2018 World Chess Championship: Magnus Carlsen Beats Fabiano Caruana

Magnus Carlsen has retained his World Chess Championship title with a crushing 3:0 victory over Fabiano Caruana in rapid tiebreaks.

Over the course of almost three weeks, chess fans followed one of the closest World Chess Championship matches in a very long time.

12 classical games were played with neither player able to beat the other. After 12 hard-fought draws, the match had to be decided in tiebreaks.

Fabiano Caruana had played very strongly in the classical portion of the match. The tiebreaks, however, took a different direction. After Magnus offered a draw in a clearly better position with more time on the clock in game 12, many followers wondered if he started to lose his nerves. Many chess fans started to claim that Fabiano might have a psychological advantage in the tiebreaks.

Yet, the reigning World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, showed why he owns the chess crown and gave a stunning performance in the tiebreaks, proving that his decision was the right call when it came to maximizing his match-winning chances, and proving all his critics wrong.

According to the tiebreak format, four rapid games are played with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move. If one player scored 2,5 points or more out of these four games, he would win the match.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened in these three games:

Carlsen, Magnus (2835) – Caruana, Fabiano (2832): World Chess Championship – Rapid Tiebreaks Game 1 (London 2018)

Magnus had an excellent start to the rapid tiebreaks.

Playing White, he went for a rare line in the English Opening and slightly surprised Fabiano who played too fast in the opening and missed a chance to get a pleasant position with Black early on. He ended up with an unpleasant position and was also behind on the clock. Magnus didn’t play the best continuation at a critical point but Fabiano still found himself in a worse rook endgame. Nevertheless, it offered him decent chances to hold a draw.

Fabiano, however, did not find the most precise way to play and lost the game pretty painfully.

Caruana, Fabiano (2832) – Carlsen, Magnus (2835): World Chess Championship – Rapid Tiebreaks Game 2 (London 2018)

Magnus took the lead after game one and Fabiano had three games to strike back. Yet, it was a tough situation for him. Starting the tiebreak with a tough loss in a holdable position doesn’t exactly do wonders for the confidence. Magnus, on the other hand, was in his element now. After twelve drawn games, he finally managed to strike the first blow.

After the tiebreak was over, Magnus explained: “I feel that Game 1 was critical for the match. It was very tense and it was the breakthrough for me, and then in the second game I wasn’t so sure about my position, but after I’d won the first one I felt very calm.”

The second game started with a Sicilian Sveshnikov and it seemed like Fabiano got exactly the position he needed to bounce back. The position was complicated, unbalanced and full of tactical resources. Yet, Fabiano played a very committal move on move 21 which looked excellent from a human standpoint at first glance.

However, Magnus countered with fast and good moves and Fabiano soon lost track completely. Again, he suffered a painful loss:

Carlsen, Magnus (2835) – Caruana, Fabiano (2832): World Chess Championship – Rapid Tiebreaks Game 3 (London 2018)

Fabiano’s chances for a comeback were already very small. He had to win both his next two rapid games now. On top of that, he had the Black pieces in the first of the two games. It would have been one of the greatest comebacks in the history of chess if Fabiano had struck back.

One has to give credit to Fabiano Caruana in game three. With the Black pieces, he managed to avoid early simplifications and got a position with an unbalanced pawn structure. He also played very fast in this game which gave him a fair chance to really make the match exciting again.

However, with two wins in a row in the back of his head, Magnus was in excellent shape and played flawlessly. There was no point in the game where he really allowed Fabiano to get a clear edge. As Fabiano had to take huge risks at some point in the late middlegame, he had to play dubious moves in search of a win, moves that Magnus parried without difficulty.

Magnus then gained the upper hand and managed to convert his advantage into the third win in a row, securing the chess crown. Let’s take a closer look at what happened:

With this game, the 2018 World Chess Championship ended. Magnus Carlsen retains the chess crown for another two years. We’ve seen a very close match over the last three weeks which took an abrupt end in the tiebreaks. As a fair sportsman, Fabiano admitted after the match:

“He deserves to be World Champion and he deserved to win this match. We both had weak moments, but on the final day, the tensest day, he showed good chess and I didn’t. So, of course, he deserved to win.”

Magnus, of course, was very happy about winning the 2018 World Chess Championship. However, he also admitted that Fabiano was a worthy opponent and that he looks forward to another match against him:

“I feel that Fabiano was the strongest opponent I’ve played so far in a World Championship match. In classical chess, he has just as much right as I do at this point to call himself the best in the world. […] Obviously I’m very happy with the way the match ended, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last from Fabiano in this particular context.”

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