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’s 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); PDF download

Video by Daniel King.

One Comment


    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.

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