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    Entries in 2018 World Championship (33)

    Friday
    Dec072018

    MVL on Carlsen-Caruana

    Here's another high-profile figure weighing in on The Match: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on the Carlsen-Caruana match. (HT: Hal Bogner) For those who followed the match, his comments about the games will offer few revelations (if any). But he joins in the chorus suggesting changes to the format of the World Championship. His suggestions are sensible and lean in a conservative direction. They are:

    1. Play 16 games rather than 12.

    2. Have rest days after four games rather than two. (The four on, one off pattern is typical of international tournaments, and would allow for 16 games to be played almost as quickly as 12 on the current pattern - especially with the extra day off between the 11th and 12th games.)

    3. Speed up the time control to 90' + 30", with a 30' bonus after move 40. (He doesn't explicitly say move 40, but it seems to be assumed.)

    He adds a preference that squares with my own, that mixing time controls should be avoided as much as possible. He's not in favor of various suggestions that make rapid play a mandatory part of the match, though he understands the impetus for it.

    Thursday
    Dec062018

    Svidler on the Carlsen-Caruana Match; AlphaZero on Games 9-12

    Here's what Peter Svidler had to say, and here is part 2 of Matthew Sadler's look with AlphaZero at the match, this time covering games 9-12.

    Tuesday
    Dec042018

    Carlsen on the Match with Caruana

    Here (HT: Eric Kaufmann), with some news about Wijk aan Zee in January.

    Sunday
    Dec022018

    Regan & Lipton on "A Tiebreak Win and the Problem of Draws"

    IM Ken Regan and his blog partner R.J. Lipton weigh in on the Carlsen-Caruana match and draw [yuk, yuk] their own conclusions. The ideas discussed there are interesting, but they surrender a pure classical world championship while not going over to an explicit all-around world championship, an option mooted in my previous post. But they are offering solutions to a different issue than I raised in the previous post, though there is some overlap. Their focus is on the problem of (too many) draws; mine is on dealing with drawn matches that purport to determine the world champion at classical chess.

    Hopefully we'll have everything fixed soon, and FIDE will follow our suggestions to the letter. Sounds good and likely, right? Right?

    Wednesday
    Nov282018

    World Championship, Rapid Tiebreaks: Carlsen Wins 3-0 to Retain His Title

    First it was seemingly impossible for anyone to win a game, and then it was almost impossible for anyone not to. Or rather, for Magnus Carlsen not to. After 12 consecutive draws to open the match, Carlsen blanked Fabiano Caruana 3-0 in the playoff to retain his championship title for at least another two years.

    In the first game, the evaluation see-sawed between a serious advantage for Carlsen and equality (but not a safe equality) for Caruana until a final error in a rook and pawn ending cost the American the game.

    Game 2 was another Sveshnikov Sicilian, continuing the debate from game 12, and again it was Carlsen who felt more at home in the complicated position than Caruana. Caruana's 21.c5 was rash, but he still would have been in the game had he played 26.Bd4. Instead, he played 26.c7 and resigned just two moves later, about to lose tons of material.

    Caruana did his best to make a fight out of it in game 3. He managed to keep the tension and achieve a playable position, while Carlsen did his job and kept things under control. A draw was the logical result, but the need for Caruana to avoid the draw at all practically all costs led him to make too many concessions, and Carlsen made it three for three in the tiebreaks. (The games, with my abbreviated commentary, are here.)

    Carlsen remains the champ, and Caruana will be automatically seeded into the next Candidates, when he can try again. In the last three cycles he has gone one step further than the one before, so maybe next time he will follow in the footsteps of Vassily Smyslov, Boris Spassky, Garry Kasparov, and Viswanathan Anand by bouncing back from a loss (or a non-win) in his first world championship match to a success the next time around. We'll see, but for now, congratulations to Magnus Carlsen!

    Monday
    Nov262018

    World Championship, Game 12: On to Tiebreaks **UPDATED**

    Today's game was very strange, and a close shave for Fabiano Caruana. Caruana had the white pieces and allowed the Sveshnikov again, and Magnus Carlsen was the first to deviate. The first deviation was 8...Ne7 instead of 8...Nb8 as played in games 8 and 10, and then 12...h5 was a novelty of sorts.

    But only of sorts: the move was known as a general idea, when Black had played 11...Qb8 rather than 11...Bf5, and it had also been played in a TCEC game this year between Houdini and Stockfish. Caruana was nevertheless unprepared for this, and already started burning time on the clock. He had an opportunity to kill the game by making a draw by repetition, and he repeated once before continuing.

    This was a brave decision, but it could have been a very costly one. He was behind on the clock (and fell further and further back as the game progressed into the middlegame), underprepared, and was progressively outplayed. But then Carlsen started playing badly, perhaps in part because he never slowed down as his advantage grew. Caruana would have been in big trouble - very possibly just losing - after 25...b5 or 25...exf4 26.Bxf4 b5, and later (though perhaps slightly less severely) in case of 29...Ba4 30.Rcc1 b5.

    And then on move 31, with a position that was still better and still contained some promise, Carlsen offered a draw. I wasn't watching the live stream, but it's possible that Caruana dislocated his shoulder by reaching out too quickly to offer a handshake. There was no risk to speak of, not to mention a hefty lead on the clock and at least mild time trouble for Caruana. Carlsen's "favorite historical player" - himself several years ago - wouldn't have let Caruana off the hook like this, but would have kept trying.

    He didn't, and so after a final rest day the match will be settled, one way or another, and even if every single game finishes in a draw, on Wednesday. The procedure, as you might recall from the Kramnik-Topalov, Anand-Gelfand, and Carlsen-Karjakin matches is to play four rapid (25'+10") games. That was enough to settle the three aforementioned matches, but in case it's still tied after this they'll play best-of-two blitz mini-matches (5'+3"). There will be no more than five such mini-matches, and if it's still tied at that point they'll end the madness with an Armageddon game. White will have five minutes, Black four, and a three-second increment starting from move 61. Black will have draw odds in that game, so even if all 27 games in the match finish in a draw there will at least be a match winner.

    Carlsen's rapid rating is 91 points higher than Caruana's, but in their rapid games with each other the score is an even 2-2, with draws. In blitz, by contrast, Carlsen is 172 points higher and has a big plus score, so while anything can happen in a two-game blitz mini-match, Caruana's best chance will be to win the rapid.

    Here's today's game, without notes. (Analysis will come later.)

    **UPDATE** Here's the game, with my analysis.

    Monday
    Nov262018

    Ken Regan on the Match Through Game 11

    Here is an excellent recap of some aspects of the match by IM and computer science professor Ken Regan, focusing especially on game 6 and chess engines. Definitely worth your time!

    Sunday
    Nov252018

    Alpha Zero on the Carlsen-Caruana Match

    Thanks to GM Matthew Sadler, Alpha Zero has been analyzing the games of the Carlsen-Caruana World Championship match, and you see his commentary and some of the analysis here.

    Saturday
    Nov242018

    World Championship, Game 11: Draw #11

    Is Magnus Carlsen already playing for the tiebreak? He did go into a main line against Fabiano Caruana's Petroff, but his 12.Kb1 Qa5 13.c4 went into an ending that caused the challenger only minimal problems. The game went to move 55, but the draw was a heavy favorite from move 16 on. Carlsen managed to reach a pawn-up opposite-colored bishop ending, one in which there was only one test Caruana needed to pass, and he did.

    My guess is that Carlsen has no confidence in his preparation in a classical context, so he's saving some interesting ideas for the rapid (and, if necessary, blitz) games when Caruana may not have enough time to work out any little surprises. Before he gets there, however, he'll have to survive with Black in game 12. That game will be on Monday - Sunday is a rest day - and if it's still tied they'll have another rest day on Tuesday before finishing the match on Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, here's the game, with my abbreviated comments.

    Friday
    Nov232018

    World Championship, Game 10: Another, Tense, Draw

    The tension ramps up as the draws continue. Happy day-after-Thanksgiving, readers, and please excuse my Thanksgiving-related delay in posting about this game.

    It was Fabiano Caruana's turn to play White, and as in game 8 it was a Sveshnikov Sicilian. The first 11 moves were repeated, and then Caruana varied from 12.Bd2 with 12.b4, immediately implementing the typical plan of queenside expansion. Magnus Carlsen went for a blocking plan with 12...a6 followed by 13...a5, and then started his kingside play on move 16.

    The race was on, initially in White's favor, and on move 24 Caruana missed the one and only chance either player had in this game. Instead of the defensively-minded 24.g3 he should have greedily grabbed a pawn with 24.Bxb5. The point is not so much to take a pawn as to make the a-pawn a beast. Missing (or more likely, rejecting) this one opportunity, the game remained tense and complicated almost to the very end, but both players showed excellent form. A complicated middlegame gave way to a tricky and unbalanced double rook ending, and only well into the second time control did it fizzle out to a draw. (My analysis of the game can be replayed here.)

    The players have a rest day today, and the penultimate game takes place tomorrow (Saturday). After that the usual pattern is broken and there will be one more rest day before the last game on Monday. (Or rather, the last game if the match doesn't finish in a tie. If it does there will be one more rest day followed by tiebreaks on Wednesday.)