Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Carlsen and Caruana have played an underwhelming match

Tomorrow the world chess championship will be decided in London by a succession of games played at increasingly fast time limits.

It's an unsatisfactory to decide the game's ultimate honour - rather like deciding a drawn Ashes series with a Twenty20 game.

And there have been several problems with the match between the reigning champion, Norway's Magnus Carlsen, and his challenger, Fabiano Caruana from the United States.

Carlsen has seemed out of sorts, particularly after failing to convert a favourable position in the first game. In the final game he offered the draw that took the game into a fast play off rather than press for victory in another good position.

All 12 games in the match were drawn, which was disappointing for the chess enthusiasts watching around the world. Games between top players often do end in draws, but this was an unprecedented streak of them.

A 12-game match seems too short to me, making players afraid of losing. Fischer and Spassky was a 24-game match and that length makes it possible for a player to take a risk, lose and still come back to win the match.

And there were complaints about the expense of tickets and the facilities offered to spectators who went to watch live.

Carlsen is the favourite to win tomorrow as he is a significantly stronger at fast speeds than is Caruana. But note the words of a former champion.

Whoever wins tomorrow, I suspect the match will have dented Carlsen's aura of effortless invincibility.

And the number of draws has been in part a reflection of how hard it now is to surprise your opponent in the opening when everyone has access to powerful computers.

A good new move used to be played and debated round the world for months or years. These days everyone (apart from the player facing it) knows the best reply as soon has it is played.

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