2016 WCC, Game 8: Time Trouble Causes Chaos

With five games remaining in regulation, I wanted to posit two areas in which Karjakin may have an advantage over Carlsen.

The somewhat lax match schedule

Before the match began, the general consensus was that Carlsen is the better chess player.. The match started with Carlsen’s Elo at 2853, and Karjakin’s at 2772. If Carlsen and Karjakin played 1,000 games Magnus should come out on top. The longer the match, the more likely Carlsen’s advantages will over take Karjakin. The shorter the match, the more volatile the results become, and the better Karjakin’s chances become.

Carlsen has complained a couple of times about the rhythm of: gameday, gameday, rest day. Carlsen would prefer to play at least three days in a row. Apparently Carlsen doesn’t need much rest and the match would be more in his favor if there was less recovery time.

The dates of the last 3 games are: Thursday the 24th, Saturday the 26th, and Monday the 28th. That’s a rest day between each game, rest time that Karjakin needs more than Carlsen. Advantage Karjakin.

The remaining game’s colors

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll make this short: Karjakin had 3 games as black in the last 5 games. He wins more often with the black pieces. We talked about it in the Introduction Article. Then I ranted about it in the Game 7 Article because everyone kept saying how excited they were for Karjakin to have two games in a row with white. Karjakin has more games with black than white, advantage Karjakin.

Thoughts from US chess champion GM Fabiano Caruana

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Here’s a transcript from a conversation a couple of journalists and myself shared with Fabiano Caruana today:

Journalist: What do you think of his (Carlsen’s) opening choices so far?

Caruana: “It’s a bit tame, he probably just wants to get a position where he feels he can outplay him. I mean he’s not really better, but he has chances for some pressure.

Journalist: Do you have different way you would be handling these opening moves by Magnus? (Looking at Game 8 move 6)

Caruana: “I think the way Karjakin plays is pretty much – I don’t know if he really prepared this – but he’s playing very logical moves. The only thing I would do different than Karjakin is try to put more pressure with white. But for black I think he is handling it pretty well. ”

Game 8

Click here for Game 8

Double blunders in time trouble

Up to Carlsen’s 35th move, everyone and their mother was complaining about what was sure to be the 8th draw in a row.

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Both players had less than 2 minutes on their clock with 5 moves to make. Then Carlsen played c5, instead of the recommended Ne5.

All of the sudden engines are in Karjakin’s favor, but would he have the time to capitalize on Carlsen’s blunder? Karjain did make a mistake and explained why he did so in the post game press conference. Here’s Karjakin’s return blunder (the moves Rxd8,Nxd8,Nxc5,Qd6 have been played since last position)

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Karjakin played Qd3 instead of Qa4. To see why Qd3 is a mistake we’ll have to continue the game a bit, all of these moves Karjakin said he calculated: Nxe6+, fxe6, Qe7+, Kg8, Qxf6. Just for fun, can you calculate white’s move that makes Qd3 not ideal?

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The move is e4, the move Carlsen played in the game. The move cuts off the black queen’s guard of the g6 square. Now Karjakin had to play Qd7, and lose his g6 pawn.

These are the kind of calculations going through Karjakin’s head in extreme time pressure. Kudos to Sergey for being able to communicate his annotations so clearly in the notoriously hazy post game state.

Carlsen falls

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Photo Courtesy of World Chess

I’ll make the same suggestion I did in game 3: set aside at least 30 minutes in a quiet place and go over this game with Kingscrusher and other lichess commentators to appreciate this game better than I can communicate here. With that said let’s look at the blunder that gave Karjain the lead in the 2016 World Chess Championship.

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White’s ideal move was Qa6, keeping an eye on black’s “a” pawn. h5 is a blunder because it doesn’t coralle black’s a pawn and gives Karjakin’s knight the g4 square. Now black is able to play a2 and use the a pawn as bait. If white takes the pawn immediately with the queen then: 53…Ng4+ 54.Kh3 Qg1, white is sadly forced to 55.Bf3 Nf2+ 56.Qxf2. If Carlsen instead moves 53.Qa6 then Karjakin plays 53…Qd4, and his attack transposes into the previously state line.

Was Carlsen lost before he moved h5? Karjakin says yes, after 50…Ne5 the game is won.

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Post Game Drama

Here is Carlsen resigning Game 8

The big question on everyone’s mind is: Did Magnus skip the press conference? This isn’t just an mildy interesting ethical question, Carlsen forfeits 10% of his winnings if he skips any press conferences as outlined in the player’s contracts. What’s the answer: Kind of. First of all he blew past Kaja Marie Snare, in his post-game interview. Not a great look. Seconds later Carlsen came to take his seat, but he was alone on stage. What ensued was a very awkward minute where Magnus writhed at the pain of his loss in front of a silent crowd.

A fan in back shouted, “don’t worry Magnus you’ll get him!” Carlsen definitely heard him, but the words didn’t change the mood. Magnus waited about a minute then stormed off.

Here’s the question I don’t know the answer to that is central for deciding if Carlsen was out of line. Was Carlsen told to go out when he did, or did he just storm out before everyone was ready? If Carlsen was told to go out and left hanging, then I give Carlsen a pass, and a shame on you to whomever told him to go out so early. You have t oassume if someone loses such an important game they’ll be upset, and the last thing you should do is make them wait alone in front of the press. On the other hand if Magnus rushed out before Karjakin, Anastasia, and the rest of the crew was ready for him, then yes, Carlsen missed the conference, he should behave better, and he should be penalized.

FIDE releases a statement: Carlsen will be fined for missing the Game 8 press conference.

How will Carlsen respond to this heartbreaking loss? We find out Wednesday.

 

2016 WCC, Game 7: Karjakin Puts d4 to Work

A Quick Rant Before we Begin

Before the second half of the 2016 World Chess Championship begins, I feel the need to rant. Here’s a conversation I’ve had at least 10 times over the past week.

Random GM: “I’m really excited for Karjakin to have the white pieces 2 games in a row, I think that’s his best chance to get a win.”
Me: “Carlsen and Karjakin played 47 times before this match. Karjakin won 11 of those games. 9 of those wins were with the black pieces, only 2 with the white.”
Random GM: “Yea but a lot of those were blitz and rapid games where there’s more volatility, so I wouldn’t pay too much attention to that.”
Me: “I also did a survey of Karjakin’s games against other Super GMs, and out of 323 games, 55% percent of Karjakin’s wins were with the black pieces. You should be most excited for Magnus to have the white pieces for 2 games, statistically that’s when Karjakin has the best chance to win.”
Random GM: “That’s a really interesting opinion.”

***End hypothetical conversation based on true events, begin rant***

Hey Random GM come over, here I have something I want to show you. You see this chess score sheet, see at the top where you write you name, and the date, and all that stuff? Don’t pay attention to that for a second, I want you to look at all these funny little symbols on the side of each column. Those are called numbers. I know you’ve only had to write numbers one through 8, but there are more numbers. Here look at the score sheet again, this scoresheet goes up to 60. That’s a really big number, but numbers go even higher than 60. We don’t have time to talk about how high numbers go, I want to tell you about what numbers do. Numbers represent this other thing called: reality. Reality is where I spend some of my time. I was spending time in reality when I tallied up Karjakin’s scores, and found he wins more often when he has the black pieces against these GMs. That is not an opinion, I’m relaying a fact.

So I invite everyone who is excited for Karjakin to have the white pieces to come join me in this great place called Factland! Let’s take a tour: Alaska is America’s most eastern and western state, Pierce Brosnan was both the heaviest and the lightest James Bond, and “unthaw” is the opposite of “unthaw.” (Source) Karjakin wins against Carlsen and many other GMs more with the black pieces.

Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. Now, who is ready for Karjakin to win with the white pieces and make me look like a total idiot?

Game 7

Click here for Game 7

In our Game 6 Report we speculated 1.d4 from Karjakin. Karjakin must be one of our readers because that’s what he played! But seriously, the reason we predicted that was because some of Karjakin’s seconds, Vladamir Potkin, and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov are predominantly 1.d4 players. Carlsen chose the Slav and we saw Game 7 steer the 2016 World Championship into new waters.

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Photo Courtesy of Agon

Carlsen at his most Carlsen-y

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One Water Bottle for Every Pawn, Photo Coutesy of Agon

Carlsen continues his strategy of playing opening novelties. These novelties create equality over the board, and forces Karjakin out of preperation. Here’s how Carlsen did this today. This position is before Carlsen’s 10th move. I’ll give you the lichess opening explorer statistics as well.
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Carlsen played 10…Nc6. Karjakin thought for over 10 minutes, and played the equally strange 11. Nd2. At the post game press conference, Karjakin revealed that his original intention behind Nd2 was for the knight to go to b3, hitting the c5 bishop. After further calculation, Karjakin didn’t want Carlsen’s bishop to come to d6, eyeing his kingside. So he improvised and played the knight to e4. This is another great example of what moves like Nc6 from Carlsen does, making his opponents uncomfortable and giving them opportunities to make blunders.

Karjakin’s Big Chance that Actually Wasn’t

Here is the position before Karjakin’s 16th move. Carlsen just played Rc8. If you were in Karjakin’s shoes what would you play?

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Karjakin started off with Nf6+ a discovered attack on the b7 bishop. For the next 10 moves both player’s bishops dashed across the board, quickly clearing off piece after piece, like a child trying to clean up all their toys before dad gets home. You know how dad can get. After the dust settled the players were left with this position.

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My initial reaction, shared by many, was: great, another opposite color bishop ending, looks like we’re heading to yet another draw. But then, wait! Karjakin will win at least the a-pawn, is that enough to win? Karjakin does have a light squared bishop that matches the a-pawn’s destination color. At this point, everyone emotionally prepared for watch Karjakin squeeze Carlsen for hours and hours.

Karjakin ‘squeezed’ Carlsen for 40 minutes, before agreeing to a draw. Here’s the final position.

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Here are some of the reasons why Karjakin agreed to a draw. If the rooks come off it’s really difficult for Karjakin to win. Carlsen is more than happy to shuffle his rook between c7 and c8, ready to hop to the d-file and be exchanged for it’s white counterpart. Karjakin has also been very cautious with the white pieces, and agreeing to a draw here certainly is just that. Karjakin could also simply want to save his energy for a more important moment in the match.

Five more games in regulation. Tomorrow I’ll share with you two ways in which Karjakin has the advantage.

 

2016 WCC, Game 6: Magnus Tries the Marshall Gambit

Would Magnus’ Frustration Induce Aggressive Play?

This match has not been going as planned for Magnus Carlsen. The strategies he used to win his title from Anand simply aren’t working against Karjakin. Carlsen circumvented Anand’s notoriously brilliant opening preparation with simple openings that produced equality. From an equal position Carlsen was able to use his youthful energy to wear Anand down. Carlsen is employing a similar strategy against Karjakin, and so far it has not worked. Carlsen has come damn close to a win, but Carlsen must feel like he’s playing tennis with a brick wall. The Game 5 Press Conference saw an understandably frustrated Magnus Carlsen struggle through questions about the game. Would Game 6 be the tipping point? Will Carlsen come out guns blazing? Or will Carlsen be over aggressive, playing right into Karjakin’s Hands? Or will it be the quickest draw of the match?

Let’s See….

Game 6

Click here for Game 6

Murray Campbell makes the first move, Mr. Campbell was on the team that built Deep Blue

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Photo Courtesy of World Chess

The quickest draw of the match. A bit strange as Carlsen choose an aggressive sort of Marshall Gambit. The Spectators area, cafe, and media center were definitely buzzing following Carlsen’s stubborn f6, then f5. Both moves were made very quickly, implying this is a Magnus ‘home recipe’. Everyone thought Carlsen was looking to pick a fight. But then Carlsen initiated mass exchanges on his 23rd move which resulted in the dreaded opposite color bishop ending. The remaining rooks came off two moves later. The game probably would have ended in a draw earlier but the player’s contract stipulates that draws cannot be agreed to earlier than move 30. The players did two moves better and agreed to a draw on move 32. I didn’t even have time to buy a cheese box.

If I could use one word to describe the atmosphere it would be relief. The match has been extremely tense so far, and now everyone gets 46 hours of rest.

Final Thought from First Half of WCC

Here’s what I can tell you from being around Carlsen and Karjakin for the past week. Karjakin’s and Carlsen’s body language have drastically changed. When Sergey Karjakin arrived before the first game he seemed extremely nervous and stuttered badly through questions. On the other hand, Carlsen was Carlsen, confident, funny, detached in a cool sort of way. I picture Magnus getting into a cab and when the cab driver asks “where to?” Magnus quips, “eh, doesn’t matter… just drive.”

Cut to Friday, November 19th. Carlsen and Karjakin just completed their sixth draw. A reporter asked, “What is important to do on a rest day?” Carlsen answered first, “it’s important to do exactly that, rest,” and “it’s not easy to rest because your head’s still spinning from the games.” The crowd turns to Karjakin, “Maybe it’s important not to drink alcohol.” Prompting a healthy laugh from the crowd.

My, how the attitudes have changed. Carlsen seems stressed and Karjakin does not.

We are halfway through, I cannot wait to see how this match ends! Karjakin has the white pieces on Sunday. Which player will crack first? Many around here are speculating 1.d4 from Sergey. We will see you then!

 

2016 WCC, Game 5: Carlsen is Losing Patience

An Endurance Clinic

Games 3 and 4 lasted a combined 172 moves adding up to around 13 hours of mental torture. You have to love the effort of both players. Look at Carlsen in Game 4 wandering all over the board with his king trying to find anyway to break into Karjakin’s fortress. And Karjakin in Game 3, finding the incredible idea of sacrificing his bishop to secure the draw. It’s almost unfair to the games to describe them in such an abbreviated way, so if you haven’t seen the games, click on the links and let lichess’ best players, led by Kingscrusher show you just how brilliant those games are.

Everyone has been impressed by the endurance of Games 3 and 4, but what’s the most impressive feat of chess endurance of all time? The 1984 World Championship between Kasparov and Karpov. No question. The match had innocent sounding terms: the first player to win 6 games is World Champion. Simple, easy to understand, but completely impractical match rules that would lead to a total disaster.

Karpov won 4 out of the first 9 games, and it appeared this would be a quick match. Games 10 to 26 were all drawn. Let that sink in for a moment. Karpov won game 27 and now held a commanding 5-0 lead. 4 more draws. Kasparov won game 32. Kasparov played 31 chess games, didn’t win a single one, and still had fight left in him to win game 32! 14 draws followed. Then Kasparov won games 47 and 48. The match score was 5-3 Karpov but because of the momentum of the match, many felt Garry Kasparov was the favorite to win!

It was at this point FIDE President Florencio Campomanes called off the match despite the objections of both players. Karpov had lost 22 pounds since the beginning of the match while Kasparov’s health had not waned. The match was called off and a rematch was scheduled with more reasonable terms. Karpov retained his title.

So while we’re all watching Carlsen and Karjakin spar over the next week and half, let us keep the 1984 WCC Match in our minds and remember: 4 draws is nothing, the 1984 match had 2 streaks of draws longer than this whole match.

Will an endgame coincidence bloom into a pattern?

Carlsen has played the white pieces twice so far in the match. Both games featured Carlsen pulling the game to a similar endgame: Carlsen having a knight and rook, Karjakin having a dark-squared bishop and rook. Is this significant? Has Carlsen spent the last months studying this type of endgame? I don’t know. It’s only 2 games, and way too small of a sample size to glean any insights. But if he does it again, that will make 3 games in a row, and I think we can say yes: Magnus has been studying this type of endgame in his lair.

What exactly is Karjakin’s plan?

I feel like Karjakin is most brilliant when Stockfish’s evaluation of his position is -1.4. Look at Game 4; Karjakin is playing white, he’s developing a nice kingside attack, and decides to trade his e-pawn for Carlsen’s h-pawn. This dubious decision gives Carlsen a slight edge. But that’s the thing: Karjakin performes best when Carlsen has a slight advantage. So when Carlsen has the edge, Karjakin really has the advantage. I have to be careful or I might go on an insane 25 minute rant about cheese, milk, and over the dangerous effects of overhydration.

But seriously, Karjakin just cannot lose! Here’s the last (and only) time Karjakin’s beaten Carlsen in a classical game. The game features an innaccuracy from Carlsen on move 18, Karjakin capitalized on the mistake, and converted that advantage to a win. For Karjakin to win Carlsen will have to do something he hasn’t really done so far this match: make a mistake.

The players are rested, both players have their color they win the most with, we have some of the best lichess players doing commentary, all systems go, set for Game 5 take off in 3…2…1

Game 5

Click here for Game 5

Carlsen opened with the Giuoco Pianissimo for his third game as white. The Giuoco Pianissimo hasn’t been seen in World Championship level play in 35 years. Karpov was the last to try it against Korchnoi, both resulted in a draws.

Carlsen then chose a little-played variation of the Giuoco Piano by pushing his queenside pawns to a4 and b4. Some speculated this is over-extending, and exactly what you should avoid doing against an amazing defender like Karjakin. I disagree, I believe Magnus keeps doing the same thing: making second and third-tier opening moves because he gets ‘fresh’ positions.

For the complete game annotation please consult the lichess streamers’ study above. But let’s look at the position that might give Karjakin a sleepless night…

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Bishops of opposite colors, somewhere between a the middle and endgame. Karjakin just brilliantly sacrificed his d5 pawn, as his bishop will be much more effective on the square. This is Karjakin’s chance! He’s in the driver’s seat!

Karjakin gave a really clear answer (unlike Carlsen) as to why he didn’t play the winning move. I’ll try to relay it as clear as I can. The best (and possibly winning) sequence is …Rh8, Qe4, Qh6, Kf1, then Qh1

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Karjakin said he didn’t see Qa1, and instead planned Rd8. Rd8 would have been countered by Rf1. This insight from Karjakin gave us a clear picture of what kind of things are going on in his mind, and how deep he is calculating these positions. The game is not over after Qa1 by any means. But this insight from Karjakin was very illuminating, so thanks Sergey!

I want to look at this game through the lens of the post game press conference, which was the most telling press conference yet. Game 5 was a draw, the first in which Karjakin had winning chances, but Magnus saved the draw. Yet Magnus was in a very bad mood at the press conference.

On the other hand Karjakin was smiling from ear to ear, he even announced a new partnership that will supply him with computers. When Anastasia Karlovich, World Chess Federation Press Officer, asked Carlsen to go over his game Carlsen quickly pulled up the position after black’s 23rd move and said “Of course I have a better position, he has no ideas!”

This has been an incredibly tough match, so I have to give both players a pass on their post-match behavior. With that said, I think both players’ attitudes convey the same message: neither imagined the match would be going like this.

 

2016 WCC, Game 4: 2 Marathons in 2 Days

Game 3 was an epic marathon that lasted almost 7 hours. We posted this in our Game 3 article, but in case you missed it here is Carlsen and Karjakin after yesterday’s game.

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Carlsen and Karjakin have spent their lives flying around the world, playing in every time zone, and with little sleep. They have both had to play through the heartbreak of a loss and the overconfidence of success. Will it affect their play?

Game 4

Click here for Game 4

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Photo Courtesy of World Chess

 

The game opened similarly to Game Two with Karjakin opening with the Ruy Lopez and Carlsen responding with the classical variation. As Karjakin didn’t present any real threats to Carlsen in Game 2, it was interesting to see what else Karjakin had prepared in this perennial World Championship favorite. The first difference from Game 2 was Karjakin’s 6.Re1. He made the Anti-Marshall move 8. h3 and slowly built up an attack on the kingside.

Below is the position after Carlsen’s 15th move. What would you play here as white? As you can see, lichess recommends 10.Ng4, but that’s not what Karjakin played.

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Karjakin played 18.Bxh6, Carlsen responded 18…Qc6, ensuring he’ll win the e4 pawn with excellent piece placement. In the post game press conference Karjakin said he thought Carlsen would respond with 18…Nxe4, and when Carlsen played 18…Qc6 Karjakin thought, “what have I done?” Karjakin then traded off his Ruy Lopez light-squared Bishop for Carlsen’s c4 knight, which some felt gave Carlsen a strategical advantage. It was at this moment I stopped caring about chess for a couple of hours.

I start caring about chess again in about 2 hours. If you just care about chess, you should skip to “What is going on in the game?” But if you want to embark on a journey that will change your life forever, read on, but prepare to never be the same.

The journey begins with me buying a normal box of cheese.

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My first thought as a journalist was, you don’t often see cheese in boxes, that’s because cheese is usually manufactured and transported in wheels. It seems like an inefficient use of space to transport wheels in boxes. We all know the saying “you can’t put round cheese in square box.” Well World Chess sure showed whatever fool said that who is boss! World Chess will put their cheese in whatever shaped receptacle they please.

But let’s get to what’s important: how was the cheese? The cheese was fine. There were 4 different varieties of cheese in the box. I’m American, and therefore a cheese novice. Despite my nationality, I could identify the soft cheese as Brie. None of these cheeses had holes, so I’m pretty sure none were swiss. I did not care for the yellow cheese with the orange rind. I still don’t care about chess.

But the concept of a cheese box would stay with me, and what I would uncover next would change me forever. I hope you’re sitting down before you see this next picture, and if you have a heart condition, I would consult a doctor before continuing this article.

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Take a close look at this picture. World Chess is providing Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin with WAY too much water. I’m going to make a bold claim: if there’s more water bottles on the table than pawns, something’s not right. That’s when it hit me: Games 3 and 4 have been so long because there’s too much water on the table. Think about it. You’re Magnus Carlsen, you show up to defend your World Championship against one of the best defenders in the world. You arrive to the playing hall and there are 8 bottles of water on your side of the table. It implies that you are in for a long battle. Why else would you need all that water? Here’s where things really get crazy, did you notice what shape the water bottles are in, a rectangle. Is a rectangle a square? Sometimes. The water bottles are arranged in the same shape as the cheese box. Buckle your seatbelts, this rabbit hole of strangely abundant liquids is just getting started.

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The Press Center is well stocked with milk. Maybe a little too well stocked? There is coffee next to the jugs of milk, so whomever or whatever put the milk here was crafty. They wanted us to think the milk was for the coffee. But there is simply too much milk. Now maybe if there was a 55 gallon barrel of coffee, now I can see why you would need all this milk. Why all the milk?

I’m not sure how cheese is made, but I’m pretty sure if you leave this milk here long enough it will turn into cheese, I could be wrong. But i’m pretty sure that’s how it works. And notice the shape of the jugs: circular, the shape that cheese is traditionally made it.

Then I discovered the truth of what’s really going on. It’s so simple. We’re stuck in a time loop, a self perpetuating loop that no one will ever be able to escape. Because time is in a loop, it has no beginning or end, but here are the components to the time loop. World Chess has over supplied Carlsen and Karjakin with water, implying that they’re in for a long game. Little do they know now there is only the game: Carlsen will always be attacking, Karjakin will always be defending. Then there’s the over-abundant milk supply, have you figured it out yet? The cheese box, and the milk in the press room are one. What the journalists don’t drink slowly turns into cheese, and sold back to us in boxes, so we can watch the never ending game of chess. To close I just figured out we’re all Sisyphus, pushing our wheels of cheese up the mountain, but as the french philosopher Camus said, “we must imagine Sisyphus happy.” I care about chess again.

What is going on in the game?

All joking aside, this game is another monumental defense for Karjakin. After move 18, Carlsen held a slight advantage. But would that advantage be enough for a win? Carlsen pressed for 76 more moves. Let’s look at two key positions that demonstrate Magnus’ advantage, but also how difficult it is to convert that advantage into something more tangible. Here is the game after white’s 28th move.

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Carlsen has an advantage that can be summed up in a couple ways: black has the bishop pair, black has a potential passed pawn on e5, black has better piece activity. But how can you use these imbalances to win the game? 28…e4!? is a bit premature as white can easily relocate his g knight to e3, blockading very well. 28…exf4 concedes the d4 and f4 squares to white. White would quickly relocate his knights, and most likely build a fortress that would be difficult for black to storm. Magnus chose the optimal continuation, 28…Bh4. This activates the bishop and prepares to put it on the h2-b8 diagonal. This bishop will be guarding a key backward pawn that will appear in the next couple moves.

Here’s another mysterious position from the 43rd move of the game, again black to move:

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Magnus Carlsen thought about this position for 20 minutes. Can black win? If black plays f4 right away, white’s king can quickly come to f3, blockading the pawn. Carlsen decided on 43…Bb6, keeping the position flexible, not wanting to make committing pawn moves until he has no other choice. Magnus did push on f4 on move 45. In retrospect f4 is regarded as a mistake, because it releases tension and makes white’s defense easier. It’s interesting that in games 1 and 4 have Magnus played f4, a committing pawn move that made Karjakin’s defense easier.

Karjakin simply kept his King back and waited to see if Carlsen could find a way to break through. Carlsen tried moving his King all the way to a2, and Karjakin kept the king under control by shuffling his king between c1 and c2. The dark squared bishops were exchanged, but it still didn’t help Carlsen. A draw was agreed on move 94.

Where do we stand after four games?

Everyone is tired. Even Carlsen said he could use a rest day. I am blown away by Games 3 and 4. The pure stamina shown by both players is almost inhuman, the accuracy, the commitment, and the will to win, or not lose, is unreal. Karjakin is in better spirits as he was able draw both games. But Karjakin has never had an edge in this match, for him to think about winning, he will need to stoping thinking about drawing. Carlsen kept repeating the phrase “on to the next” after Game Four in regards to his spirits after these marathon games. He’s frustrated, but you can sure he will be ready for another fight on Thursday.

To me the final thought is: Karjakin can defend, but can he win?

 

2016 WCC, Game 3: Magnus Punches for 6 Hours, Will Karjakin Fall?

Typical early caution, but for how long?

The first and second games of the 2016 World Chess Championship were about gathering information about the opponent. What opening is my opponent playing? What endgames are we reaching? What kind of form is my opponent in, and are they displaying any sort of weaknesses? The somewhat hackneyed example is of two boxers dancing around each other in the early rounds, using a lot of jabs, but not many haymakers. While the cautious play of the first 2 games may be unsatisfying to spectators, it shouldn’t be surprising.

So far neither player has made a significant mistake, and neither player has held a meaningful advantage. Will Game Three be as tranquil as Games One and Two?

Game 3

Click here for Game 3

Karjakin’s Berlin meets Carlsen’s bizarre preparation

When Karjakin played 3…Nf6, a dull moan circulated among reporters and fans. But no one could predict what Carlsen had prepared.

The lichess opening explorer has 425 GM games after Karjakin’s 9… Bf6. Carlsen has had this position as white twice against Anand and once against Kramnik. In 424 of those games 10.Re1 was played. In one game GM Nikita Matinian (2439) played the counterintuitive 10. Re2, blocking white’s bishop. Upon further investigation I found another game from this year between Kasimdzhanov and Melkumyan where 10. Re2 was played. Both of those games ended in uneventful draws. It’s difficult to tell if 10. Re2 helped or hindered.

Carlsen played 10. Re2, then Karjakin thought for about 10 minutes and played 10… b6. Carlsen moved his rook again, this time to e1.

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Photo Courtesy of Agon

Moving the rook twice just looks wrong. If any responsible chess teacher saw a student move their rook two times in a row, taking a seemingly unnecessary pitstop on e2 they would correct the student and tell them: don’t move the same piece twice.

Take a look at Caruana vs Giri 2014. The game isn’t a facsimile to WCC Game 3 but it’s the best example of Re2 being played to success that I’ve found.

Maybe Carlsen was trying to induce 10… b6. Maybe he wanted to swing the rook to d2. Maybe Carlsen played the move for the same reason Tal made sacrifices: it puts the opponent on the spot and forces them to calculate in a way that is almost impossible to prepare for.

I got the chance to ask Carlsen after the game “There is quote by Mikhail Tal, ‘There two types of sacrifices, correct ones and mine.’ Would you feel comfortable saying this about your opening today?” Carlsen responded, “No, my opening was correct.” Carlsen immediately went back to kibitzing with Karjakin.

Chess is mysterious, I will ask Carlsen about the move again after the match. Perhaps he will provide more details behind this intriguing move.

The Titanic Endgame

We have seen two games with Carlsen behind the white pieces, and both games reached similar endgames. Carlsen with a knight and a rook to Karjakin’s dark squared bishop and rook. Game One concluded with 6 pawns, Game Two with 7.

The game went for 78 moves, and almost 7 hours in duration. It reached an endgame that will be studied in many future endgame books. I would strongly recommend setting aside a couple of hours and slowly going through the streamers annotations of the game. Kingscrusher, Justicebot, AstanehChess, TalBaron, and TonyRo will guide you through the endless maze as well as anyone else.

During the postgame press conference Carlsen and Karjakin were still unclear about certain positions. Game Three was a complicated mystery that many, including myself, might never fully understand.

My favorite part of being present at the event for this game was Karjakin’s 67th move. I was in the press room and I could sense the end of the game approaching, so I hustled out to the front of the spectators area to find the game in this position.

Black to move.

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The commentators reached the conclusion that black’s surest path to a draw was Bd8, as capturing either pawn leads to the loss of the bishop after Ne5+. If …Kf8, Ng6 forks. If …Ke8, f6 pins. And obviously if Kg8 or g7 the bishop would be undefended.

Karjakin took on h3 and a everyone chalked the “blunder” up to 6.5 hours worth of fatigue; the game would soon be over and Magnus would be in the lead. Karjakin fought the good fight, what more can you do against Carlsen? Some spectators assumed the game was over and started leaving.

Magnus checked black with his knight on e5, and Karjakin immediately moved his king to g7, inviting Carlsen to take his bishop with a check. I can’t speak for everyone spectating, but this was the first time I heard anyone mention 69… Kf6. A move that forks three of the remaining white pieces.

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At this point both players had less than 10 minutes remaining on their clock. The final problem Karjakin presented to Carlsen was: your f pawn will fall, you have an extra knight. Can you save your b pawn and prevent my h pawn from queening?

Everyone buddied up in the spectator room, to discuss last minute strategies for this unforeseen endgame. Suddenly no one felt bad for Karjakin anymore.

Here is the final position of game 3.

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Carlsen’s rook is tethered to black’s h pawn and keeping the black king away from the protection of h2. A draw by perpetual check was reached. The looks on Carlsen’s and Karjakin’s face say it all.

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Photos Courtsey of Agon

In the Press Conference before the match I asked Carlsen about how he would beat Karjakin. Carlsen answered that he would “punch, and punch until he falls over.” If this marathon didn’t make Karjakin fall over, what will? Karjakin gets his second shot with the white pieces on Tuesday.

 

2016 WCC, Game 2: Karjakin Gives Carlsen a Spanish Lesson

It was Saturday in NYC,  the kids are off school, parents don’t have work, so everyone came out to watch the world’s best fight for the Championship!

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Two ideas to carrying us into Game 2

Carlsen punched at Karjakin for four hours in Game 1, and Karjakin didn’t budge. Magnus set social media on fire playing the Trompowsky Attack, an opening never before seen in a World Championship Match. However Karjakin was rock solid at every point in the game despite the novelties being thrown at him. The only real worry anyone had about the game not ending in a draw was because of the name of the player behind the white pieces. Karjakin stayed cool under pressure, and showed he is ready to play for the challenge.

Carlsen’s play was good, not great. A friend of mine showed me an Ulf Andersson vs Sergy Ivanov game from 2000 where Ulf was able to take an almost identical endgame to WCC Game 1, and convert it to a win. In the Post Game 1 Press Conference Karjakin criticised Carlsen’s f4, claiming it locked up the position, making it easier to defend. The Andersson game is a great example of what an open position allows white to do: activate the king, prolong the game, and allow your opponent more opportunities to make mistakes. Even if Carlsen does play f4, a draw is still likely. With that said, it is interesting to see Carlsen – the best endgame player in the world – being criticized by his opponent for his endgame play.

Game 2

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Click Here for Game 2

The chess community breathed a collective sigh of relief when Carlsen played 3…a6 instead of the dreaded 3…Nf6 which would lead into the Berlin. The Berlin Defense is a notoriously boring but extremely solid defense that has dominated past WCCs. It is a favorite among chess players, and the bane of chess spectators. Game 2 was a Ruy Lopez, aka The Spanish (get the title now Mom?). The Ruy Lopez has been in many WCC matches. One of the most well known games is Kasparov vs Karpov 1990.

Karjakin was very conservative in his first game with the white pieces. His 15. h3 which felt a lot like a ‘check’ in poker, a passing of the turn without much action. Chess Legend Susan Polgar had this tweet about the move:

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It was so inspiring and mysterious to observe the players sink deep into thought at occasions you wouldn’t expect.  Carlsen took over 10 minutes for his 13…Nc4 leaving the spectators to question: How deep is Carlsen calculating the variations in his head? Why is this position important enough to devote so much time? The answer is: Carlsen doesn’t want to fall into the Karjakin’s opening preparation, so he is taking extra care. It’s beautiful to watch. Think a game like this is boring? Don’t tell that to Garry Kasparov!

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The queens came off on move 20, and a draw became very likely, and 13 moves later it became a reality. After 2 games the 2016 World Chess Championship is tied up 1-1 after 2 draws.

Player Attitude

The players have not said very much in the 3 press conferences. Who can blame them for wanting to keep their months of preparation close to heart? But I have noticed something after Games One and Two’s Press Conferences: Magnus is hungry for battle. After game one, the players were asked what they were going to do to recover from the mental stress of the game. Magnus wondered why recovery would be needed after such a short game (game one only lasted almost 4 hours!).

After game two, the players were asked what they are going to do on their day off. Magnus suggested the schedule was too easy on the players, and they should really be playing tomorrow instead of having a day off, whereas Karjakin said he preferred a day off. Magnus seems eager to spend as much time at the board as possible. Karjakin seems relieved to be stepping away from the board with two draws in his pocket.

Games one and two were appetizers for Carlsen. When will the main course begin? Will it be game 3? We will find out Monday. Have a nice Day off!

2016 World Chess Championship - November 12

 

2016 WCC, Game 1: Carlsen Plays the Tromp?

November has already seen two underdogs become champions. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series and Donald Trump is the President Elect. Will Sergey Karjakin defeat World Champion Magnus Carlsen? The odds are against Karjakin but so far in November odds haven’t mattered.

Game 1 of the World Chess Championship began on November 11th in New York’s South Street Seaport. The 25 year-old, Norwegian, World Champion Magnus Carlsen had the white pieces. The 26 year-old, Russian, challenger Sergey Karjakin had the black pieces. Well, Carlsen had most of the moves with the white pieces, Actor Woody Harrelson stopped by to make the ceremonial first move.

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Courtesy of Agon

 

What to Expect

Playing Carlsen in chess is like playing craps in a casino, the longer you play, the more likely it is you’re going to lose. Carlsen is probably the best endgame player in the world, so if you’re going to beat him, you have to beat him with a quick knock-out. In the last World Chess Championship against Anand, Carlsen lost one game. It was because Anand didn’t let Carlsen get to the endgame, as Carlsen fell into Anand’s famous opening preparation.

Two reasons to be optimistic for Karjakin. One; Karjakin has the black pieces today. As discussed in the lichess.org preview article, Karjakin and Carlsen have played 47 games. Karjakin has won 11 of them, 9 of those wins were with the black pieces. Two; Carlsen has a habit of starting tournaments badly. Some say it’s because Carlsen is bored and needs to make chess more difficult to be interesting. But this isn’t a tournament, it’s a match, and it’s difficult to image Magnus bringing anything but his “A game”.

 

For Game 1 Click Here

Not what anyone expected! Magnus pulls the Trompowsky Attack out of his bag, an opening never seen in a World Championship Match. The Trompowsky attack achieves a couple of objectives for Carlsen, it trades off pieces and accelerates to the endgame where Carlsen is so dangerous. Such an offbeat opening also circumvents probable preparation from the opponent. The Trompowsky Attack also damages Karjakin’s pawn structure giving him permanent weakness for Carlsen to target, all at the cost of a bishop for a knight.

2016 World Chess Championship - November 11

Photo courtesy of Agon

Mass exchanges were had and when the dust settled on move 19, all that was left for each side were a minor piece, a rook, and 6 pawns. Karjakin had a dark squared bishop, Carlsen a knight. Carlsen also had better pawn structure, as Karjakin had doubled f pawns, and an isolated h pawn. Magnus had a slight edge, not enough for a normal human to convert to a win, but this is Magnus Carlsen, and he is anything but a normal human!

But in the end Magnus played too many pawn moves making his position inflexible. To be specific, Carlsen’s 27.f4 was criticized by Karjakin in the post game press conference. Karjakin claimed the move made the position too static, making his defense easier.

Karjakin has the white pieces on Saturday. What opening will he chose? Will Karjakin get winning chances?

 

Carlsen (25) and Karjakin (26) Visit New York to Battle for Chess Immortality

 

For the first time 2 Grandmasters, who have never known a world without computers, will duel on Chess’s most coveted stage, The World Chess Championship.

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On November 11th, 2016, in New York’s South Street Seaport, World Champion Magnus Carlsen will make his first move against Sergey Karjakin and begin the youngest World Championship match in history. Carlsen became World Champion in 2013 when he defeated Viswanathan Anand in their match without losing a game. Carlsen also won the 2014 rematch against Anand. Karjakin earned his seat by winning the 2016 Candidates Tournament, capped with a brilliant win over US #1 Fabiano Caruana. At the beginning of the match, Carlsen’s rating is 2853 and #1 in the world, while Karjakin stands at 2772, putting him at #9.

The Venue

 

Chess is in the DNA of New York. A keen eye can find a gang of chess players in most New York City Parks. The players in the park are a microcosm of the city surrounding them: Wall St Millionaires battling street hustlers, cocky college students getting lessons in humility from cranky experts. New York and Chess have this in common: It’s not who you are, it’s your moves that define you.

New York hosted the 1995 World Championship match between Garry Kasparov and the aforementioned Anand at the World Trade Center. The last American World Champion was the brilliant recluse Bobby Fischer, who won the title in Reykjavik in 72’ against Boris Spassky. Fischer then famously forfeited his title with a note written on his napkin.

The Match

The World Championship Match is best of 12 games. Players will play 1 game a day, for 2 days, then enjoy a rest day. If the score is tied after 12 games the players with play 4 rapid games, 5 2-Game blitz matches, and if necessary, an armageddon game. In addition to the title of “World Champion,” there is a $1.1 million USD prize pool at stake.

The Cold Hard Numbers:

Carlsen and Karjakin have faced each other 21 times in Classical Chess (100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 1). Carlsen has won 4, Karjakin has won 1, while 16 games ended in a draw.

2 pieces of bad news for Karjakin: 1. The last time Carlsen lost to Karjakin in a classical game was in 2012. 2. Karjakin was soundly beaten in their last encounter earlier in 2016. The game features Carlsen masterfully finding the optimal square for each of his pieces, while Karjakin seemed confused, moving his kingside rook 6 times in just 26 moves . Frankly, the data from their classical games paints a bleak picture for the Russian challenger.

The results from their non-classical (rapid, blitz, and blindfold) matches is a bit more interesting, and may reveal insights on how Karjakin could win the match. Here’s the data for all the Carlsen vs Karjakin non-classical games.

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Magnus leads Karjakin in three out of four categories. How big of a favorite is Carlsen?  The “Vegas Odds” have a 78% chance of Magnus retaining his title.

Karjakin, Staunch Defender

A deeper look at the data reveals some interesting patterns, particularly for Karjakin. In Chess the white side goes first, and has the advantage because of it. At top level chess the player with the black pieces is at a disadvantage and usually happy with a draw while the white side wants to use their advantage to play for a win. Here’s a chart that shows all the games from 2015 in chessgames.com, as you can see, black winning is the least likely game outcome.

Here’s the interesting point: Karjakin beats Carlsen more with black than he does with white. Out of their 47 games, Karjakin won 11 games, 9 games with black, only 2 with white. The only time Karjakin beat Carlsen in a classical game, way back in 2006, was with the black pieces. Karjakin’s unusual penchant for winning with black more than white isn’t isolated to Carlsen, here is a chart of Karjakin’s wins against other Super Grandmasters:

 

The data reveals Karjakin’s core strength: staunch defense. A quality shared with past Champions like Botvinnik, Karpov, and Spassky, to name a few. Karjakin has gotten to the World Championship by understanding his opponents moves better than they do themselves. A great example of this type of mindset can be seen in the last game of the 2016 Candidates Match, the very game that earned Karjakin his ticket to New York. Karjakin has the white pieces, and Caruana the black pieces. Caruana is desperate, if he beats Karjakin he will play Magnus for the World Championship, but a loss or draw sends Karjakin. What does Karjakin do? He let Caruana recklessly attack him, as Caruana had to risk his king safety in this attack. When the moment was right, Karjakin decimated Caruana’s position with a mysterious rook sacrifice, ending the game only a couple moves later.

This mindset has applications in many sports: Making the second move is an advantage because you get to make your move with more information than your opponent. In blackjack, the house is revealed last and casinos make billions of dollars every year.  The home team in baseball bats second. In No Limit Hold’em’, having “position” (acting last) is often times valued more than the quality of your cards. Would Karjakin have the best odds of winning the match if he got the black pieces in every game? The data says yes.

But for this strategy to work, Carlsen needs to make a mistake. Does Carlsen make mistakes? Yes, Carlsen famously blundered in the last World Championship Match against Anand. Unbelievably, Anand didn’t realize the mistake, and blundered right back to the relief of Carlsen. Carlsen occasionally blunders against Karjakin, usually on move 38: 2008 Rapid Game, 2008 Blitz Game, 2010 Rapid Game.  

Carlsen’s Suffocating Chess

The year is 2008, the World Champion is the Indian GM, Viswanathan Anand. His challenger is the Russian GM Vladimir Kramnik. The format for their match is the same as the 2016 format, best of 12 games. Anand has a reputation for having the most vast opening repertoire in chess. This means Anand is very good at memorizing thousands of chess openings 20, sometimes 30 moves into a game. Having such an encyclopedia available is an obvious advantage. Imagine Player “A” and player “B” have played 30 moves of their chess game. Player “A” had the first 12 moves of game memorized, and therefore had to think for 18 moves of the game. Player “B” had all 30 moves memorized, and has not had to think in the game yet.  Player “B” has the advantages for many reasons, I’ll list three. The first advantage is player “B’s” moves will probably be better because they were conceived in the comfort of a study area, not OTB (over the board). The second advantage is mental stamina. Thinking and creating is hard work, just like running, turning a crank, or ditch digging. The longer you think, the less accurate your moves become. Imagine running a marathon against an opponent and he gets to ride in a golf cart alongside you for the first 10 miles while getting a back massage. The third advantage is mental. Players at this level can sense when they’re in someone’s ‘preparation’. It might be how fast a player is making their moves, it might be the off-beat, but strategically sound flavor to their moves. But the fact is, it’s not fun to walk into a trap, and it might make some lesser experienced players crack. In this aspect of chess, Viswanathan Anand is generally considered the best prepared.

In the 3rd game of Anand vs Kramnik, Kramnik had the white pieces and walked right into a memorized line of Anand, and lost the game. When asked about Anand’s play after the game Kramnik said he wasn’t impressed and challenged Anand to make the same moves the next time he had the white pieces. In game 5 Kramnik stubbornly made similar moves to game 3 and Anand happily played a slightly different line, and beat him again. Anand’s preparation won game 3, but Kramnik’s hubris lost him game 5. These two games gave Anand an enormous advantage, and Anand went on to win the match.

One could argue that the 2008 World Chess Championship was decided off the chessboard. Chess culture and history is shaped by occurrences like these. Opening preparation is of the utmost importance, and players are careful when and where to reveal brilliant lines they memorized at home. Certain openings become popular, while others fall out of fashion. That is the vernacular used by the chess community, an opening “falls in and out of style”. Many players have coaches specifically dedicated to preparing openings for them that will be especially effective against a certain opponent. Teams have been accused of leaking opening information. Massive resources and effort were and still are devoted to developing a player’s opening repertoire. How does Carlsen approach openings?

“(Carlsen) went into some games with only the first move chosen; most players typically map out their first dozen or so moves. He believes that things even out because, as he put it, “I’m younger and have more energy, and it’s easier to adapt.” –  T.D. Max, The New Yorker, March 21, 2011

Carlsen plays extremely simple openings, and almost never gets an advantage because of it.  What he does get, is a neutralization of his opponent’s opening preparation. No memorized lines, no ego, no accusing teams of leaking openings, Carlsen’s simple openings force his opponent’s into doing what Carlsen does best: play chess, and play chess until you crack.

The first game of the Carlsen vs Anand World Championship Match is a perfect illustration of this strategy. Carlsen trades off 3 minor pieces, and a pawn by move 13, avoiding any potential complications from his notoriously well prepared opponent. By move 27 they have already moved on to the endgame, Anand has a slight space advantage, Carlsen has a better pawn structure, the computer regards the position as exactly even. With neither side having any discernible advantage the game should end as a draw. But it’s precisely this dry, some would call boring, type of position that Carlsen wants. Over the next couple of moves we see Carlsen’s pieces jump into action, and begin the “strangling pressure, no direct hits”, which is how Garry Kasparov describes Carlsen’s style. In the end, Anand found a brilliant way to draw the game by a 3-fold-repetition, but the disturbing message was heard: Carlsen took a position of almost complete equality, and made a former World Champion bend, but not break.

Anand broke in game 2.  Eerily similar position to game 1, rook and queen endgame. In game 2, Carlsen did have approximately a 1 pawn advantage, as opposed to the equality of game 1. But Carlsen used the same strategy of strangling pressure, and on move 34 Anand made a blunder that made spectators wince, he resigned on the next move.

This is the kind of style I expect to see from Carlsen in his match with Karjakin: patient moves that improve his own position, and pressure his opponent, while also creating no weakness that could be exploited. In short if you want to know what Carlsen plays chess like, watch Top Gun he’s “Iceman,” “(Iceman) Flies ice-cold. Makes no mistakes. Wears you down. You get bored, do something stupid, he’s got you.”

Computers’ Influence on Modern Chess

Computers used to be the laughing stock of the chess world. The were clunky monstrosities that could maybe string together a couple of good moves, but before long, the computer would make a move that was unbelievably bad. It was thought that the subtleties moves, nuances, and instinct needed for chess would ultimately make computers unable to compete.

It’s difficult to tell when the tipping point happened; perhaps it was Garry Kasparov losing to IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997. But computers are now ubiquitous. Chess engines on your cell phone are able to calculate millions of moves a second, and understand mysterious positions with ease. The resources computers provide combined with the universal connection of the internet, changed the world of chess forever.

But how computers evaluate positions, decide who is winning and losing, has shaped how top level chess players think as well. A ‘computer move’ used to mean a comically illogical move so stupid, only a computer could have composed it. Now a ‘computer move’ means a move so illogically brilliant, no human could have conceived it.

Carlsen and Karjakin have grown up with computers and gleaned their unusual insights over their entire chess careers. It is an innate connection with computers that gives the younger generation of chess players the ability to play these “computer moves” with more frequency than their seniors. I am always watching chess streams of big tournaments and commentators will say something like, “Well looking at this position, there are a lot of tactics and lots of ways to improve the position, but the computer is saying that the best way to continue is for white to simply move their king to b1. Now of course that move won’t be played because it’s computer move.” Only to see the young player make the mysterious computer move to the shock of the commentator. This is the first time the world gets to see two chess players raised on computers face off for the world championship.

Expect Brilliance

It is difficult to predict what strategies Carlsen and Karjakin will bring to the table. Anand was a Champion for many reasons, but his opening preparation was his most feared weapon. Magnus defeated Anand with simplicity and youthful endurance. But what is the antidote for simplicity? Is there one? That is what Karjakin will try to answer.

Magnus does have a bad habit of starting tournaments badly, losing a couple of games, only to go on a win streak and win.

“Friedel wrote to me, “I have a new theory. Magnus is so strong that he is simply bored. (I know from personal experience that he bores easily.) So he has come up with a new strategy to make things more interesting for himself: play like an idiot in the first few games, move to the bottom of the table, and then try to win the tournament anyway.”  T.D. Max, The New Yorker

Does Magnus deliberately ‘take a dive’ at the beginning of a tournament to challenge himself? He did make the objectively bad move 1.e3 in the 2016 Chess Olympiad, albeit against a much lower rated opponent. Magnus won that game in 33 moves.

But this is the World Championship, and to imagine either player approaching the match with anything but world class preparation would be difficult to imagine. With that said, Karjakin’s style is perfect for defending a match lead, and thus we come to the most logical way I can think for Karjakin to actually win: For whatever reason Carlsen starts the match off on the wrong foot, Karjakin seizes the lead, Carlsen is forced to play more aggressive than he normally would to regain the lead, and Karjakin is able to use Carlsen’s desperation against him, just like he did to Caruana at the end of the 2016 Candidates tournament. Although it is possible, I would say this is a highly unlikely series of events.

What would I predict? A conservative start to the match. Imagine a boxing match where the two competitors throw just a couple of jabs, not so much to connect and knock the opponent out, but to see how the opponent reacts. I predict Carlsen and Karjakin not to risk much in the first couple games but rather make some pressing moves to see how the opponent reacts.

But I would say the critical games will be a game where Carlsen has whites and Karjakin has the blacks. As both players win more with those colors.

I predict the final score 6 ½ Carlsen 3 ½ Karjakin, with Carlsen winning the 11th game.

Coverage

Lichess.org will be at every game, and will provide an immediate post-game artcle written by yours truly, Tyler Schwartz, along with commentary and insights from some of lichess’s top players.

About the Author: Tyler Schwartz is a passionate chess ambassador. Tyler is the President of Chess at 3, teaching chess to children all over the world at the surprising age of 3. He is the Head of Media at lichess.org. Tyler also manages a chess club on the upper east side of Manhattan. Graphics by Joshua Krohn