2016 World Chess Championship (Carlsen vs. Karjakin)

2016 World Chess Championship
Manhattan, New York, USA (November 11th-30th)

Official Site: https://worldchess.com/nyc2016/

Carlsen retains title!

Dear Chess Fans!

On the heels of the stunning campaign victory by President-Elect Donald J. Trump, the World Chess Championships (#worldchess2016) will be officially opened by FIDE and AGON. New York has been the scene of a raucous campaign and hopefully Americans will look for a nice diversion to take their minds off of such a contentious and bitter debate. It is interesting to note that this match starts with bitter feelings between the players. Perhaps WCC will need a controversy to get any media attention.

AGON CEO Ilya Merenzon will certainly be looking for any opportunity to gain traction in the media space, but there have already been complaints about the website. The biggest media coup has been a countdown on the Huffington Post. However, AGON has attracted heavyweight backers such as BMW and Four Seasons Hotels. In addition, chess24 has announced that they will carry the games live in contravention to AGON filing for an injunction. Nevertheless, the audience stands to be in the tens of millions.

The matchup between Carlsen and Karjakin will not have the drawing power but there is a war of opposites: the dashing Norwegian bachelor from the West versus the rather ordinary family man from the east. These characteristics come front and center in their styles and Carlsen tends to take more risks without any predictable patterns of play while Karjakin is very steady, surgical and emotionally unflappable. Carlsen has never faced a deficit and it will be interesting to see how he reacts when falling behind. He has a tendency to become emotionally unhinged when he loses.

Since Carlsen has ascended to the #1 player he won his first world championship beating Anand in 2013 and then in a return match (after Anand surprisingly qualified) defended his crown in 2014.

Sergey Karjakin left his native Ukraine for Russian in quest of better training and opportunities to challenge for the world championship. In March of this year, he surprisingly bested a strong field of competitors earning the right to challenge Carlsen. None of the odd-makers are picking Karjakin (#9 in the world) to win the crown and only a 21-31% chance of victory. The chess pundits have also be decidedly one-sided without even one choosing Karjakin to have a chance.

Sergey Karjakin receiving the baton from Viswanathan Anand.
Photo by Amrita Mokal.

Magnus Carlsen


After Trump’s improbable victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, perhaps there is something brewing in New York. Clinton supporters relaxed and assumed victory just as the Carlsen supporters are doing the same. Can Karjakin catch Carlsen napping? Of course, Carlsen may have learned a lesson from the U.S. Presidential campaign. Stay tuned!

The 12-game format will begin tomorrow on the 11th and include a total of seven rest days with the tie-breaks on 30th (if needed) and the closing on the next day. There will be ample coverage from many sites with the official site offering extended functionality of analysis and live commentary done in many languages. Judit Polgar has signed on to do commentary as well as a number of guest Grandmasters.

Thus, thousands have signed up for full access to online coverage. The online options start at US$15. Tickets to view that action live range from US$75-US$1200 with the entire premium package going for US$3,000. The match will take place at the Fulton Market Building – Seaport District, NYC (11 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10038). There will be limited seating with capacity for 300 guests.

The opening ceremony will be Thursday, November 10th and the first game of the 12-game match will be the following day beginning with the closing of the match on November 30th. The games begin at 14:00EST or 20:00 CET.Follow the action!

Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum


  1. 2016 World Chess Championship: Game #1

    Game One of the World Chess Championship got underway in New York at the Fulton Market Building in the South Street Seaport in Manhattan. The atmosphere was vibrant and drinks were flowing in the VIP section, but many of the fans complained about the ticket prices ($75 for general admission) and the viewing conditions for spectators. Those who paid for the online package experienced problems in the beginning, but they were rectified within an hour. There were those who complained about the commentary, but Judit Polgar did a creditable job with a few interesting guests such as Harvard economist GM Ken Rogoff and Peter Doggers of chess.com.

    Ceremonial first move by Woody Harrelson. Photo by AGON Limited (from official broadcast)

    Ceremonial first move by Woody Harrelson.
    Photo by AGON Limited (from official broadcast)

    The first round started with the ceremonial move by actor Woody Harrelson, who played 1.d4 for Carlsen. Chess fans knew there was going to be a connection made between the recent U.S. Presidential election and the World Championship match. That notion was reinforced when during Magnus Carlsen continued after 1… Nf6 with 2.Bg5! known as the Trompowsky Attack. The viewers peppered Twitter and chats with a barrage of puns. “Trumpowksy” was one of the more popular barbs.

    You had some journalists trash-talking over who came up with it first. Not that serious guys. Besides Mike Klein tweeted about “Trumpowsky” a year ago. When asked about whether Trump had anything to do with his opening choice, Carlsen replied, “A little bit.” It unclear what he meant. Henrik Carlsen didn’t rule out the opening being a joke, but it would be highly improbable that the World Champion would go to such extreme for a joke. Nevertheless, everyone had fun with the analogy. Sergey Karjaking would only agree that the opening of Game Two would be different!

    World Chess Championship (Game 1)

    Photo by AGON Limited (from official broadcast)

    World Chess Championship (Game 1)

    Chess24.com also had the action after winning
    a court case to relay the moves live.
    Photo by chess24.com

    Carslen thought he would get a “playable” but nothing spetacular. He wanted to find a position that he could not lose, but could win. This game had an imbalance in the position with a very slight advantage for white. Carlsen was critical of his 27.f4 after which Black equalized. One brought up an instructive ending with colors reversed.

    In the end, there was hardly anything there in the end and Karjakin earned a comfortable draw. The press conference yielded no insight to what the future of the match will hold. Karjakin refused to give any chess insight on his approach. Odd-makers give him little chance when in actuality, the longer the match goes tied, the better his chances become.

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum)

    Video by Daniel King.


    By: GM Amon Simutowe

    The majority of chess fans think Magnus Carlsen will win the match against Sergey Karjakin. Based on their FIDE Elo ratings, that’s statistically true. Carlsen has 2853 Elo points compared to 2772 for Karjakin. But there are several dynamic factors in play. Both Carlsen and Karjakin have no technical weaknesses. I believe winning will come down to strategic and psychological factors between the two of them.

    Since both players are almost perfect with their chess skills, I believe they will have each formulated the strategies with the best chance of winning by using new or at least unexpected strategies. New or unexpected strategies help because they increase the reaction time of the opponent increasing the chance of getting into time trouble and making a mistake.

    This is a short match, consisting of only 12 games. This means one loss can change the momentum for the rest of the match. I expect both players to choose strategies that will exert pressure on the other when playing with white pieces in the hopes of eventually making a breakthrough, forcing the other to blunder.

    In sum, there is probably little point debating who will win. We are better off just enjoying the match. We know Carlsen has a higher Elo rating making him a slight favorite. But if he loses first, Karjakin is good enough to maintain momentum for the rest of the match.

  3. 2016 World Chess Championship: Game #2

    WCC signposts outside of Fulton Market. Photo by Albert Silver

    WCC signposts outside of Fulton Market.
    Photo by Albert Silver

    The match continued today with a regularity that only chess players would recognized. The initial pre-tournament excitement has worn off only to be replaced by the excitement of the twists and turns of the match. What would it be today? Sergey Karjakin was playing white, but we knew the game wouldn’t go 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5… one time is enough for one championship match.

    As the game progressed out of the opening, Susan Polgar mentioned that today was “National Pizza Day” so maybe they should play a Sicilian. It turns out the game went 1.e4 e5 so no Sicilian, but after 2.Nf3 Nc6 they could’ve still played an Italian Game with 3.Bc4. So much for the sideline jokes… 3.Bb5 was played. Tension was thick and throngs of spectators showed up. While enthusiasm was high, fans seemed to be unable to get an optimal view.

    Chess enthusiast and promoter Adia Onyango was on site. Photo by Adia Onyango

    Chess enthusiast and promoter Adia Onyango was in high spirits.
    Photo by Adia Onyango.

    What occurred in the game was the Ruy Lopez, but after 3…a6 there would be no Berlin! Carlsen had played the solid defense regularly in the two matches against Viswanathan Anand (eight times) and thwarted any initiative by white. Was this merely a psychological ploy? One of the guests on the telecast was Bobby Fischer biographer Frank Brady who noted the similarities between the 1972 and the Carlsen-Karjakin. He recounted a number of stories including Fischer’s quip, “I don’t believe in psychology. I only believe in good moves.” Hopefully we will see good moves during the match.

    A key moment appeared in the game when white played 6.d3 eschewing possibilities of mainlines in the Marshall Gambit, Breyer, Zaitsev, and Chigorin. Then later Karjakin released the tension with 18.dxe5. Many felt that this move was an unspoken draw offer. They ventured into a “queenless middlegame” but by move 25, Karjakin had applied pressure with 25.Ra6. After 25…Rc8 26.b4 Re6?! Ruslan Ponomariov had this to say, “With 26… c5, Carlsen could have posed more practical problems 27. Nxb5 cxb4 28. Nd6 Re6 29. Nxc8 Rxa6 gives White something to think about.” After 27.Rb1 c5 the game petered out to a draw on move 33. The plot thickens!

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum)

    As far as the venue, it was a successful, but the there is still the issue of how to manage the spectators. There was the aforementioned crowds, but also the lack of space for the press area. Dennis McGrath of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported, “Chess fans from far and wide flooded into the sold-out World Chess Championship match in New York City Saturday and they were surprised – and many were furious – at how little they actually saw of the two grandmasters competing for the title.” (article) ChessBase journalist Albert Silver gave an account of his experience.

    Unfortunately, the media room was so packed that not only was I unable find a seat at a table, but there was not even room on the floor. This caused no small amount of consternation, since although there was certainly WiFi in other areas of the venue such as the Cafe, there are no electric plugs to power a laptop. So where did I work? From the production room with makeup! Needless to say, I was not allowed and was directed to the media area, but I explained my quandary and appealed to them. “look at how small I am! I take up no space!” — laughter and I was made a small room at the makeup table. My warmest thanks to the production team for being such a sport about it.

    There are two spectator areas: one for normal visitors, and the other for the VIPs. They both share a space with glass panes that offer views to either side of the playing area. The space for the â??commonâ?? spectators is a dark black room, standing room only, with a cordon separating the viewers from the glass panes. The panes are also darkened, no doubt in such a way as to not have the players distracted by the spectators, but the side effect is also a seriously reduced visibility making it seem as if one were viewing it with strong sunglasses. As there is also a healthy distance between the panes and the playing table, it is not unfair to say it is much less than idea, especially with no chairs of any kind. (article)

    Rest day before Game Three on Monday. Carlsen was asked what he planned to do for the rest day and he mentioned that it was a bit early for rest and that he really wanted to play tomorrow. Karjakin on the other hand, preferred the rest day. It is probably more beneficial for the Russian as he continues to acclimatize to the atmosphere. However, it is quite strange that on the weekend there is a rest day for the players.

    We can assess this with a “?” or maybe a “!” Good move because it will give the AGON organizers a chance to recover. To pay $75 for a ticket and not be able to watch the action in a theater is a major shortcoming in a city that is more than equipped to handle this. It is most likely that these organizational mistakes will be cleaned up, but it would’ve been good to capitalize on the weekend for ticket revenue.

    Video by Daniel King.

  4. It’s too early to predict anything, but so far I am impressed by the way Karjakin has handles himself at the board and during press conference. Game 3 has to put Magnus on warning about toying with moves like Re2 …

    1. This was a good result for Karjakin and will give him confidence that Carlsen perhaps can’t beat. This save with white after almost seven hours of play is a tremendous morale booster. Carlsen will go back and lament on the missed opportunity.

  5. it’s very interesting that both players used a lot of energy in game 3, but Magnus is likely feeling more exhausted since he failed to accomplish his goal. Meanwhile, Karjakin must feel rejuvenated because he actually accomplished his goal given the position that he was in. So, don’t be surprise to catch Magnus snoozing at the board tomorrow.

    1. Most pundits picks Carlsen going away. I am giving Karjakin almost a 50-50 chance. There is no reason to believe that Karjakin is not gaining strength and confidence with each draw. If he wins on tomorrow, all bets are off.

  6. Game 3: Battle Royale!

    Video by World Chess (Facebook).

    After two rather humdrum affairs in Carlsen-Karjakin match, the third round of the World Championship match had about as many twists and turns as … you guessed it … a roller coaster. While the cliche was a bit overused in social media, it was certain an appropriate analogy after many had groaned after the game ventured into the Berlin Defense.

    Carlsen’s 10.Re2!? drew many a furrowed brow amongst commentators and spectators. The world champion quipped that it was really a “fingerfehler” and he moved the rook back to e1 on the next move. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

    With the Berlin’s reputation of being nearly impregnable, Carlsen deviated from 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 (avoiding volumes of theory) with 5.Re1. Carlsen then played what appeared to be a novelty in 10.Re2!? when in fact the move has been played a couple of times. The idea, pioneered by GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, is to trade rooks on the e2-square after …Re8 and or double rooks with Rae1.

    Fast forward. While the game appeared to be drawish, dynamic play ensued. There was even GM Denes Boros‘ suggestion of 17.g4!? which evoked a smile from Carlsen. “It’s very nice!” said Carlsen. After a lull in action and the shuffling of pieces the game started to heat up. White played 25.f4! setting up a nice structure that became apparent after 30.Rg1.

    GM Yasser Seirawan stated that 30…Bh6! was needed to keep white at bay. With pressure mounting, Karjakin cracked after 31…c5? Carlsen played energetically…

    …and after 32.Rg8! Kf7 33.Rg2. Black’s pawns have also been compromised and after 33…cxd4 34.Nxf5 white was playing for two results instead of one.

    In the next ten moves, Karjakin was reduced to defense… and defend he did! However, there was a blunder with 61…Bg5?? which after 62.Rd4! Rd3+ 63.Kg4 gives white winning chances again. In order to stave off a slow death after 67.Re6, Karjakin donated his bishop and went to liquidate all the pawns after 67…Rxh3.

    Ceremonial first move by Woody Harrelson. Photo by AGON Limited (from official broadcast)

    Sergey Karjakin discussing crucial moment before 67.Re6.
    Photo by AGON Limited (from official broadcast)

    His tenacious defense paid off as Carlsen play 72.Rb7?? (72.Rf7+!) throwing away the win. The game ended with black’s h-pawn getting menacingly close to the queening square and trumping white’s extra piece. They repeated moves and sued for peace. A gut-wrenching, heart-pumping affair!

    In the end, Carlsen was very disappointed that he didn’t earn the full point, but Karjakin found many resources and his energy held up. Both GMs Teymour Rajabov and Ruslan Ponomariov had a debate on whether a draw was better for Karjakin or Carlsen.

    It goes without saying that Karjakin is relieved to have escaped with a half-point. Carlsen, on the other hand, is most likely frustrated with what he discovered after checking the game. Will Karjakin apply pressure to the disappointed champion? Absolutely!

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

    Video by Daniel King.

  7. Game 4: Karjakin: Minister of Defense!

    Superlatives were bandied about to describe Sergey Karjakin’s defensive prowess after holding Magnus Carlsen in a 94-move bout. Peter Doggers of chess.com quipped that Vladimir Putin should hire him as “Minister of Defense” after which Karjakin said (with a wry smile) he’d be honored. Certainly Karjakin was glad to have escaped yet another unpleasant outing and didn’t mind all the cliches in social media… overused yet again.

    Many felt that this result may have helped Karjakin’s confidence since he has scored two moral victories, but Carlsen said without a tinge of doubt that he would rather be on the offensive than having to defend such positions. Certainly, the world champion has to be happy with the positions he has been getting and is showing his superiority in technical positions. Zambian GM Amon Simutowe opined,

    I am beginning to think Karjakin might pose Carlsen some real challenges in this match. While Carlsen has controlled the games in the first four matches, I am not sure it’s a good sign if a player of Carlsen’s caliber fails to convert at least two games in which he has an advantage into a win. On the other hand, if the trend of Carlsen dominating the games continues, he should win the match.

    For the third game in a row, there was a Ruy Lopez, this time an anti-Marshall system with 8.h3. This is an attempt to side step the uber-complicated sequences after 8.c3 d5!? 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 Bd6 12.Re1 Qh4. Karjakin has extensive experience with this theory.

    Images of the epic Game Four (different angles)

    Carlsen ponders move after Karjakin's 15.Qf3

    Carlsen ponders move after Karjakin’s 15.Qf3

    Carlsen ponders move after Karjakin's 15.Qf3

    Carlsen ponders move after Karjakin's 15.Qf3

    Carlsen ponders move after Karjakin's 17...Nc4

    Carlsen takes a nap on the couch before Karjakin’s fateful 18th move.

    Indeed the Russian was comfortable and appeared to have his bearing well into the complicated jigsaw of pieces typical of the Ruy Lopez middlegames. Then, the moment came… 18.Bxh6? Karjakin had been goaded into a gluttonous blunder which was curtly refuted with 18…Qc6!

    Zoiks! The response on social media exploded. Now black simply threatens 19…gxh6 and 19…Nxe4. They say mistakes happen in bunches and Karjakin interpolated the move 19.Bxc4?! which ceded the b3- and d3-squares. The alternative 19.Bc1 was needed.

    After 19…bxc4 20.Be3 Nxe4 black’s pieces got a huge dose of oxygen and Karjakin was on the brink of a dashing defeat. He had to get a grip on his position … and fast! One of the most admirable qualities of the challenger is to have the nerves of steel when under pressure. He opted to swap queens, but after 25.Ng4 Rb5 26.f3 the laser bishops were poised to slice his knight duo to shreds.

    Karjakin started to venture into time pressure where one more slip could mean an immediate loss. He decided to temporarily jettison a pawn to activate his knight. After the 40th move, it was clear that white was going to suffer and Carlsen was the type who would play 100 moves. Tension continued to mount and after white’s 45.Nd1 black played 45…f4?

    Carlsen thought his was winning easily, but 45…Be6! was the killer. “I don’t believe white can save this position,” said Karjakin in the press conference. This turned out to the the last chance for Carlsen and after another 40 moves, Karjakin held the fortress. Drats! Carlsen foiled again.

    Postgame Press Conference

    Video by World Chess

    So… going into a rest day Russia has to be feeling good and Karjakin more confident. With each draw, Karjakin is going to increase his chances of a match upset. For Carlsen, he must be disappointed to have missed these opportunities. When Anand missed his big chance after Carlsen’s 26.Kd2?? (losing two pawns to 26…Nxe5!). Anand was visibly shaken and went down 12 moves later.

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

    Analyses of Game Four

    Video by GM Daniel King

    Video by IM Kassa Korley

  8. Game 5: Another draw, but momentum to Karjakin!

    Is Carlsen becoming unraveled?
    Photo by Peter Doggers (chess.com)

    Magnus Carlsen started a social media trend #Trumpowsky with his first round 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5. When asked if the opening had to do with the election victory of Donald Trump, he said, “A little bit.” Well… the next day was “National Pizza Day,” but the Ruy Lopez appeared on the board. Sergey Karjakin could’ve played the Italian Game to keep with the theme, but of course the joke had already been taken too far. Today Carlsen played the Italian Game, or “Giuoco Piano” as a way to avoid the Berlin Defense. This has been a recent approach at the top level to venture into positions similar to a classical Ruy Lopez without having to face the stout Berlin. This game had its moments and there was some levity about the romantic opening.

    Almost on cue, Carlsen uncorked the bughouse-like 14.Bxf7+ to avoid 14.Nxe4 d5 which equalizes immediately. However, after 14…Rxf7 15.Nxe4 d5 white’s position looked a bit artificial, but on 16.Nc5 h6 Carlsen played 17.Ra3! A nice ROVER maneuver that got the approval of GM Samuel Shankland. The idea is fairly obvious… swing the rook over and exert pressure on the e-file. That’s not what happened. It appears that Carlsen went awry after 17…Bf5 18.Ne5 Nxe5 19.dxe5 Qh4! Black’s pawn structure stood solid while white’s pawns were a hot mess. In fact, Karjakin was playing for the initiative.

    If we are saying that Carlsen has outplayed Karjakin, yet is disappointed, it may wear on him more than Karjakin having to defend bad positions and holding. The Russians seems to be upbeat at the press conference while Carlsen sulks. Today it was the possibility of losing. “I was lucky not lose,” he stated. The key point came when Karjakin marched his king to the safety of the closed queenside and then banged out 42…d4 to open a crucial diagonal after 43.Qxd4 Bd5. GM Robert Hess suggested

    “43…Rh8 needs to be examined at length. White’s queen was drawn off the second rank, which means he’s unable completely unable to get his rook to h2 once the major pieces form a battery. Reading engine evaluations often are misleading in such positions. While there is no question that Karjakin is the only one with winning chances and an edge for him comes as no surprise, even a reasonably high evaluation can fail to take the prospects of an opposite-colored bishop endgame into account. Even two pawns down, many such endgames are drawn, so there must always be context given to a number.”

    Carlsen immediately counter-sacrificed a pawn to untangle his pieces and gained enough play to neutralize the position. At the press conference, Karjakin was in an upbeat mood in contrast to an agitated Carlsen who did not play his best chess today. The effect of this is a subject of discussion. After bungling two superior positions, Carlsen came close to losing today and seems to be losing his composure. With two whites in a row, Karjakin can really apply pressure with a win before the rest day. If Karjakin wins, it will be interesting to see how Carlsen responds.

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

    Press Conference (Game Five)

    Video by ChessBase

    Analyses of Game Five

    Video by GM Daniel King

    Full Broadcast of Game Five

    Video by chess24.com

  9. Game 6: Calm draw before pending storm

    While outsiders may look at the score of the ongoing championship match, they would say that it seems to lack action because no one is scoring wins. If one could, for one moment, think of this match like a 12-round boxing bout where each boxer is judged on points scored by punching accuracy. Sometimes these rounds are even, but most times there is a winner of the round. Unfortunately, there are no cumulative points for getting an advantage in a drawn game of chess. One can say that there have been knockdowns and standing eight-counts. Yet after six rounds, the bout is even.

    Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali, 1971

    So while Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin have both had their chances in different rounds there is no way for the public to understand how hard fought these matches are. Be that as it may, the previous five rounds were so brutally fought it is hard to fathom that the two players would go “full bore” in every single round. However, Carlsen went into the game with an idea of catching Karjakin off guard.

    Carlsen’s 11.Nd4!? entered murky waters.

    In yet another Ruy Lopez (fourth in a row), Karjakin eschewed the regular Marshall Gambit lines, played 8.h3 and waited for Carlsen to show his hand. It only took a few moves. After 8…Bb7 9.d3 d5!? the game went down speculative lines with 10. exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxe5 Nd4!? This was a good try to test Karjakin’s preparation. Robert Hess mentioned that he helped Alexander Onischuk prepare this Nd4 line against Karjakin in the 2010 Olympiad. Karjakin won and conducted an extensive analysis on the game.

    Karjakin-Onischuk with 11…Nd4!?
    (2010 Chess Olympiad, Khanty-Mansiysk)
    Notes by GM Sergey Karjakin

    After losing to Karjakin, Onischuk improved in a game against Alexander Motylev a year later and drew comfortably. Perhaps Carlsen had an improvement. Karjakin trusted the champ’s preparation and played 12.Nc3 instead of 12.Bd2. The game went into dangerous waters with the tricky 15…f6 and 16…f5 thrusts. After 17.Neg5, the lines were forcing. After 17…Bxg5 18.Nxg5 h6 19.Ne6 Qd5! white was forced to essay 20.f3 Rfe8 21.Re5! In the ensuing trades the game simmered down to a draw.

    So what does this mean? We go into another rest day with the scored tied 3-3 (six draws). Both players are happy with their positions, but are fans suffering from draw fatigue? Perhaps, but the tension had been high and even calling today’s game a “damp squib” would be too harsh. There was theoretical content. However, if you are selling this match to sponsors it will be difficult to ascribe to the spate of draws as acceptable results. If one looked at this as a boxing match, there have been lots of flurries and we can still get a knockout in the end.

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

    Video by Daniel King.

  10. Game 7: Draw… Fischer’s ghost stirring

    Today was another short game, but the players granted a longer press conference. Some of the questions asked have been rather off-putting, but today packed room enjoyed a bit of levity and good cheer from the players. Perhaps this is an effort to stay loose for what will be an unbearably intense “five-round match.” The tension is mounting and it is likened to a spring tightening. The result today could not avoid the increasing number of jokes about draws in chess.

    Video by ChessBase.

    An even match increases Karjakin’s chances with each draw, but the fact that Carlsen continues to win theoretical battles must bode well for the champion. However, he missed an opportunity. The game began with 1.d4 as Fischer’s ghost rustled in Iceland. A change to 1.d4 occurred in Game 9 of Anand-Carlsen when Anand was behind two points. Fortunes did not change and the Indian legend lost his title that he had held for five years. Karjakin also changed but under much different circumstances.

    It appears that the Russian team has not out-prepared the champion in the first six games and was seeking a change, but this game would be no different. In fact, Karjakin admitted to not knowing the theory very well, but decided to opt for a rather innocuous line against the Chebanenko Slav. In fact, Swedish Grandmaster Tiger Hillarp-Persson annotated this game for ChessBase and delved into the minutiae of the opening with the conclusion that white got nothing from the opening. Then a bit of drama unfolded.

    Carlsen bolted forward with 14…Nb4! and Karjakin countered with 15.Bf3! showing that he was unafraid of the pending complications. Carlsen calmly castled here when commentators suggested the energetic 15…f5!

    As is common in chess, one misses an opportunity and the other seizes… 16.Ba3! At this point, white was trying to ensure he didn’t yield to black’s pressure. Actually it was Carlsen who had a moment of inattention on 16…Rc8? when Karjakin banged out 17.Nf6+! winning a pawn. However, this series of exchanges gave white little chances of winning after 22…b4 and after ten more moves, a draw was agreed. Teimour Radjabov weighed in on the “subplot”… Carlsen was playing reverse psychology.

    Maybe not, but Carlsen is happy to draw this game and no doubt likes his chances with three white games out of the next five. Both players seem to be in cheerful moods. However, the tension is certainly building and everyone around the world is waiting patiently for the first win… a win that could conceivably decide the match.

    Perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the match are the guests on the show. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson gave us the long awaited answer to a question every chess player wants to know… how many possible chess games exist? Easy… 102500! That is impressive when considering that the number of atoms in the universe are 1080. Tyson mentioned that after the last atom is counted then the only thing left to count is events! Interesting. Marking time. However… however… we are only playing one of the 960 positions of chess, so what must the number be then, Dr. Tyson???

    Video by ChessBase.

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

    Video by Daniel King.

  11. Game 8: Karjakin shocks Carlsen… goes up +1!

    The Trump analogies will start flying again if Sergey Karjakin wins the ongoing championship match. Karjakin stormed to victory today in a tense, yet error-filled game. Magnus Carlsen pressed with white in an unbalanced position, had an edge, misjudged the position and later blundered. Karjakin got confident and also blundered. Carlsen had a draw, went for more and fell to a deflection and mating attack. It was a game of twists and turns. Absolutely thrilling. It appears that only now, viewers believe that Karjakin is a worthy opponent.

    It’s much better to play well than to play White.
    ~Sergey Karjakin

    Everyone was anticipating a decisive result after seven consecutive draws. Carlsen had white and would certainly seize opportunities, but it appears he pressed too hard in attempting a decisive result. Well… there was a decisive result, but not the one he wanted! The World Champion was visibly shaken after the loss and stormed out of the press conference after Karjakin was slightly delayed in joining. The reaction was shocking to many, but those who have paid attention to Carlsen when he loses will understand that he sometimes becomes rattled. He is fortunate that there is a rest day so he can collect himself.

    After Carlsen’s unorthodox Zukertort Opening, he got the fight he wanted, but Karjakin was up to the challenge and bolted forward with 18…Ng4! However, the Russian dawdled when it came time to press forward. Fabiano Caruana annotating for ChessBase mentioned 19…Qg5! instead of the tepid 19…Bc6. We fast forward into the middlegame after Carlsen essayed 24.bxc4. It’s an interesting choice and show that the champion is still looking for imbalances in the position when there was an inherent risk to do so. Caruana stated,

    This move reminds me of Magnus’ play in the fifth game of the match. The position is equal, but he refuses to accept the fact and starts playing risky, anti-positional moves to try to keep the game going. Why does he need to play this way? The match is equal and there’s no need to overpress for a win. In this game his stubborn refusal to accept a draw finally backfired.

    Carlsen persistence seemed to pay off as Nxe6+ was a shocker.

    Nevertheless, Carlsen had control of the d-file, but Karjakin was hunkering down with two powerful black stallions. In fact, the knights would play a critical role in deciding the game… even until the last moves. With an unbalanced but roughly equal position, Carlsen started to take unprovoked risks. In a fit of time pressure, he banged out 35.c5? which basically loses, but has some poison. However, with both players short of time, the position demanded more attention than time would allow, so Karjakin played 35…Rxd8 (35…bxc5?? loses to 36.Qd6 targeting f7) 36.Nxd8 Nxc5 39.Qxe6 Qd3? 40.Nxe6+! (diagram) Wow. Did Karjakin blow this?

    Final Position

    For some reason Carlsen kept trying to find ways to scare up a win. After black’s powerful 48…Nd3! many (myself included) felt that donating a pawn with 49.e5 had to be played to keep lines open for the bishop. After 50…Ne5, black shut the door on all white counterplay and ended the game with a picturesque mate after Carlsen’s 52.Qe6?? with 52…a2! On 53.Qxa2 Ng4+ 54.Kh3 Qg1 when Carlsen has to donate his queen to avert mate. Shock reverberated around the chess world, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

    Carlsen storming off from the press conference earned him a warning and potential US$60,000 fine. He was upset because the press conference started late, but the what actually occurred was that he nixed post-game interview and went directly to the press conference. Thus, he came to the press conference early while Karjakin was still conducting interviews with Russian press. This was the same pattern as previous rounds. Here is video from the press conference.

    Video by World Chess.

    FIDE released the following statement:

    Magnus Carlsen failed to attend the Round 8 post game press conference. FIDE regulations state that every player must attend the post game press conference, otherwise he will be penalised by a deduction of 10% of his prize money.

    Following the conclusion of the Round 8 game, Karjakin appeared in the Mixed Zone to give brief interviews with the three official media partners to the Championship.

    The procedure for players granting interviews in the Mixed Zone was agreed with the players and their management teams at the Technical Meeting prior to the start of the Championship. Both players have granted brief interviews with the three media partners in each of the preceding 7 rounds and several times one player was waiting on the stage until the other one finished his obligations.

    After round 8, Magnus Carlsen arrived at the Mixed Zone one minute later than Sergey Karjakin and declined to give any interview. He was then offered to wait for a while in the Mixed Zone or on the press conference stage and Magnus decided to wait on the stage. The World Champion decided to leave the Stage 95 seconds later, even though he was informed by the FIDE Press Officer, Anastasiya Karlovich, that Karjakin was about to come to the press conference. The FIDE Press Officer tried to persuade him and his manager to come back to the press conference room, but Magnus Carlsen declined to do so.

    FIDE official statement

    A story at this website mentioned Carlsen’s psychological readiness after falling behind may be a deciding factor. He had never been behind in a match and has been able to make up for slow starts with winning steaks. However, matches are far different. The game tomorrow will be very important to see how Carlsen reacts to being behind. Will he try to even the score immediately with only four games left? Will he load up for his white game on Thursday? Extremely tense moments ahead!

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

    Video by Daniel King.

    1. Look whos all growed up! lol , Daaim u got uLTRADWARFED!!!! hahaha , interestin interview, gotta check him out on youtube! CHESS.

  12. Game 9: Carlsen at the brink… holds for another day

    “The King’s Choice: A Chess Drama”

    In Norway, five million people have been staying up late at night following the championship match featuring their native son Magnus Carlsen and Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin. A couple of days ago Norweigans reacted with shock after Karjakin broke into the lead and Carlsen avoided media storming out of the press conference. It was a dark day in Norway.

    However, there would be four games left for Carlsen to right the ship. First matters first. Carlsen was excoriated by chess journalist for his actions. Even in Norway there was a shock concerning his behavior and reaction was swift. Tarjei Svensen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he understood the frustration, “but to leave the press conference, that”s not good.” He called Carlsen”s behaviour “unacceptable.”

    A dejected Carlsen ponders moments before storming out of the press conference. Photo by Albert Silver.

    A dejected Carlsen ponders moments before storming out of the press conference. Photo by Albert Silver.

    While his manager Espen Agdestein said to NRK was even more revealing…

    “Magnus knows that he is obligated to take part in the press conferences, so in this case, it was his temper that took the upper hand,” Agdestein told NRK around an hour after Carlsen”s dramatic exit and when he and Carlsen had arrived back at their hotel. “Magnus is just so determined to win, and like most, he despairs when he feels he has underperformed,” Agdestein added. “It is so limitlessly irritating that everything else becomes secondary.” He noted that Carlsen was preoccupied with the fame itself on the ride back to the hotel, not his poor performance at the press conference as well.

    Not a good omen and many proverbs and fables point to lessons when one chooses fame over humility. There was a big question on what would happen if Carlsen was rankled and we have seen the result. What happened was unfortunate and hopefully Carlsen has apologized, but his faces a 10% fine of his winnings in violation of the contractual agreement to attend each press conference.

    After the rest day, Carlsen and Karjakin had a fresh start. They would enter game nine in a pivotal battle, but the question would be the approach each would take. Would Karjakin shepherd his one-point lead or will he try to increase the distance, almost certainly clinching the match? Would Carlsen try to strike back or would he load up for the white game on America’s Thanksgiving holiday? We would soon find out.

    In the ninth game, another Ruy Lopez with black opting for the Arkhangelsk or “Arch Angel” variation with 6…Bc5 We were in for a fight. In this game black sacrificed a pawn for a better structure and active pieces. However, a pawn is a pawn and white has the bishop pair. The game was heating up with 18…c5!? and Fabiano Caruana described it this way…

    Years ago, as Rustam Kasimdzhanov was frying some plantains, he explained to me that this move was the best chance for Black to equalize. After we analyzed it, he tried it against Nakamura in the 2014 Tromso olympiad. Carlsen and his team also must have felt this was the best way for Black to approach the position.

    Wow… fried plantains… secret ingredient to inspiring strong play. Indeed, black had adequate play, but the game turned and it was Karjakin who looked to be controlling affairs with his bishop pair. There were tactical landmine featuring several sacrifices on the f7-square. There was even a nice variation involving a queen sacrifice. On 31…Nb4, there would have followed the snappy 32.Qxg6+ hxg6 33.Bf6 mating. Karjakin demonstrated this line to the delight of the audience.

    However, on Karjakin missed another chance after 33.Qc2 when 33.Ba4 Qf5! is parried by 34.Qf1! which met the approval of both players. Karjakin smiled, “Brilliant move!” Nevertheless, 34…Rb1! was in the air. The game reached a fever pitch as Karjakin uncorked 39.Bxf7+ evoking roars from the crowd.


    However, Carlsen pointed out that 39.Qb3! was even stronger than the text move. The final sequence ending in 41… Nf5 (41… Be5? 42.Bc3 Qd6 when beautiful is 43.Qf4!!) 42.Bc3+ Kf8 43.Bxa1 Nxh4+ 44.Qxh4 Qxd5 appeared to be drawn. Karjakin played on for 30 more moves before a draw was agreed.

    Press Conference (Game #9)

    Video by ChessBase

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

    Video by Daniel King.

  13. Game 10: We have a match!!
    Carlsen gets the equalizer after Karjakin breaks!

    Anticipation was high before the 10th game of the World Chess Championship. There were many questions being asked before today’s game. What would be the strategy for Magnus Carlsen? What opening would he play? Would he be under pressure to win with white? For Sergey Karjakin, would he try for a close-out? Would he be under pressure to hold the slim match lead? Sam Shankland was prescient.

    Carlsen has lots to be thankful for on America’s so-called Thanksgiving Day. The game started with yet another Ruy Lopez, but this time it was an anti-Berlin system with 4.d3. Perhaps Carlsen simply wanted to play chess and get a game he could settle into. This time it was Karjakin who played black’s Bc5 motif. There were mixed views on whether Carlsen chose the right opening for a win, but the game got tense very quickly.

    The pressure was ratcheting up and it showed in the number of errors traded. Karjakin played an unassuming 18…Be6. Instead of keeping the tension, Carlsen played 19.Bxe6? giving Karjakin and easy draw for the taking after 19…fxe6. Naturally, black would be content after 20.Nd2 (20.Kg2?? Ngf4+) Nxf2+ 21.Kg2 Nh4+ drawing, but something happened. Battling early zeitnot, Karjakin quickly played 20…d5 (which still draws) 21.Qh5 Ng5? (21…Nxf2+ again draws)

    Kaja Marie Snare asked Maurice Ashley about the number of errors present in the game and he borrowed and adage stating, “when you’re 95% there, you’re only halfway.” Karjakin may be feeling the weight of pressure as he climbs the proverbial mountain. Ian Nepomniachtchi and Judit Polgar were aghast at the sequence of events. “What just happened?” said Nepo. Well, 26…h5 happened and the Russian slowly lost the thread. Carlsen had also missed 26…Raf8!

    Rules. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    GM Maurice Ashley giving an assessment of the position.
    Photo from World Chess broadcast.

    Fast forwarding to 40.b4 will show just how much progress Carlsen had made. Zambian GM Amon Simutowe had come to the match but was turned away when he could not pay at the door. “There were five people wanting to pay and they were turned away.” Nevertheless, he told The Chess Drum that Carlsen was going to win. However, Karjakin was holding steady until 56…Rhh7? 57.b5! Black’s spine at e6 would be broken and Carlsen was relentless after that simplifying into a won rook ending.

    Carlsen graciously submitted to interviews today given the change in fortune. The world champion’s smile beamed brightly as his fans cheered loudly as he entered. “It’s a huge relief obviously. I haven’t won in ten games and that’s something basically that’s not happened to me before.” Perhaps and it may well be one of the most important wins of his career.

    The players are reaching a point of exhaustion although not quite the 48-game match of Karpov-Kasparov, but the quality of the game makes it rather obvious. On cue, the players have a rest day before resuming play on Saturday. Hold on to your hats! This will be an epic finish regardless of what happens in Game 11.

    Press Conference (Game #10)

    Video by ChessBase

    Notes by GM Amon Simutowe (The Chess Drum); PDF download

  14. Photos from Manhattan, New York, USA
    Site of 2016 World Chess Championship (Carlsen vs. Karjakin)
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz

    Crowds queues up for the 10th game of championship match. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Concession stand. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Concession stand. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Concession stand. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Concession stand. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Concession stand. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Broadcast. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Broadcast. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Neighborhood. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Media Booth. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    GM Cristian Chirila, GM Alejandro Ramirez and FM Michael Klein
    all doing journalist duties.

    Media Booth. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Media Booth. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Media Booth. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Daaim in Media Center. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz in media center.

    Rules. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Rules. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Rules. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    GM Amon Simutowe and Daaim Shabazz

    Rules. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

    Rules. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

  15. Game 11: Another fighting draw! Carlsen-Karjakin will go the distance.

    Another Ruy Lopez.... the theoretical theme of the match!

    Another Ruy Lopez…. the theoretical theme of the match!

    This match has had its share of twists and turns and the penultimate round was no different. A Ruy Lopez repeated from Game #2, the game took on a type of classical feel with all the pawns on the board. The first pawn was exchanged on move 19, but notice the huddled mess of pawns engaging in hand-to-hand combat after 18…c3!? and 23…Qxe6. Magnus Carlsen almost ushered in a black pawn to the end zone, but Sergey Karjakin had defensive resources to stave off the impending queen.

    GM Wesley So called the action for ChessBase.

    Press Conference (Game #11)

    Video by ChessBase

    Video by Daniel King.

  16. Game 12: WTF?

    With tension in the air at the Fulton Market Building, both Carlsen and Karjakin were preparing for a pivotal game in the match. It was, in effect, a “sudden death” match. Many anticipated an epic battle, but were shocked at the outcome. The game lasted less than an hour.

    Jonathan Tisdall had a sardonic remark about today’s game…

    How about this meme after the half-hour game…

    …and the budding debate about competitive spirit? Nigel Short said if today’s game was a dessert, he’d send it back to the chef.

    Alas! There was certainly a disappointed legion of fans including some professional players. Robert van Kampen, who did commentary for chess24.com, was disgusted.

    Should the players be obligated to play exciting chess for the benefit of fans and sponsors? Technically, no. However, it brings into question the format and whether there are more appealing ways to decide on a champion. As it were, the champion will be decided with a faster time control, probably in the rapids. The question may be, “Why not have faster time controls in the first place?” The counter argument may be that such ideas do not result in the highest quality of chess.

    Maurice Ashley has well-known opinions about quick draws. Photo by Maurice Ashley

    Maurice Ashley has well-known opinions about quick draws.
    Photo by Maurice Ashley

    GM Maurice Ashley told The Chess Drum of his frustration with the current system and believe that a faster format is not only desirable, but inevitable. He opines that such long-play matches fail because there are only two players and long lulls between action whereas in a FIDE knockout, you have as many as 128 players starting. Thus, it is viewer-friendly. It doesn’t fix the problem since you still end up with two players. However, it presents a suspenseful build-up. Another question would be whether chess should have a “World Champion.” Tennis doesn’t have one and nor does golf.

    Ashley posed the question, “Which sport gets more boring as you reach the end?” Of course he was getting at the drawing “out” that chess players can opt for if they do not want to play to the end. It’s an argument he has made since 2003 when he suggested there be no draw offers at all. This does not prevent the three-fold repetition draw, but it dramatically reduces quick, anti-competitive draws and encourages fighting chess. IM Greg Shahade has similar views about formats here and here.

    Caruana speaks on Carlsen's white game. Photo by World Chess

    Caruana feels Carlsen should have pressed more with his white game.
    Photo by World Chess.

    In defense of Carlsen and Karjakin, the last game featured a number of errors brought on by tremendous tension and perhaps a bit of fatigue (Carlsen mentioned this after Game #10). Both played a high-quality Game #11. In fact, it may be where all the energy was expended. Many are complaining about the Sunday rest day, but it appears that despite the rest days, the players are not in shape to handle the constant tension.

    So… they took the day off to save fuel. This is the result.

    Game Broadcast (Game #12)

    Video by chess24

  17. Daaim,

    I agree that the final game was indeed quite disappointing from the perspective of absence of action and “spectacle”. I was not surprised, however, as the approach was very practical by both players. They (and their respective teams) would have said – “”Well a draw suits us as, at the very least, we will have four games of rapid and the chance to recover from any error or disaster”!

    To many because Carlsen is the champion, higher rated player and had the white pieces he had the “obligation” to press. This was wishful thinking at best and a major misunderstanding of the match situation and the psychology at work. Remember that Carlsen’s loss came with White after he over-pressed. He was not going to do that again with no games left as a possible buffer, especially as Karjakin has proven that he is a defender par excellence!

    Further, although I (like the public in general) want to be “entertained” by the games, this is not the driving consideration for these players. The stakes and the tension are high and the pressure is enormous.

    I say look at the bright side – the drawn 12th round game has extended the championship another day with several more games at a shorter time control and lots of excitement come!!

    1. Ian,

      I agree with your comments pertaining to match strategy. It is a matter of whether Carlsen wanted to try to win with a “shot at the buzzer” so to speak. He probably feels he is much stronger than Karjakin in rapids. Besides he played a competitive practice match with Hikaru Nakamura right before the match. The running joke goes…

  18. The difference in the players was highlighted in the rapid play-off. Congratulations to the great champion GM Magnus Carlsen (the “Thor of Chess”!) for retaining his title. Tremendous credit to the challenger (the “boy wonder”) GM Sergey Karjakin for a brave and audacious attempt at wresting the title. He has much of which to be proud. Further, he highlighted that Chess was a real struggle and that “defence” can be just as impressive as “attack”! In the end “Mjolnir” was just too powerful!!

    1. Ian,

      The pressure was a bit much… for both. The best game was mostly likely Game #11… a fighting draw. Neither Karjakin or Carlsen handled the pressure particularly well in critical stages. In fact, what I mentioned before the match was how Carlsen would react once he fell behind. When he lost Game #8, we saw how he had to recover from what he described as “a dark place” on the rest day.

      Karjakin held it together for the most part before pressure also rattled him. Missing Nxf2 (check!) in game 10 showed how the tension can affect super-GMs into suboptimal decisions. He also played too carefully with both colors and never challenged Carlsen in the openings. In fact, his defensive demeanor was necessary because he was being outplayed in the opening, a colossal failure by the Karjakin team.

      It was a great match, but there has to be a better way to determine a champion. It will be interesting to see what format is devised for the future. Someone suggested 12 games classical, 12 games in rapid and 12 games in blitz. Of course, this is not feasible as all are different disciplines. It is like have runners competing in 1500m, 400m and 100m to determine a “running champion.” Perhaps reverting to a longer match or the World Champion getting draw odds will make things a bit more interesting.

      I believe Carlsen is still the strongest player, but not by as much as advertised. Everyone was watching this with great interest… including the top ten. Carlsen cannot repeat this performance in 2018.

    Carlsen beats Karjakin 9-7 to defend crown!

    Carlsen hoists champion's trophy.

    Carlsen hoists champion’s trophy.
    Photo by chess24

    After beating Karjakin in Game #10, Magnus Carlsen said that he was able to “break” Sergey Karjakin. It was a pivotal moment of the match as the champion decided that with new life, he would head for the tiebreaks. “The idea was to make Sergey prepare hard for the twelfth game, while I was already looking at the rapid tiebreak.”

    Would Karjakin dethrone Carlsen? Tiebreaks could be a tricky affair. Both players limped into the the tiebreaks bloodied, bruised and exhausted. So what happened? The tiebreak turned out to be a brutal flogging of Karjakin and ended with a picturesque mate for the ages. With his lucky NBA socks on, Carlsen finished the deciding game with a flourish. GM Yasser Seirawan probably would have exclaimed something about “gold coins” being thrown on the board.

    Carlsen eased into the tiebreaks after an uninspiring Game #12. A minor controversy erupted as disgruntled fans and commentators scoffed at the 35-minute game. This strategy worked like a charm and Carlsen was clearly dominant during the tiebreaks. Karjakin admitted after the match that he wasn’t able to use his preparation, a major failure for his team. This was the subject of several tweets…

    It is certainly true that Carlsen seemed better prepared despite the pre-match concerns about the Russian colossus. So… lets rewind and look at the four tiebreak games. A quick synopsis shows that Karjakin was not ready to switch gears and it is doubtful that the match preparation included this transition. Karjakin admitted this difficulty.

    Tiebreak: Game #1 (Karjakin-Carlsen, 1/2)

    This game was a “feeling out” game of sorts. In a short match you don’t want to do anything to drastic in the first. It is a way for each player to adapt to the new situation. This game while it had its moments of tension, had little in the way of tangible imbalances. Karjakin was very unambitious throughout the match and in his first white game got no advantage. The game started slow and after rapid-fire exchanges, the game petered out to a draw.

    Notes by GM David Navara (ChessBase)

    Not much in the discussion here. However, the next game would feature one of the most sensational defensive efforts in modern chess history. The ending will be included in instructional endings for many years to come. It was after this game that many thought would give Karjakin the motivation he needed to push for more with the white in Game #3. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Karjakin’s defence was only made necessary after getting a losing position.

    Tiebreak: Game #2 (Carlsen-Karjakin, 1/2)

    In this game, a Italian Game broke out. It occurred in Game #5 with Carlsen’s bughouse-like 14.Bxf7+ drawing early praise. Actually he was fortunate not to lose if Karjakin had played 43…Rh8! The Russian opted for 43…Bd5 and Carlsen was able to find counterplay after returning the pawn. This game took a different path. The champion built up pressure and then 23…cxb5 changed the game after 24.Qxe4! Qxc1 25.Qxd5. Two bishops versus a rook. Carlsen slowly tightened the noose after the queens were swapped. The ending was epic!

    Notes by GM David Navara (ChessBase)

    Wow! There was so many superlatives on Karjakin’s defensive effort. Adding to his title of “Minister of Defense” were a few gems.

    Finally… a more visual depiction of Karjakin’s defense.

    Karjakin's Defense

    It turns out that Carlsen missed several winning continuations, but of course he is not playing a computer with a seven-piece Tablebase. Thus, he was able to survive by sacrificing one pawn, another pawn, his rook and then a third pawn. Exhilarating game! With Carlsen not being able to win, many feared he was be upset and press too hard to win the next game. The championship was riding on the next two games and Karjakin would have white in Game #3.

    Tiebreak: Game #3 (Karjakin-Carlsen, 0-1)

    Karjakin had shown nothing with white, won his only game with black in Game #8 and was near winning with black in Game #5. In this game, there was another Ruy Lopez (seen 11/16 times in the match). Karjakin had nothing and Carlsen seized the initiative with a kingside attack and nice shot with 30…e4! Black seized control only a few moves thereafter.

    White could’ve saved the game with some care. Some beautiful lines are given by Navara.

    Notes by GM David Navara (ChessBase)

    Karjakin’s defense let him down with the final blunder of 38.Rxc7?? effectively ending the match… or not? Carlsen was visibly excited and gave a Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods fist pump after Karjakin resigned. Russia’s Minister of Defense looked demoralized, but had one more bullet left. What would he trot out? Not a Berlin of course. It is amazing that 1.e4 make a comeback with 1.d4 only appearing three times. So…

    Tiebreak: Game #4 (Carlsen-Karjakin, 1-0)

    … a Sicilian it was!!

    Finally, we are going to get hand-to-hand combat and not fighting from a distance as is often the case in a Ruy Lopez. However, there was an interesting Tweet that said if Sicilian was good enough to play for a win, then why not use it earlier? Good question. It shows that Karjakin was given a match strategy and he followed it to a tee. That is, until he fell behind.

    “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
    ~Mike Tyson

    Tyson said it best! Perhaps, Carlsen’s win caused a desperate act and the Sicilian was as good a weapon as any… better than most. The game went into a Maroczy Bind setup with black not getting the typical Najdorf or solid hedgehog. He got a hybrid setup which didn’t work well in the end. GM Maurice Ashley didn’t like 19…h5 but it seemed to be black’s best practical decision… and a move often seen to loosen white’s e4-f3-g2 cover. However, black’s pieces were simply not positioned to take advantage of white’s fearless 29.gxh4 move. White’s king was exposed, but white had too many resources. In fact, the 50.Qh6+!! parting shot was one for the ages (Note: GM Judit Polgar announced before Rc8+). To end the game with such a move is like making a game winning shot in the final game to win a championship.


    Notes by GM David Navara (ChessBase)


    So Magnus Carlsen has twice defended his title, but rivals are salivating at a chance at wresting the crown from what seems like a vulnerable champion. Navara’s notion that the “Norwegian’s throne isn’t unshakable” is correct. It demonstrated Carlsen’s character… more like Achilles than Thor in this match. There is a chink in the armour, but of course difficult to pierce. This may be motivation for the 26-year old “Mozart of Chess.”

    This match was closer than many thought. We will see what happens in two years time. Many changes could occur and new faces can emerge in that time. For the time being, Carlsen will be the champion and he will not duck competition. It is with a sense of satisfaction that he won a closely contested match and it will do him good in future matches. For now it appears that Carlsen got the best present on his 26th birthday. Double congratulations!

    Final Press Conference

    Video by GM Daniel King.

  20. Ilya Merenzon mentioned some metrics from the World Championship match that were very impressive.

    • 10 million viewers
    • 10,000 live attendees
    • 50 WCC theme events in NYC
    • 400 media organizations accreditated
    • $25 million coverage
  21. After #worldchess2016, hanging out in St. Louis!

    The Gateway Arch
    All photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated)

    I have been to St. Louis, Missouri many times. In fact, while I was a child, my parents would drive to East St. Louis, Illinois where their parents grew up. It was on this trip that we rode on Route 66 and saw the “Arch” as the indication that we were close to my maternal great-grandmother’s house on 17th and Broadway. We called her “Big Momma.”

    E. St. Louis is a small, impoverished town across the bridge from St. Louis once known for factories, traditions from the deep south (turpentine and sugar), talented musicians and athletes. It survived a race riot in July 1917 during which my great-aunt stated that her uncle came in the house with “boots full of blood.”

    Nevertheless, I used to enjoy my time at relatives’ homes in the lively town. Those were great times, but things changed. Major business enterprises fled and the economic stability collapsed. Abandoned factories proliferate the desolate landscape leaving only their ravaged shells and pollution from hazardous materials. Asthma and other respiratory problems devastated the town including my mother’s side of the family. Destitution grips the town to this day.

    Abandoned factory right next to where my “Big Momma’s” house once stood on 17th and Broadway in E. St. Louis. I used to look out the window at the factory and would hear the whistle blow four times a day. The company made cardboard boxes. Photo from mapio.net

    In most recent years, trips to St. Louis has been to cover a number of events including the first three Sinquefield Cups and a couple of U.S. Championships. Chess has been a double reason to visit the area. Before I write any further about St. Louis, let me say a few things about the New York trip.

    I drove two hours from Tallahassee, Florida to Jacksonville, Florida to get a flight to New York to attend the World Chess Championship. I planned my flight so that I was traveling on the rest days of the match. I have always enjoyed New York and once spent a summer there working at Time-Warner for Sport Illustrated magazine.

    Queensborough Bridge

    Does anyone know the name of this building?

    Club Quarters Hotel in Wall Street district

    During the match, I stayed in Club Quarters Wall Street which was within walking distance of the Fulton Market. I was unable to secure my press credentials for Game #9, but took pictures of the venue, did an interview with IM Kassa Korley and went back to the room to watch the match. Game #9 was drawn. The next day, I headed to the venue with ticket in hand. I met Alex Velasquez who put me in touch with Andrew Murray-Watson and my media credentials were cleared for Game #10.

    There was intense excitement in the venue as it was as many had spent the holiday at the match chomping on sandwiches and potato chips while taking in the action. It would be an epic day as it would be Carlsen’s only win during the classical games. I enjoyed being in the media room as you can see the enthusiasm in the room with journalists banging away on their keyboards. Leontxo Garcia was hunched over and an obvious contingent of Norwegian and Russian journalists were in the room.

    Journalists from around the world were covering the match.

    Peter Doggers of chess.com was shuttling between the press room and the commentary booth providing viewers with unique insights. Mike Klein briefed me on the press room and Grandmaster turned-journalists like Cristian Chirila and Alejandro Ramirez were representing U.S. Chess and ChessBase. I had a chat with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam of New in Chess and Lennart Ootes who has done work with chess24 among other organizations. Good company!

    World Chess Championship (New York)
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    I met Zambian Grandmaster Amon Simutowe who is working in New York and we went for a quick drink at a fast food joint, one of the few places open on the holiday. As we analyzed the position on our phones, it was clear that Carlsen was poised to win. I told Amon I had to get back to see the press conference in case the game finished in the next few moves. I got back to the venue just as the press conference was about to start.

    As I was coming up the escalator, I heard a loud cheers, raucous applause and scrambled to get my camera ready. My battery was dead. I hurried to the press room to get my spare battery. When I knifed through the crowd to get near the press section, I saw a relieved Carlsen beaming and in a great mood. However, after the press conference, he bolted toward the exit. Tomorrow would be a rest day.

    Press conference after Carlsen’s win in the 10th game of the match.

    After spending a few days in New York for the World Chess Championship, I headed to LaGuardia Airport to attend my great aunt’s 102nd birthday party in “Saint Louie.” Weeks prior to the visit I told Paul Truong, that I was planning a trip to St. Louis and perhaps wanted to pay Webster University a visit. I also wanted to check on Justus Williams and Josh Colas who are both freshman at Webster. Shawn Swindell is a sophomore there. I had extended an invitation to take all three to dinner. Justus and Josh were playing in the Thanksgiving Open at the St. Louis Chess Club. Shawn eagerly responded, but given the unpredictability of the round ending, he opted for basketball.

    So I contacted Paul and drove by Webster University for a visit. It was a rather cool and brisk night. The campus was rather quiet, but I did notice a line of protestors holding various signs voicing discontent. I learned that these protestors were reacting to the election results of two weeks earlier. Paul came out to greet me and gave me the history of the library that had been vacated. I wondered why until he revealed that it is the SPICE Headquarters. A new state-of-the-art library had been built across campus.

    SPICE Mission

    • To be the premier center for chess education, research, technology, and outreach in the nation
    • To be a leader in promoting chess as a vehicle for enriching the education of children
    • To be a leader in promoting women’s chess
    • To recruit outstanding undergraduate and graduate students to Webster University
    • To bring national and international recognition to Webster University
    • To support and promote competitive chess at the college level
    • To support the nation’s most elite chess program

    The SPICE building is situated on the first floor of the old library and as one walks in there is a large, spacious room that is normally used for tournaments. He then showed me the SPICE training room. Susan Polgar was in her office meeting with Ray Robson. It was a very nice facility that included numerous shelves of classic works indexed by subject. There was even a lounge in the back of the facility.

    I went into Susan’s office where she had just completed her session with Ray. She had been tweeting regularly during the match and the Webster students were keenly following the proceedings in New York. I got a glimpse of her commendations that were arranged on the walls. Susan has always been a gracious host and serves as a mentor to the players as well as a trainer. Given all of the awards on the wall, it is evident that many appreciate her service.

    Webster University’s SPICE (St. Louis)
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    As I went out in the playing area with Paul, Susan served some hot tea, a welcoming beverage on a blustery, chilly night in Webster Groves. I had a long conversation with Paul about a number of topics including some of his personal history as a scholastic player, his personal challenges and the funny story about how he became endeared to the basketball players at City College of New York.

    We discussed Webster and the formula of success, the challenges of the program and of course the future of chess in the U.S. I also inquired about the relationship between Webster and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, also called the St. Louis Chess Club. Paul is a person big on ideas and it was clear that he plays a big role in the success of Webster. Susan sat for a brief moment, but had to prepare to leave for her pending trip to Europe where she was being honored in Austria.

    After my visit to Webster, I went to the famed Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis to observe the Thanksgiving Open in progress. There were several of the other Webster players participating, but of course my eyes set on Josh and then Justus, both of whom were gripped in tough games. I also noticed Fidel Corrales, Akshat Chandra, Ashwin Jayaram and Doug Eckert.

    Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis
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    After the round, I took Josh and Justus to a Lebanese restaurant that I frequent every time I visit the club. Justus teased me about my “baba ghanouj” which incidentally is some of the best I’ve ever had. It was good seeing them and the point was just to see how they were doing. They seem to be enjoying their experiences, but the adjustment is not always easy. After we finished dinner, I took them back to their dorm and said my goodbyes. I remember them playing a match when they were 11 years old Candidate Masters. It was good to see them as young men.

    Dining with Justus Williams and Josh Colas at Taste of Lebanon restaurant (331 N. Euclid Aveunue, St. Louis), right around the corner from CCSCSL. The “baba ghanouj” is excellent!

    After a night’s rest, I get ready to attend my paternal great-aunt’s birthday party in E. St. Louis, Illinois. From my hotel, it’s only about 10 minutes across the bridge and her house is near I-64 on 13th street. I got there with my birthday card and a check for $102.00, a tradition started by my grandfather (her brother) who lived to be 96. I am told that their paternal grandfather lived to be over 100. I bought her 100 roses a couple years ago, but it would be hard to top that this time. My cousin Carole answered the door and my great-aunt was sitting in the front room in her wheelchair. She had to be reminded of who I was, but it’s OK. Her short-term memory is weak, but when encouraged to speak about a particular time in life, she’ll rattle off dates, places and names that would challenge any chess player. I suppose she needed a keen mind to keep up with her 12 children!

    Mattie Francis Malone … 102 years old!!
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    I spent several hours with my great-aunt and cousins. I even recorded her berating her 73-year old son Paul who had grown a beard that she didn’t approve of. Even at 102, she said, “I’m 102 and you have more gray hair than me!” We could only laugh. It is interesting the treasure trove of stories even as her memory is failing her. Her oldest daughter was trying to get her to recall stories of her mother Lydia Fair Bolden, a task master. One story I remember from my great-aunt was her mother’s disapproval of a shorter boy who took a liking to her. As she came into the house, her mother was shaking her head and said, “Don’t go with no boy where you can eat off the top of his head.”

    Happy Birthday Aunt Mattie!

    After I said my goodbyes to my great-aunt and my cousins, I got back on I-64 back across the bridge and stopped by the St. Louis Chess Club one more time. Unfortunately for me, Yasser was not there this evening. I had intended on interviewing him about the World Championship match and what he thought would transpire. Nevertheless, I caught a quick glimpse of the tournament games, acknowledged Justus and Josh, picked up food from the Lebanese restaurant (again) and went back to my hotel to work on my World Championship report. Another draw in Game #11. Fortunately for me, there was another rest day on my travel day. Yep… I saw a few moves ahead. On Sunday, I arrived in the sunny Jacksonville and prepared for my two-hour drive to Tallahassee. Back to the world. Until next time…

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