World Chess Championship

I’ve written about chess a couple times in 2016: here and here.  Hopefully I’ve earned my chops to be able to take on this topic: a brief write up of the World Chess Championship. The biggest challenges in writing about this will be to do the topic justice while also not making the post boring. I’ll let you decide if I succeeded.

The World Chess Championship concluded recently. And it was a doozy…


Reigning Champion: Magnus Carlsen

Muskegon loves chess Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen
Credit Morten Rakke/FilmRise

Born Sven Magnus Øen Carlsen in Tønsberg, Vestfold, Norway, Magnus is the quintessential chess prodigy. He became a grandmaster at age 13, the third youngest in history. He bears the nickname “the Mozart of Chess”, a well deserved moniker for the 26 year old.

He defeated Viswanathan Anand in the 2013 World Chess Championship and again in the rematch in 2014.

His current ratings can be seen in the info-graphic below.



The Challenger: Sergey Karjakin

Muskegon loves chess Sergey Karjakin
Sergey Karjakin
Credit: Baku, 2016. Photo Fide World Chess Cup.

Born Серге́й Алекса́ндрович Каря́кин in Simferopol, Ukraine, Sergey also is a chess prodigy. He learned to play at age 5 and became an international master at 11 years old. He has won numerous championships such as the Norway Chess Championship, the World Rapid Chess Championship and the Chess World Cup 2015. His ratings are below:



Background: Chess championship location, rules, etc

Fulton Market Building, NY
Fulton Market Building, NY

The host city for the 2016 FIDE World Chess Championship was New York. A space within the Fulton Market Building was turned into a chess auditorium for our two gladiators.

The games were scheduled from November 11th through November 30th. There were two days on, one day off until 12 games were played. If you win a game, you score 1 point; if you tie, you score ½ a point; if you lose, you score 0 points. The first to 6.5 points is declared the winner. If the match ends with both players at 6.0 points, a lightning round of tie breakers are held.

The opening move took place on Friday, November 11th. The heavy favorite to win it all was Magnus…


Games 1 through 7: All tied up at 3.5

Muskegon love chess
Game 1 caricature
Credit: Wada Lupe @Chess24

Despite being the heavy favorite, Magnus could not subdue Karjakin quickly. The opening game set the stage for the whole match: a draw.

Indeed, the two would continue to force stalemates through 7 games. I won’t bore  you with the move-by-move analysis. But Sergey threw every opening he had at Magnus. Magnus kept beating him to a draw.


Game 8 Karjakin takes 4.5 to 3.5 lead


There’s a computer system used in the highest levels of chess playing. This system is called Smartfish. People often use it to test different positions and openings. It’s used by spectators to test the strength of the moves being made in a game they are watching. In game 8, Smartfish predicted Magnus making another escape with the given position. However, the position proved too difficult to navigate for a human. Sergey forced Magnus’ capitulation after 52 moves.

The game was afoot!


Game 10: Magnus wins, standings now 5 to 5

Game 10 Position
Game 10 Position
Credit: 538

Game 9 was another draw.

But in game 10, Magnus came roaring back. He turned a small positional advantage into a victory, a common theme in his chess career.

Several times in the game, Sergey could have forced a draw but didn’t see the complex moves required to make it happen, with the time crux and all.


Games 11 and 12: two more draws

Teenage chess prodigies
Teenage chess prodigies
Karjakin and Carlsen in 2006

Games 11 and 12 were draws. Magnus Carlsen maneuvered to force the draws, believing he could win in the lightning tie-breakers.

Due to international rules, there can be no draw until 30 moves have been taken, game 12 was particularly ugly. No finesse, just forcing a draw.

Magnus got his draw and the match went into a tie-breaker round.


The dust clears and Magnus wins again!

Image result
Flag of Norway

The rules for the “lightning” round are: you get 25 minutes per game + 10 seconds per move. The clock starts as soon as your opponent finishes his move. You lose if you run out of time.

And Magnus is the master end games and rapid play. The tie-breaker lasted four games. The first two were draws. But Magnus won games 3 and 4. The chess world breathed a sigh of relief, their heavy favorite won. And what a birthday present: Magnus turned 26 on the same day!

But Sergey Karjakin’s performance was outstanding. I really like his chances in the coming years.



If you are interested in learning more about these two brilliant young men or about the hobby of chess, click on the links below.


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