Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana draw tenth game in a row in the Chess World Championship

There are now just two games left for either player to find a win or the series will go to a best of four tiebreaker series.

After nine consecutive draws, Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen have drawn yet again in the Chess World Championship in London. There are now just two games left for either player to find a win or the series will go to a best of four tiebreaker series.

World number one Carlsen came close to winning Game 9 on Wednesday but lost his advantage following a rushed decision to offer up a pawn on his 25th move. Grandmaster Hiraku Nakamura called the move “a little premature to me”, a sentiment which was echoed by Carlsen after the game concluded.

“I felt like I had a comfortable advantage and then I just blew it, I was poor,” said Carlsen, visibly disappointed by the way the game ended. That ninth draw set the record for the longest streak of games without a win in the 132-year history of the Chess World Championship.

Finally though, in Game 10, Carlsen went all in. After spending 15 minutes contemplating his 21st move he surprised everyone by sacrificing a pawn in order to remove a rook hindering his attacks. Once he made the move he jumped up from his chair and headed to the refreshment area.

The pressure ramped up on world number two Caruana. As the moves progressed the pair traded bishops and then queens before reaching time control on move 40. For Carlsen to win, he needed to do it with just his rooks and pawns.

Russian GM Peter Svidler said Caruana was in a difficult position. “My hands would be very shaky with white in this position. It’s very, very scary.” With the game in such a fine balance, one mistake could prove fatal.

An overextension of the king by Carlsen potentially opened the door for Caruana to take something from the game but Carlsen managed to retreat just in time. The game then fizzled out to a draw a few moves later as neither side had a chance of winning.

There are still two games left in the series, organised by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), with a prize fund of one million euros on the line. If the score is level after these last two games then the series will go to the tiebreakers.

In these extra games, each player will start with 25 minutes on the clock with an increment of 10 seconds after each move. Should the series reach this point, Carlsen will be the favourite to win given he is also the world number one Blitz Chess player. 

Off the board, there was major controversy early on in the series as a two-minute video was uploaded to the Saint Louis Chess Club Youtube channel before being removed shortly after. The video showed details of Caruana’s preparation for the championship. 

While the video was online several screenshots were taken and shared online. Chess fans were quick to analyse the photos, including one of a laptop screen showing openings potentially being research by Caruana. The names of three grandmasters were also contained in the video – Leinier Domínguez, Alejandro Ramírez and Ioan-Cristian Chirila – who are working as second’s to help the American prepare

The final games of the series are played on Saturday 24th and Monday 26th and are shown for free on the FIDE website. They are also streamed on by hosted by IM Daniel Rensch and GM Robert Hess with regular appearances by guests such as GM’s Hiraku Nakamura and Yifan Hou.

5 draws in 5 games for Carlsen and Caruana in Chess World Championships

Carlsen looks to defend his title in the first world championship between the top two players for 28 years.

World number one and two, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, played their fifth draw in as many games in London for the world championship series. The 12-game match, organised by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), is being played between 9 and 28 November 2018 and has a prize fund of one million euros.

Carlsen said that “there is serious room for improvement at this point” after the climax of the fifth game on Thursday which saw the score remain tied at 2.5-2.5. The three-and-a-quarter hour match started brightly but ultimately finished in a draw after 34 moves.

His opponent, Caruana, opened which a highly aggressive pawn sacrifice early on which prompted gasps from the crowd. His intention was to create pressure on Carlsen and try to confuse him, forcing errors and leading to a higher chance of victory.

“Well, this line is really interesting and if black is cooperative it can get very exciting,” said Caruana. “But Magnus one the line quite well and I think played in a very logical way.”

Carlsen, on the other hand, was unfazed by his opponents peculiar opening strategy. “To be honest I was pretty happy about the opening. I felt as though after it calmed down, on the black could ever really be better. But I couldn’t find a way to push it.”

It was widely believed that Caruana was under much more pressure than Carlsen to get a win on Thursday with the white pieces. Under the rules of the 12 game series, the colour of the pieces must be reversed at the halfway point. This leads to an interesting pairing of games, six and seven, where both players use the same colours for two consecutive games.

Carlsen, who won the initial drawn, chose to play Game 1 as black. This means that he will play as white in Game 6 and Game 7 on Friday and Sunday. “Of course double black is coming up and this is a quite a serious challenge, but this was always going to happen,” said Caruana. “And whether I win or draw (on Thursday), this was still going to happen. So I wasn’t approaching this game differently than any other.”

“I can only play for a win if I get something and I can only really be disappointed that I missed a chance if I get some sort of chance in the game. And if a game is like this where we both play more or less correctly and neither of us makes a serious mistake, I don’t think that I can really be disappointed.”

World Champion Carlsen seems to be excited for his double-header as white. “It’s like any round-robin tournament,” Carlsen said. “If you have a double black or a double white, you kind of single that out when the tournament starts. That is either your opportunity to strike or when you’re at your most vulnerable. I am looking forward to it, obviously, and we’ll see what happens.

“But most of all I’m just more or less happy with the way things are going with black as it’s clear to the naked eye there is serious room for improvement at this point.”

While the on-board action has been mostly without drama, there has been major off-board controversy. Early on Tuesday morning, a two-minute clip was uploaded to the Saint Louis Chess Club’s Youtube channel before quickly getting taken down. The video contained details of Caruana’s secret preparations for the tournament.

In the brief period of time the video was online for screenshots were taken and widely shared online where chess fans dissected what they saw. The video included shots of a laptop which contained openings supposedly being researched by Caruana for his upcoming series with Carlsen.

There was also the names of three grandmasters contained within the video – Leinier Domínguez, Alejandro Ramírez and Ioan-Cristian Chirila – who could be working with Caruana as second’s in his camp to help the American practice.

When told about the footage in an interview Carlsen said with a smile “well, I’ll have a look and the video and then make up my mind.” Carlsen’s manager, Espen Agdestein did not comment on the video upon its initial release but later admitted that he thought it was a mistake by Caruana’s camp.

Talking to Norwegian chess journalist Tarjei Svensen Agdenstein said “I think this is real. It can happen by mistake, and we’ve been close to making the same mistake. It’s more likely that it was a mistake than that it was staged.”

The video resulted in speculation of this being a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation to Carlsen, prompting him to waste his energy preparing for openings that Caruana has no intention of playing. This has been deemed unlikely by all familiar with Caruana or high-level chess in general as some of the openings shown in the video have already featured in the first few games.

Both Carlsen and Caruana will be hoping to break the deadlock over the weekend and enter next week in a leading position. The 12-game series will be played until November 28th, and is shown for free on the FIDE website.