Nov 22, 2016

World Chess Championship Game 8: The Winner is… Karjakin!

Sergey Karjakin is four games away from becoming World Chess Champion after winning Game 8 with the black pieces. An extraordinary encounter saw Magnus Carlsen again and again tempt fate by playing for a win until he blundered in a time scramble.

When Karjakin returned the favour it seemed the story would be another Carlsen escape, but the position computers were claiming was a draw proved treacherous for a human to play. Karjakin found a brilliant path to victory and Magnus later stormed from the press conference in a rage. Match on!

After seven draws you could sense the World Champion’s frustration was growing by the day, and in Game 8 he seemed determined to win with the white pieces at all costs – to the degree that our commentators wondered at one point if he wouldn’t prefer to lose than to draw.

Since this is chess, and Magnus, that aggression wasn’t immediately obvious to the untrained eye. Carlsen followed Karjakin in switching to 1.d4, and went for the unassuming Colle-Zukertort system where White puts bishops on b2 and d3.

The end was incredibly abrupt – 52.h4 a2! resigns


Nov 21, 2016

Carlsen-Karjakin, Game 7: New move, same result

A dramatic moment in the match! After getting nowhere with 1.e4 in three games with White Sergey Karjakin switched to 1.d4. Were we about to witness a turning point? Not exactly… Once again World Champion Magnus Carlsen proved to be better prepared, though what followed was something of a comedy of errors that saw the players stumble to a 7th draw in a row. Only five games now remain before potential tiebreaks on Magnus Carlsen’s 26th birthday.

What happened in the intervening few moves? Well, first Magnus rushed 15…0-0 without seriously considering what appeared to be the very serious option of 15…f5, later shrugging that move off with an irritated “dunno” in the press conference…


Nov 19, 2016

Karjakin – Carlsen, Game 6: forced Draw

We saw a repeat of the Ruy Lopez “Anti-Marshall” played in Game 4 for the first nine moves, until Carlsen went for a pawn sacrifice line with 9…d5 rather than 9…d6. That was no surprise to Sergey, of course, but Magnus’ 14…c5 was a new move that finally got him thinking.

“I felt that today was not the day that I should be looking to do big things”, said Magnus Carlsen afterwards, so he settled instead for proving he can draw at will with the black pieces, in a game that lasted 2 hours, 32 moves, and never really left his preparation.

Sergey Karjakin can take comfort from having reached the halfway mark of his first World Championship match on a level footing with the champion. There will be more exciting days ahead!


Nov 18, 2016

Game 5: Draw – giant mistake and lucky escape

A game full of surprising plot twists ended in a draw, after Sergey Karjakin squandered his first chance to take the lead in the 2016 World Chess Championship. Magnus Carlsen was desolate in the post-game press conference, though, since despite that lucky escape he couldn’t forgive himself for allowing a position he was playing only for a win or a draw to get completely out of hand. The match is on, as we now move into a weekend where Sergey will have the white pieces twice in a row.


Nov 16, 2016

Game 4: Draw – “I really believe it’s better to be attacking than defending”

Sergey Karjakin defied the odds to survive another 6.5 hours and 94 moves of torture at the hands of Magnus Carlsen, constructing a saving fortress just when it seemed the World Champion would finally take the lead in the match. It was a “mystifying” day, to use Peter Svidler’s word, as first Sergey and then Magnus committed a single glaring error each that transformed the course of the encounte.

When Sergey was asked how he was feeling after once more coming back from the dead he answered simply “fantastic!”, while Magnus, who was clearly feeling very far from fantastic, still found a positive to accentuate: “I really believe it’s better to be attacking than defending”.

So going into the second rest day Sergey Karjakin has increased his rating by four points by holding the World Champion and world no. 1 to four draws. Only eight games now remain before we head to tiebreaks.


Nov 15, 2016

Carlsen-Karjakin, Game 3: Draw – “an epic game”

Magnus Carlsen came within an inch of beating Sergey Karjakin in what our commentator Peter Svidler described as “an epic game”. What developed into a 7-hour thriller started with a Berlin Defence where it seemed the only talking point would be a puzzling rook shuffle in the opening. A couple of inaccuracies, though, and Magnus was scenting blood. You had the feeling almost anyone else in world chess would have gone down without a fight, but Karjakin clung on for dear life and got the draw his bravery deserved – even if he needed some help from his opponent!

This was the day the 2016 World Chess Championship match began in earnest, with both players coming close enough to taste victory and defeat. It left them visibly shell-shocked, with neither certain if Magnus had ever had a clear win within his grasp (our silicon friends answer in the affirmative).

It was a remarkable journey from a game which started with a 5.Re1 Berlin that failed to set the pulses racing. Eyebrows were at least raised by Carlsen’s retreat 10.Re2:

The move, of course, looks a little ridiculous, but it turned out what was much stranger was that Sergey and his team had apparently overlooked a move that had been played by players as familiar as Igor Kovalenko, Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Paco Vallejo, with the latter tweeting the lapidary:

Karjakin thought the move had been played in other positions, but not this one, and spent a full 25 minutes before coming up with 10…b6, looking to capitalise with 11…Ba6. Magnus repeated Kasimdzhanov’s 11.Re1, which led to one of the funniest moments of the post-game press conference. When Anastasia Karlovich asked if 10.Re2 had been a slip Magnus decided to roll with it and drew laughter with:

“Yeah, it slipped out of my hand, so I moved it back to e1 the next move!”

So a quarter of the match has already gone by and the players are still locked together:
Tune in at 2pm EST (8pm CET) on Tuesday.


Nov 14, 2016

Rules & Regulations for the FIDE World Championship Match 2016

The 2016 FIDE World Chess Championship is a 12-game match taking place between Norwegian World Champion Magnus Carlsen and his Russian challenger, Sergey Karjakin. They play in the Fulton Market building in the Seaport District of Lower Manhattan, New York, beginning on November 11 and ending on November 30, if tiebreaks are required. The prize fund is at least 1 million euros, with the winner taking 60%, or 55% if the match goes to tiebreaks.

The players have 100 minutes for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 20 moves, then 15 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second increment from move 1. The first player to reach 6.5 points is the winner, with a 6-6 tie decided by four 25 minute + 10 second/move rapid games. If still tied two 5+3 games are played, then another two 5+3 if needed, then finally an Armageddon game, where White has 5 minutes to Black’s 4, but a draw will make the black player World Champion.

Official website:
Download Regulations for the FIDE World Championship Match (FWCM) 2016 in PDF format.

Nov 14, 2016

Carlsen: “I’ll punch him until he finally knocks over”

World Champion Magnus Carlsen was in good form at the opening press conference of the 2016 FIDE World Chess Championship in the Fulton Market Building in New York. He talked up Sergey Karjakin’s resilience in defence, only to express the desire to knock him down, and answered a question on the best player in the world: “If I may be so bold, I would say myself!” Karjakin had some good lines of his own, though, as they prepare to face off tomorrow in Game 1 of the match.

The seven participants spoke first in the order in which they were seated: FIDE VP Israel Gelfer, Agon CEO Ilya Merenzon, Phosagro CEO Andrey Guryev, EG Capital Advisors’ Michael Stanton (both representing sponsors), Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin and Chief Arbiter Takis Nikolopoulos. That meant we had to wait a while to get to the players, and there were some awkward moments. Gelfer became the second person at a press conference about the match to refer to the Kasparov-Karpov match in New York in 1990, which makes it seem that the 1995 Kasparov-Anand clash on the top of the World Trade Center is being airbrushed out of history as not an “official” FIDE match.

The most substantial answer of the day was when Carlsen was asked about his opponent’s best quality:

Sergey is very well-prepared. He has studied the game very well, is very knowledgeable and, most of all, he’s extremely resilient in defence. He’s very, very good in finding resources even in difficult positions – finding positions he can defend. For me, it’s a matter of when I get the chance I’ll try to punch him until he finally knocks over!


Nov 13, 2016

Game 2: Draw : “Karjakin is excellent — Carlsen is special…”

A solid start for both players, but little to write home about. The relatively quick end meant that Robin van Kampen’s dream of commentating on a 7-hour game was thwarted, since he now heads off to university, but you can watch his last commentary with Eric on the 2016 World Championship match below:

So the players go into the first rest day tied on 1:1. Karjakin’s manager said in the same interview quoted above that he wouldn’t rule out 12 draws, but let’s hope this is just the calm before the storm. Peter Svidler will be in our Hamburg studio alongside Eric Hansen to commentate on Game 3 of the match on Monday, when Magnus will again have the white pieces. Will he remain faithful to the Tromp? We’ll soon find out!

Tune in at 2pm EST (8pm CET) on Monday!

Garry Kasparov: “I think the players in this world championship are in different leagues. Karjakin is excellent—Carlsen is special.”