World Chess Championship 2018


Magnus scored a crushing victory and dominated the first three rapid-play games to achieve a winning margin. Fabiano was faced with the near impossible task of having to win the third game to stay in the match and Magnus took every opportunity to simplify the game by exchanging material. It was sad to see Fabiano battle to achieve an equal position after 40 moves only to collapse to defeat over his next 10 moves when he allowed Magnus to advance a pawn down the board to become a second queen. A shattering end to the match for Fabiano and Magnus demonstrated that he is still the best in the world at rapid-play even if his play in the classical games was not quite up to his usual standard.

The contest between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana started in London on 9 November 2018. It was a 12 game match with a tie break system of  4 rapid play games if the score  reached 6-6 which is what happened.

It might have been expected that the first game be a cautious affair with a draw the likely outcome as neither player would want to lose the first game. However, the opposite happened. Fabiano chose to play the Rossolimo variation (3.Bb5) against Magnus’s Sicilian but as the first time limit at 40 moves approached Fabiano was in time trouble and Magnus had a clear advantage. However, Magnus failed to find the best moves and lost his advantage and although he played on for another 60 moves trying to test Fabiano’s stamina in the endgame the game was eventually agreed as a draw after 115 moves and 7 hours of play.  This was one of the longest games in the history of the World Championship.

Game 2 was a conventional Queen’s Gambit declined and a draw was agreed after 47 moves.

Games 3 and 4 were drawn and were cautious affairs and pretty level all the way through. Fabiano repeated the Rossolimo variation in game 3 and Magnus opened with the English variation in Game 4.

Game 5 was yet another Rossolimo variation by Fabiano and yet another draw.

Game 6 was very interesting. Fabiano played the Petroff defence which was no surprise but Magnus’s 4th move certainly was when he retreated his knight to d3 rather than to f3 which is played 99.9% of the time. Fabiano took this in his stride and the game was very level until Magnus made a couple of positional errors and ended up with his bishop and 4 pawns against bishop, knight and two pawns. Magnus had a passed pawn on the a file but then surprisingly gave it up to allow his king to penetrate deeply on the kingside. The computer engines gave a significant advantage to Fabiano but by creating a blockade Magnus managed to prevent Fabiano making a decisive breakthrough. Magnus must have been very relieved to have escaped with a draw.

Game 7 was yet another level game and a  draw after Fabiano played the Queen’s Gambit Declined.

In the 8th game both players were more aggressive. Fabiano played the Open Sicilian  rather than the Rossolimo and Magnus countered with the Sveshnikov variation. Although the game was very interesting, the result was the same and a draw was agreed after 38 moves.

The 9th game was yet another draw although not without interest. This is now the longest run of draws from the start of a World Championship match.

A very exciting 10th game with another Sveshnikov Sicilian by Magnus but both players are finding it very difficult to turn minor advantages into potential winning positions and the game ended in another draw.

In the 11th game Fabiano again played the Petroff Defence and even though Magnus managed to win a pawn, a bishops of opposite colour endgame was always heading for a draw.

The 12th game was another Sveshnikov Sicilian and was very tense and then suddenly a draw was agreed which came as a surprise and an anti-climax. Magnus probably fancied his chances in the play-offs.