Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin Head to Tiebreaker in World Chess Championship
By JOHN LELANDNOV. 28, 2016
After two-plus weeks of nail-bitingly close play, the World Chess Championship came down to its 12th and final regulation game on Monday, with the two talented young grandmasters, Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen, in a dead heat.
But those expecting fireworks at the venue in Manhattan were disappointed. Within 20 minutes of the opening move, the game was headed for a near-certain draw. Both players seemed content to let their fate rest in a round of tiebreakers, which are scheduled for Wednesday. After 30 moves and 36 minutes, it was over, with the players agreeing to a draw.
The game was the shortest ever in a world championship match, said Ilya Merenzon, who runs the company that organized the match.
The game began at near lightning speed, with both players making well-tested moves with little deliberation. Mr. Carlsen, playing white, began with a popular opening known as the Ruy Lopez, and Mr. Karjakin responded with the Berlin defense — both strategies unlikely to lead to errors. Within the first few moves they exchanged almost all their major pieces, making it difficult for either player to put pressure on the other.
“There isn’t much to say,” Mr. Carlsen said after the game, looking satisfied with the result. “I apologize to fans who might have wanted a longer game, but it was not to be.”
The live event has an atmosphere unlike any other sport contest, because almost all of the spectators divide their attention between the game and computers — in their phones or on the video monitors around the venue — that could beat the two players. Only Mr. Carlsen and Mr. Karjakin rely on unaugmented human intelligence. Mr. Carlsen, who will turn 26 on Wednesday, came into the match the overwhelming favorite. He is the highest-rated player of all time. Since winning the title from Vishwanathan Anand in 2013, he has dominated a sport that for a half-century had one Russian or Soviet champion after another, broken only briefly by the American Bobby Fischer in 1972. Like Mr. Fischer, who created a boom in chess in the United States, Mr. Carlsen has star power that seems to transcend the game. He is a huge celebrity in his native Norway. But Mr. Karjakin, 26, a Russian who was relatively unheralded going into the match, has been his equal move for move. Before the match, Mr. Carlsen described his opponent as “very well prepared” and “extremely resourceful on defense,” and Mr. Karjakin has lived up to that billing. At the end of Game 11, when Mr. Karjakin, playing white for the final time, held off an assault by black for a draw, the Russian said he was unhappy with his play but satisfied with the result.
Both players have performed brilliantly, with almost no false steps. Through 12 games, each player has managed just one win, with 10 games ending in draws. The tiebreakers on Wednesday will take on a character different from the methodical games played so far. The day will start with four rapid games, in which each player has 25 minutes to complete his moves. If the players are still tied after four games, the next round will consist of up to five two-game blitz matches, in which each player has five minutes to complete his moves.
Should each of these two-game matches end in a draw, the players will go to a sudden-death game, in which the player with the black pieces will have only four minutes to complete his moves. If that game ends in a draw, the player who has black will be the world champion. Mr. Carlsen, besides being the top-rated traditional chess player, is rated No. 1 in rapid and No. 2 in blitz. Mr. Karjakin is rated 11th in blitz.
Tension among the crowd at the venue, on the third floor of the Fulton Market Building in Lower Manhattan, has increased as the final game neared. The game on Monday, however, was thinly attended and low on drama. In the audience, Christopher Yu, 9, who is poised to become the youngest player to achieve the rank of master, said: “I’m a little disappointed that the game wasn’t more interesting and we could stay here longer. But I think Magnus will win the tiebreaker.”
Mr. Carlsen said: “I think it’s 50-50. Either I win or he wins.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/28/nyregion/magnus-carlsen-and-sergey-karjakin-head-to-tiebreaker-in-world-chess-championship.html