandra Kosteniuk respectively. Both received medals and qualified for the new Candidates tournament in 2019.

Ju has not had to play a tiebreak the entire tournament while Lagno has to endure three tiebreaks including a brutal nine-game match with Natalija Pogonina. Interestingly enough, the same scenario occurred last year when Anna Muzychuk waltzed through the field and was the higher rated only to lose to Tan Zhongyi. Ju will be the heavy favorite to keep her title after winning it only six months ago.

Tomorrow is a rest day, but Monday both players will settle in for a thrilling match. No one will doubt that Lagno will be ready, but what will be interesting is how much stamina she will have left. Ju will certainly try to play her typically long positional games to tire her. The final is four classical games followed by the tiebreaks.

All Games from 2018 Women’s Chess Championship

Official Site: http://ugra2018.fide.com/
Live: https://ugra2018.fide.com/live/

Image from CCSCSL/Spectrum Studios

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 6
Carlsen
½-½
Caruana
Match Score: 3-3
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 6
Friday, 16 November 2018

Carlsen reeling… Caruana misses mate in 36!

No one knows why Fabiano Caruana didn’t see 68…Bh4!! with mate in 36 moves. It may be because he’s not a computer. That was what was needed to come to the conclusion that Caruana had an opportunity to break ahead in this close match. In fact, several strong Grandmasters had no clue such an idea existed and even with computers, failed to explain the idea. What a round this was, but the match remains even.

Perhaps the narrative is that “black is good” because the second player has had all of the chances in this match. Caruana will get another chance after the rest day to try to win with black. There has been a general agreement of an advantage of white’s first move. However, it is becoming apparent that as more analysis is put into finding resources with black, we can no longer be so simplistic as to associate white’s 55% win rate with the first move.

There is an obvious psychological advantage of having white such that players go in believing that have to win. In addition, the entire chess education has conditioned players to believe that white should win. From the way the diagrams are positioned in chess literature (usually from white’s perspective) and other examples including puzzle books with every example being “White to Play”. So perhaps we are seeing a change in this notion… if we truly believe chess to be an equal battle.

Now the game…

This game is hard to call. The Petroff (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nd3!?) featured a “Knight’s Tango” as both Carlsen and Caruana danced their knights around for 20 moves (White 10 times and Black 9 times). The rules we learned in chess warned us against moving the same piece in the opening. This adage was all but destroyed. A wise person once said “beginners learn to obey the rules and master learn to break the rules.” When asked to explain this comical display, Carlsen said, “It’s very funny looking but unfortunately it leads to a very dull position.” Not exactly.

Amusing “Knights’ Tango” in Game Six!
After 10.Na3, all the opening books have to be rewritten.

As the game wore on, Carlsen decided to give up a piece to liquidate several pawns. Caruana got one pawn back… the dangerous a-pawn. As Carlsen raced over to the kindside to set up a fortress, it was clear that Caruana was pressing. Carlsen once said he didn’t believe in fortresses, but it would be his saving grace. Many of the commentating teams were perplexed and could not explain the ending… and NONE of them saw the winning idea. A former world champion Garry Kasparov weighed in…

Actually, if Caruana had spotted the 68…Bh4!! it would have been a dagger for sure and Carlsen would have been reeling. He’ll have a rest day to figure out what to do with his second white in a row. As stated earlier, it may be that the ship has sailed for the so-called advantage of the white move. With computers, so much ground has been made in chess theory.

Revived openings, unique middlegame ideas (i.e., Alpha Zero) and complex multi-piece endings show that with the right tools, we see that chess is still rich with possibilities. It is ironic that some have suggested that the championship match should be done in 960. Interesting thought.

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

	
Photo by Frederic Friedel

Photo by Frederic Friedel

Game Analysis by IM John Bartholomew

Endgame Analysis by GM Danny King

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 5
Caruana
Carlsen
Match Score: 2½-2½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 5
Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Caruana misses with “Wing Gambit”

After the second rest day, it was clear that playtime was over. We were going to see some swingin’… that’s exactly what happened. Caruana continued the debate and trotted out the Rossolimo with 3.Bb5, but after Carlsen’s 3…g6 4.O-O O-O 5.Re1 e5, he trotted out the speculative 6.b4!?

This line has quite a bit of venom and has caught than a few unsuspecting victims. Carlsen played 6…Nxb4 (6…cxb4 7.a3) after which Caruana played 7.Bb2 instead of the more confrontational 7.c3 Nc6 8.d4. The text move of 7.Bb2 still gives black a chance to make mistakes. GM Daniel King noted Fischer-Spassky 1992 had the same gambit theme after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.O-O Bg7 6.Re1 e5 7.b4!? cxb4 a3 and white won brilliantly.

The American continued with the gambit narrative with 8.a3! and ended up with a slight edge. The point of playing these gambits is not necessarily because they are strong, but because it is easy for black to go very wrong. The world champion tread carefully and correctly with 11…Ne7! 12.Qe2 b4!

Carlsen’s King March

Caruana started to slow down from his brisk pace and on move 19 went into a 31-minute tank after 13.Qc4 Qa5+. He considered 14.d4 which he joked “probably loses”. The game picked up again with the black king taking a circuitous walk all the way from e8-d7-c7-b6-b5-b4-c3-d3-e4-f5. Despite this chase white had no chances to ensnare the black king and a truce was called after 34 moves.

Truly an exciting game. Caruana playing an obscure gambit certainly got Carlsen’s attention. This was something that did not appear in the secret video that caused “screen gate” last round. Unfortunately, GM Ian Rogers reporting on this matter got into a disagreement with U.S. Chess Online on publishing the video with the screenshot.

Sad case. Rogers stated via Twitter that he will still maintain his relation with the parent magazine, U.S. Chess Life.

Press Conference (Game 5)

Video by World Chess

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

IM Amon Simutowe at 2001 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Video by GM Daniel King

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1st Annual Greater Mid-Atlantic
Team Chess Challenge
Saturday November 24, 2018, 8:00pm-10:00pm

Omni Shoreham Hotel
2500 Calvert Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20008

ALL PARTICIPANTS MUST BE MEMBERS OF THE USCF!

BLACK ATTIRE IS MANDATORY!!

This tournament will preceed the Donnel Jones, KiKi Wyatt All Black Concert.
https://15thannualallblack.eventbrite.com/?aff=MetroAreaChess

4SS, G/15

GUARANTEED PRIZE FUND OF $500
1st Team – $275
2nd Team – $150
3rd Team – $75

There is no entry fee but space limitations require us to limit teams to 4 members per each participating city!

(Registration closes at 5pm on November 23, 2018!!)
11/24 – Check in from 7:15-7:45pm. 1st round 8pm

To pre-register, please send your name, city you play for and USCF ID to: Vaughn_Bennett@yahoo.com

We have a limited amount of equipment to provide so please bring your chess sets; and chess clocks, (if you have them), set for G/15.

Please feel free to email Vaughn_Bennett@yahoo.com for more information.

Sponsored by: Metro Area Chess and Next Level Entertainment Group

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 4
Caruana
Carlsen
Match Score: 2-2
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 4
Tuesday, 13 November 2018

“Screen Gate” dominates match news

The main story of the fourth game of the Carlsen-Caruana match was not the 34-move draw, that occurred, but a video floating around the Internet showing the “secret” preparation of Team Caruana. The video was created by the St. Louis Chess Club for “Today in Chess” program and showed Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Alejandro Ramirez going over materials in preparation for the match.

There was also a screenshot from ChessBase with a directory of games from the Carlsen-Karjakin match, but also some files containing opening lines the team may have been preparing. In fact, one of the lines had been seen in the match! The video created a firestorm and chess journalists dissected the video and tried to make sense of its meaning.

Chess journalists reviewing the mysterious video for insight.
Photo by David Llada

After the game was drawn, Journalist from NRK (Norway) asked both players about the video at the press conference. Caruana opted not to make a comment about the video. Carlsen with a rather impish grin stated, “I’ll have a look at the video… then make up my mind.” This induced a roar of laughter in the room.

Not to let Carlsen off the hook, Mike Klein of chess.com wanted to confirm whether he had seen the video. This created another crescendo of laughter and a comical expression from Carlsen. He then composed himself and stated, “I can truthfully say that I have not seen the video, but I’m aware of its existence.”

The ChessBase screenshot from the St. Louis video

What can we make of this? Was this a serious blunder for Team Caruana, a meaningless kerfuffle, or simply a disinformation campaign. The video was edited and cut to the ChessBase screen so it was intentionally shown. The question is whether that information was actually meaningful.

In marketing strategy, many companies will release phony information about new products to keep competitors distracted while they work one the real killer products. Could this simply be click bait? With Team Caruana mum on the issue, we may not know the significance until after the match.

Norwegian Grandmaster Jon Ludvig Hammer told the VG Norway that he thought the video was authentically showing the preparation of Team Caruana. “This is the opening library of Caruana,” offered Hammer. “This was so much detail and in-depth information on an opening he has already used in the world championship match. It is obvious that this is relevant.” We will have to see if any of it matters.

Looks like Caruana is facing the
Albino Sicilian Dragon!

As far as the game itself, Carlsen opened up with 1.c4 and the game went to a type of Reversed Sicilian Dragon. Pieces were liquidated quickly and black’s wrecked pawn structure was compensated by the pressure on the b-pawn. After 34.Rbc1, the game would probably end in a three-fold repetition after 34…Kd7 35.Rb1 Ke6 36.Rbc1, etc.

There have been some complaints about the lack of excitement of the games, but fans should realize that in the first 1/3 of the match, players are trying to get a feel for the match and the opponent. It is foolish to take undue risks in such a short match. With the level so close, it is hard to rebound from a loss, so both players are waiting for their chances. So far, only Carlsen has had clear winning chances (Game 1).

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

Amon Simutowe at 2005 HB Chess Challenge

Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Press Conference (Game 4)

Video by World Chess

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 3
Caruana
Carlsen
Match Score: 1½-1½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 3
Monday, 12 November 2018

Caruana gets nothing against Sicilian… another draw

Weather has been awful in London since the match began, but hopefully there would be some light shone on the battle field. There was a bit of a psy-ops battle going on today in the 3rd game of the world championship match. Caruana was not afraid of an improvement by the Carlsen team but what he got was unexpected. After Caruana deviated from Game 1 with 6.h3 (instead of 6.Re1), Carlsen uncorked 6…Qc7!? which brought on a quizzical look from Caruana.

The main line after 6…Nf6 had been essayed over 100 times. Caruana admitted being somewhat surprised at the move which hadn’t been seen in top level… at least in recent memory. The idea was to bolster the impending blockade on the dark squares. Just like Game 1, Caruana was not able to get any pull from the position and mentioned 16.Bd2 was an inaccuracy because he mixed up a move order.

Thereafter, Carlsen had no problems equalizing and may have been slightly better. Black’s bishop dominated the knight even though knights usually have an advantage in closed position. Unfortunately, there was not much mobility for the white knight to manuever. Caruana was not in great danger of losing and sacrificed his knight to liquidate the position and split the point.

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

IM Amon Simutowe

Photo by Fred Lucas

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 2
Carlsen
Caruana
Match Score: 1-1
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 2
Saturday, 10 November 2018

Carlsen struggles, but holds draw

Grinding chess. That may be the new term to describe what’s going on in Holburn. Both Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana fought to another hard draw today after the world champion got in a bit of trouble in the middlegame. In a Queen’s Gambit Declined, Caruana threw a novelty on the board with 10…Rd8!? This move has not been tested at the top level and may have caught Carlsen off guard.

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)

Carlsen “groveling” after Caruana played the speculative 10…Rd8!?

The American appeared to be bearing down after 11.Ne4! and Carlsen was forced to chew up time on the clock. Right after a response Caruana played instantly. GM Alexander Grischuk explained that when a player is in “prep” it doesn’t mean they have to play like a robot, but they have a guideline by which to follow an idea. There was a bit of buzz after 16.cxd5 Nxd5.

Several broadcasts pondered the move 17.Nxf7. GM Robert Hess of chess.com was high on the move and showed some lines leading to danger for black, but there were also salvageable lines if black played perfectly. Grischuk, who has gained a reputation for his quick wit, weighed in.

Carlsen didn’t play it.

GM Sam Shankland thought it may have been worth a try given that Carlsen got nothing in the opening. In his annotations for chess.com, Shankland gave 17.Nxf7 Kxf7 18. Bxd6 Rxd6 19. Bh5+ Kg8 20. e4 Nf4 21. Rxd6 Qxh5 22. Rd8+ Kf7 23. Rfd1 b6 with a “dynamically-balanced position.”

A crucial moment occurred when Carlsen played 24.Qd6 to the shock of Hess and IM Danny Rensch. The idea was to get a position whereby his weakened structure is easier to defend than the mounting pressure. Play carried on and while Carlsen was made to work for the draw, the result was never in doubt. Here is the press conference.

Video by ChessBase

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

IM Amon Simutowe

Photo by Jerry Bibuld

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
Game 1
Caruana
Carlsen
Match Score: ½-½
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

2018 World Chess Championship: Game 1
Friday, 9 November 2018

Match already intense after 115-move draw

The first game of the 2018 World Championship match between defending World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana was officially opening by FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich. With a massive audience tuning in on various Internet platforms the match has been highly anticipated for months and now would come the opening salvo. What would be the opening? How would Caruana handle his first match game? Would Carlsen opt for the Berlin or Petroff. All these questions were offered and when the clock button was pushed, we got our first surprise.

The game has begun and it is a Sicilian Rossolimo!

Caruana, a predominantly e4-player opened in kind and Carlsen countered with the Sicilian! That was the first surprise. Would it be a Najdorf or Sveshnikov? These are two hyper-complicated variations that have been tested at the highest levels. After 1…c5 2.Nf3 Nc6, the American played 3.Bb5, the Rossolimo Variation. The move sidesteps the massive complications and simply gets into more common positions motifs, but provides enough imbalance to play for advantages.

Carlsen sacrificed a pawn and played for a dark-square bind after 22…Ne6

However, Caruana begin to drift as Carlsen began to position his pieces to bind the dark squares. When white broke with 11.f4, black was completely prepared and clamped further on the dark squares with 14…g5!? Fast forward to 22…Ne6 after black sacrificed a pawn in exchange for blowing white’s king cover. Things were complicated by Caruana’s dwindling time.

After things clarified a bit on the kingside, Caruana needed to find a cover for his bare king, so he played 26.Rg2 (26.Rxf4!? was interesting). He ultimately plugged up the open g-file with his knight and his king scurried across the board out of the line of fire. Despite this maneuver, the black queen burrowed into white position.


“I was lucky to survive.”
~Fabiano Caruana


Former World Champion Garry Kasparov was on the live broadcast and studied the position with keen interest. He was highly critical of Carlsen’s 36…h4. After white’s 38.c3, he looked and offered gem… Rg3! He rattled off a few ideas to the stunned panel Jennifer Shahade and Yasser Seirawan. Kasparov asked Maurice Ashley to check the engine. Ashley said, “Yep. The engine likes your move… a lot.”

Kasparov suggested 38…Rg3!
which seems to be crushing!

Indeed. The engines were screaming for 38…Rg3 after which white’s positions collapses. It was the first of many errors by Carlsen who still had chances to claim a winning advantage, but was bitten by the time pressure bug. After the queens came off, it was hard to see Carlsen winnning the position. After 55…Rxe7, Carlsen has a 3:2 pawn advantage in a rook ending, but white had established an impenetrable fortress. Carlsen played on another 60 moves before they shook hands and agreed to a draw.

Very intense game showing that nerves played a part in both players not playing up to par. It will take a few games, but with the short match, there is little room for error.

Annotations by GM Amon Simutowe

INTRODUCTION

The global chess community has been looking forward to the match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. Two supremely talented players are fighting for the world chess championship crown. Their chess understanding rival the strongest chess computer programs. Both players are roughly on an even playing field in terms of age and Elo rating. Carlsen is 27 and Caruana is 26. Carlsen’s November Elo rating is 2835 compared to Caruana’s 2832.

GM Amon Simutowe
Photo by Fred Lucas

It seems Carlsen is the slight favorite. He has achieved more thus far and has a better individual score against Caruana. I think the significant advantage Carlsen holds over Caruana is his experience in world chess championship matches. This is Carlsen’s fourth compared to Caruana’s first. But I think Carlsen will generally face more pressure than Caruana. Caruana’s energy and excitement at the possibility of dethroning Carlsen may work to his advantage.

Barring something unusual, such as a psychological breakdown from one of the players, the match will be very close. I personally hope Caruana will win the first decisive game in the match. Carlsen will be more deserving of keeping his world title if he wins the match after losing first in the first decisive game.

Video by GM Daniel King

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2018 World Chess Championship
Holborn, London, England (November 9th-28th)
USANorwayUSANorwayUSANorway

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)
 
pts.
Carlsen
6
Caruana
6

Tiebreaks
 
1
2
3
4
pts.
Carlsen
1
1
1
3
Caruana
0
0
0
0
Official Site: https://worldchess.com/

Dear Chess Fans!

The time has come… today the World Chess Championship match will officially begin. We have waiting since Fabiano Caruana’s win at the Candidates Tournament to see who would face the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen. The buzz of this highly-anticipated match has already ratcheted up dramatically in the pass couple of weeks. Carlsen (27) of Norway will face Caruana (26) of the USA in a 12-game match in Holburn, London.

Both were were child prodigies, but their trajectories to stardom were a bit different. In fact, the trajectory seems to have changed again with Carlsen and Caruana positioned as the #1 and #2 players. This will be the first time in the undisputed era that the top two players have competed for the title in decades. The other appeal is the oft-stated parallels to the Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky match. Caruana grew up in the same neighborhood as Fischer and like the legendary champion, left school at an early age to focus solely on chess.

Image by US Chess/Chess Life

Carlsen’s reign has been an interesting one, but some anticipate this to be his toughest challenge yet. That is tougher the Carlsen’s match with Russia’s Sergey Karjakin who battled to a tied match after 12 games only to lose in tiebreaks. Carlsen fell behind in that match and while he won convincingly in the tiebreaks, few were impressed with his performance.

There are many predictions with most giving Carlsen the edge. My projection is that the match is virtually even. Carlsen has looked vulnerable the past year while Caruana has stabilized his play and is now only three points behind Carlsen. Will Carlsen’s tenacity and experience overcome Caruana’s even temperament and impeccable preparation? It will be quite a dynamic matchup.

The College in Holburn, London

Venue: The College in Holburn, London

The drawing of colors took place at the Opening Ceremony and Carlsen will play black in the first game. After six games, the colors will actually reverse in the second six-game sequence. In other words, both players will play the same color in game 6 and 7. The time control is 40 moves to play in 100 minutes, the 20 moves be played in 50 minutes and the rest of the game will get a final 15 minutes.

Each move will gain an increment of 30 seconds per move. The match will last 12 games with the winner scoring 6.5 points. In the event of a 6-6 tie, there will be four 25-minute games to determine the winner. If the rapid games do not determine a winner, then up to five blitz mini-matches will be played until a winner is determined.

If the match is still drawn, one sudden-death “Armageddon” game will be played. The player who wins the drawing of lots may choose the color. The player with the white pieces shall receive 5 minutes, the player with the black pieces shall receive 4 minutes. The player with white must win the game to win the match. The closing ceremony is on the 28th, the same day as the tiebreaks.

There are a variety of places to enjoy the action and were compiled in a nice report by GM Ian Rogers. The Chess Drum will be providing daily reports and compile the best possible collection of content on the match. The reports will single-round posts, but each of the round reports can be viewed below in one long stream.

Enjoy!

Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum


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The World Chess Championship will begin tomorrow in Holburn, London featuring World Champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Fabiano Caruana, the #1 and #2 players in the world, respectively. While Carlsen is the favorite and has been the champion for five years, many pundits have given Caruana a fighting chance to win the crown. Many have anticipated this match up for years and below a prescient image is proof of that.

Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen with promoter Rex Sinquefield
at 2014 Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, USA.
Photo by CCSCSL

While this match will not have any of the political overtones of the 1972 match, there are a number of parallels. Caruana grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood that Fischer grew up in and proceeded to break most of his records. He was a child prodigy raised by both parents and was taken abroad in order to broaden his opportunities. He made tremendous progress with the help of trainers and made his break into the upper echelon. He returned after a 10-year sojourn in Europe, rose to glory and like Fischer, will face a well-equipped champion for the world title.

Magnus the Marvel

Carlsen has help the championship for five years and the has been the top-rated player since 2011. He has defended his title successful twice after winning the crown from Viswanathan Anand in 2014. An image of a triumphant Carlsen was taken after his was dunked in the swimming pool.

Carlsen’s celebrating his championship victory in Chennai, India (2013).
Photo by Magnus Carlsen (Facebook).

Norway has benefited from the “Carlsen Effect” as chess has quickly become a fixation of Norwegians. We have all enjoyed watching the “Boy Wonder” story of Carlsen unfold, but one wonders if we have ended one era and started another. The idea that such a diverse set of players dot the upper echelons of chess is refreshing. Who ever thought a Norwegian would be at the top of chess for seven years? Not to mention other rising talents out of China, India, Iran and Uzbekistan as of late. Regardless the result of this match, there is a sense that the field is more level than it has been in recent years and there is a new cadre of talent looking to make a move to the top.

The Caruana Effect?

I have written a number of articles on Caruana’s evolution… his rise and as a contender. When we assess talent in fact his homeschooling allowed him the freedom to explore and express his talents. For those aspiring to become a chess champion, what type of future does such chess excellence offer? Certainly one can attempt to become world champion, but that may not be practical in most cases. The economics of being a prodigy is hard to calculate. If Caruana does win the match, is there something tangible his result can offer?

IM Danny Rensch wrote an article in the latest issue of American Chess Magazine and had an interesting perspective about the effect of the match:

“November may come and go with no tangible change for chess in the U.S. Our chess coaches will still know that, most likely, their students will start choosing other sports in junior high, like they always have. Tournament organizers will know they can’t compete head-to-head with soccer, basketball or other sports on the weekend and expect to get all their kids there. we’ll all know that as much as chess parents appreciate what chess has done for their kids, there is no viable “path to chess pro,” and when it’s time to focus on grades, they’ll encourage (or force their kids to leave their chess passion behind.”

Is Rensch showing pessimism about the effect of another American champion, or is he merely recounting the way things have traditionally gone in the past? Of course before Fischer won, chess was also a fringe activity, but after 1972, there was an awareness and name recognition that continues to this day. Since Fischer, there have been great players, but perhaps what is missing is the magical formula to move chess to the forefront… abolishing of draws, shorter time controls, live broadcasting, confession booths, and even millionaire-dollar prize funds.

The “Cool Factor” of Chess

Apart from all of these methods to make chess more attractive, many young chess players seem to be more interested in using chess as a social outlet. Many parents also believe such a background of chess helps to build their profiles for college applications. Chess has retained its cachet, and even has a “cool factor” since many celebrities have shown their love for the game. When Carlsen was asked today if he thought they were making chess “cool,” he had an thought-provoking answer.

Bobby Fischer certainly made chess cool in the 70s and helped U.S. membership nearly doubled (from 30,084 to 59,250) in a year. The former chess prodigy grew into a dashing figure at 6’1″ who preferred tailored suits. While he set a fashion trend in a sea of bad-dressing chess players, he was often a bit a bit of a provocateur. This combination earned him quite a media persona and was still a household name decades after retiring… even today.

Carlsen became a public figure with his modeling contracts, TV commercials and matching wits with icons like Bill Gates. On the other hand, Caruana is rather low-key and diminutive in stature. However, he has the type of charm that has endeared him to fans. Are these characteristics edgy enough for New York’s Madison Avenue?

Championship Fever

The time is here. In a few hours, the first game will begin. The chess world will be watching the most-anticipated match since the Fischer-Spassky and Kasparov-Karpov battles. It dawns on the new era of 20-something, homeschooled, computer natives. If Carlsen wins, is there anything that changes. If Caruana wins, can he translate his championship status into increased visibility and sponsorship for chess? That question would most likely be answered in St. Louis and not New York. Time will tell.

MATCH SCHEDULE

Press Conference & Opening Ceremony: Thursday, November 8th
Game 1: Friday, November 9th
Game 2: Saturday, November 10th
Rest Day: Sunday, November 11th
Game 3: Monday, November 12th
Game 4: Tuesday, November 13th
Rest Day: Wednesday, November 14th
Game 5: Thursday, November 15th
Game 6: Friday, November 16th
Rest Day: Saturday, November 17th
Game 7: Sunday, November 18th
Game 8: Monday, November 19th
Rest Day: Tuesday, November 20th
Game 9: Wednesday, November 21st
Game 10: Thursday, November 22nd
Rest Day: Friday, November 23rd
Game 11: Saturday, November 24th
Rest Day: Sunday, November 25th
Game 12: Monday, November 26th
Rest Day: Tuesday, November 27th
Tiebreaks/Closing Ceremony: Wednesday, November 28th

Official Site: https://worldchess.com/
Regulations: http://www.thechessdrum.net/tournaments/WCC2018/documents/regulations_match_2018.pdf

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2018 Women’s World Chess Championship
(Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)

Ugra Chess Academy in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
Photo by ugra2018.fide.com

The Women’s World Chess Championship has begun with 64 players from 28 countries! It started only a week prior to the World Chess Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. One may ask why do these two important events overlap? It’s a great question. Two things would happen, more chess for the fans or fans choosing which event they will follow. This will hopefully be the last time that this overlapping of events will occur.

New FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich has proposed some changes in the world championship cycle including using the knockout as a qualifier for the Women’s candidate tournament. This decision was supported by the FIDE Congress at the Olympiad and will apply to the 2019-2020 cycle.

This change could not be more welcome. Ju Wenjun (right) is the current Women’s champion and top seed, but she has only held her title for six months. The current format means she has to defend her title immediately in a totally different format. For She will be joined by most of the top players in the women’s field with the exception of Hou Yifan who is currently undertaking studies at Oxford.

Top players to contend with Ju for the crown are: Former world champions Alexandra Kosteniuk (2551, Russia), Mariya Muzychuk (2533, Ukraine), Tan Zhongyi (2527, China), Antoaneta Stefanova (2490, Bulgaria), and Anna Ushenina (2451, Ukraine) are taking part in the event as well. The tournament will also see such chess stars as Humpy Koneru (2557, India), Kateryna Lagno (2556, Russia), Anna Muzychuk (2555, Ukraine), Aleksandra Goryachkina (2536, Russia) and Valentina Gunina (2525, Russia).

For this tournament, “zero tolerance” will be in effect. As in the others, the first five rounds consists of two-game mini-matches (two classical and then two-game tiebreakers) and the final will be four game mini-match followed by two game tiebreakers. In the event of a tie after all the rounds, a final Armageddon game will be played to determine the winner.

SCHEDULE

1 November (Arrivals)
2 November (Arrivals / Players Meeting / Opening Ceremony)
3-5 November Round 1
6-8 November Round 2
9-11 November Round 3
12-14 November Round 4
15-17 November Round 5
18 November Free Day
19-23 November Round 6 and tiebreaks (final match)
23 November Closing Ceremony
24-25 November Departures

Official Site: http://ugra2018.fide.com/
Live: https://ugra2018.fide.com/live/
PGN Games (TWIC): http://theweekinchess.com/assets/files/pgn/wchwko18.pgn

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Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

Excitement will begin to build up for the World Chess Championship set to begin in Holborn, London on November 9th. While the media blitz has not yet begun, it will be interesting to see how the match is billed. Magnus Carlsen has been the World Champion for five years and this will be his third title defense. He faces Fabiano Caruana, a player who has had some success against Carlsen and will undoubtedly be the stiffest challenge yet. While Carlsen has an overall +5 score in classical games, +7 in blitz, even in rapid (per Tarjei Svensen), only two Elo points separate the players (2834.7 to 2832.3 LIVE).

An interesting exchange occurred at the 2018 Sinquefield Cup…

After this bit of pre-tournament banter, Caruana and Carlsen tied for first along with Levon Aronian. The American player has been in consistent form the past couple of years and is coming off of joint win of the 2018 Sinquefield Cup and a double silver medal performance at the Olympiad. Meanwhile, Carlsen seems to have lost some momentum and went through a stretch of almost a year (in 2016-2017) where he did not win a major classical event. His win of the 2017 Isle of Man silenced critics. He proceeded to win joint first with Anish Giri in the 2018 Tata Steel, but 2018 results have been far from dominant. However, Carlsen has proven that he can motivate himself when the spotlight is on.

2014 Chess Olympiad
Fabiano Caruana (Italy) – Magnus Carlsen (Norway), 0-1
The early stages of an official rivalry?
Photo David Llada.

2015 London Chess Classic
Magnus Carlsen (Norway) – Fabiano Caruana (USA), 1/2-1/2
Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

There have been many polls assessing who will win the match and quite a number pundits have given Caruana a reasonable chance at victory. Caruana assesses his chances as 50-50. While Carlsen remains the popular favorite, this may be the first match where his perceived advantage is not overwhelming. Carlsen actually struggled against Sergey Karjakin and needed a late win to tie the match and take into tiebreaks. He dominated the quicker format and ended with a picturesque mate.

Recently, Carlsen was watching the Olympiad and was asked comments about Caruana. Here is what he had to say about his challenger (notably 8:47-10:27).

Magnus Carlsen on Fabiano Caruana

Video by chess24

One of the things that makes Carlsen such a competitor is that he is totally engaged in the happenings of chess and this appears to be a common trait of champions. The 90-minute commentary during the Olympiad was certainly a treat for the audience as well as a way to keep him engaged with the current ideas. In addition, to the champion’s zeal for chess, he will have a powerful team supporting him.

With all types of Bobby Fischer comparisons in the air, Caruana will bring his trusted second in Rustam Kasimdzhanov. While there is little information about his official team, Grandmasters Cristian Chirila, Alejandro Ramirez and Leinier Dominguez helped with preparation for the Candidates. Certainly Rex Sinquefield will see to it that no quarter is spared to get him an able team.


If Caruana wins, we’ll have a new champion,
and most likely, a new #1.


Carlsen will have Peter Heine Neilsen as his chief second. French Grandmaster Laurent Fressinet has worked with Carlsen in the past and it has been reported that Jan Gustaffson and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave may be with Team Carlsen, but this is unofficial.

Carlsen-Caruana at 2018 Sinquefield Cup, 1/2-1/2
Photo by Lennart Ootes

The World Championship match will take place at The College, a 10,000 square foot Victorian Hall in Holburn (pronounced ho-burn). The highly-anticipated match begins November 9th after the opening ceremony the previous evening. New FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich will be on hand to open the match.

The match will feature rest days every two games except for a rest day between the 11th and 12th game. Rounds will be at 15:00hrs. London GMT (10:00hrs New York, 16:00hrs Oslo, 17:00hrs Johannesburg, 18:00hrs Moscow, 23:00hrs Shanghai). If you are visiting in London, the daily passes start at £45 (US$57.75) at ticketmaster.com.

The College in Holburn, London

Venue: The College in Holburn, London

The closing ceremony (and tiebreak, if needed) is on the 28th. There will be a drawing of colors at the Opening Ceremony to determine the color allocation. After six games, the colors will actually reverse in the second six-game sequence. In other words, both players will play the same color in game 6 and 7. The time control is 40 moves to play in 100 minutes, the 20 moves be played in 50 minutes and the rest of the game will get a final 15 minutes.

Each move will gain an increment of 30 seconds per move. The match will last 12 games with the winner scoring 6.5 points. In the event of a 6-6 tie, there will be four 25-minute games to determine the winner. If the rapid games do not determine a winner, then up to five blitz mini-matches will be played until a winner is determined.

If the match is still drawn, one sudden-death “Armageddon” game will be played. The player who wins the drawing of lots may choose the color. The player with the white pieces shall receive 5 minutes, the player with the black pieces shall receive 4 minutes. The player with white must win the game to win the match.

Magnus Carlsen (Norway) vs. Fabiano Caruana (USA)

MATCH SCHEDULE

Press Conference & Opening Ceremony: Thursday, November 8th
Game 1: Friday, November 9th
Game 2: Saturday, November 10th
Rest Day: Sunday, November 11th
Game 3: Monday, November 12th
Game 4: Tuesday, November 13th
Rest Day: Wednesday, November 14th
Game 5: Thursday, November 15th
Game 6: Friday, November 16th
Rest Day: Saturday, November 17th
Game 7: Sunday, November 18th
Game 8: Monday, November 19th
Rest Day: Tuesday, November 20th
Game 9: Wednesday, November 21st
Game 10: Thursday, November 22nd
Rest Day: Friday, November 23rd
Game 11: Saturday, November 24th
Rest Day: Sunday, November 25th
Game 12: Monday, November 26th
Rest Day: Tuesday, November 27th
Tiebreaks/Closing Ceremony: Wednesday, November 28th

Regulations: http://www.thechessdrum.net/tournaments/WCC2018/documents/regulations_match_2018.pdf

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