Continued suspense in Carlsen – Karjakin World Championship match
Magnus is in New York with his usual World Championship Match team consisting of his head coach Peter Heine, manager Espen, chef Magnus, doctor Brede, myself, his sisters and mother part-time and friends visiting this week. Having spent a few days by the sea outside New York, Magnus arrived in the city on November 8th. We stay at the Ritz Carlton a 15-20 minutes walk from the playing venue at 12 Fulton Street.
The Match started November 11th, and after every two rounds there is a rest day. Magnus drew the white pieces in game 1 during the Grand Gala Opening Ceremony in spectacular Hotel Crowne Plaza on the 10th.
He probably surprised Karjakin with his opening choice playing the Trompowsky; an unusual opening at elite level. Karjakin gave Magnus a slight advantage, but managed to defend precisely and with relative ease.
In the second game Karjakin got a normal white initiative, but black was just fine. Having equalized in the early middle game Magnus was hoping to get some counter chances. Karjakin probably sensed that he did not have an advantage and steered the game to an uneventful draw.
Things really changed after the first rest day, and despite the end result of two draws, both round 3 and 4 were long hard fought battles filled with tension and interesting chess.
Magnus against surprised Karjakin in the opening (Ruy Lopez with Re2 instead of the normal Re1) and was happy with his slightly more pleasant position. Having underestimated the countermove g5 Magnus felt any advantage he might have had was gone, nonetheless he continued to maneuver to improve his position and gradually outplayed Karjakin. After the first time control white was clearly better. A combination of a few missed opportunities and tenacious defense by Karjakin resulted in a draw. A relieved Karjakin and a slightly disappointed Magnus came to the press conference. This mood slightly misrepresented the essential takeaways from the round. Magnus had reason to be very happy with the way he had managed to fulfill the pre-match strategy of putting pressure on Karjakin using his strengths, and Karjakin had reason to be concerned about the way he was outplayed from an equal position.
Maybe these sentiments played a role in the development of game 4. Karjakin found an interesting plan in the anti-Marshall and after Qf3 black had only one viable continuation. Karjakin seemed very optimistic and liked the idea of Bxh6 Nxe4 Rxe4 sacrificing an exchange. Magnus instead went for Qc6 after Bxh6. The computer does not consider Bxh6 a mistake, but after Qc6 the position is maybe slightly more pleasant for black. At this point Karjakin seemed to panic and rather than choosing a continued middle game battle with three possible results, he went directly for a miserable ending with Bxc4. Over the next 20 moves Magnus pursued his positional advantage and right after the first time control both players thought black should be winning due to the kingside majority and bishop pair.
In an otherwise very good game, Magnus at this point made a significant mistake assuming he could infiltrate the white kingside after closing the kingside with f4. It turned out Karjakin had a fortress and after another long and hard fought game Magnus had to settle for a draw.
Norwegian chess enthusiasts following the match are blessed with several good alternatives in NRK and VG TV coverage. I also like the organizers coverage and commentary with Judith Polgar at worldchess.com.
Magnus wants to bring chess to the world, and during the match Play Magnus has launched a new chess app; The Magnus Trainer! Now available on Iphone, and more content and an Android version will follow soon.
Magnus played basketball in the sunny and nice November weather yesterday and looks forward to the next rounds.
For Team Carlsen,
Henrik Carlsen, New York, November 17th