Since he became chess champion of the world in 2013 following his defeat of Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen, 27, can be described as the light of the chess world. He won the Rapid and Blitz World Chess Championships in 2014 and reached a peak FIDE rating of 2882 that same year, the highest in the history of the game.
Carlsen, Norwegian super-grand master and a prodigy, has many credits to his name. Again, he is defending his world championship title against the US’s Fabiano Caruana, 26, but this time the competition is stronger and wiser. At the time this column was completed, ten games had been completed in the 12-game series, and there had been ten draws. On each playing day, it’s another draw. Game 11 was scheduled to be played yesterday.
When only draws occur in a world championship match, the action is dull. However , there is a reason for the draws. Both players are evenly matched in rating points. When Bobby Fischer opposed Boris Spassky in 1972, he was 125 FIDE points above his opponent, although he was the challenger. He demonstrated his superiority over his opponent by out-thinking, out-witting and out-playing him in every phase of the game.
Carlsen cannot do this simply because he and Caruana are evenly matched in FIDE Elo points. Elo points give a candid assessment of how strong, and how sharp a player really is. Caruana understands the maze-like complications of modern opening theory, the electric tension of the middle game and the experiential precision of the ending. When Jose Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine contested their world championship match in 1927, FIDE had not yet introduced the Elo points system. The Elo system was introduced by Professor Arpad Elo, a Hungarian-American physics professor in 1970. It is still in use today and provides an accurate assessment of the computations.
Carlsen and Caruana both have a thorough understanding of the positions they play. You can see those positions reflected in their games. Both players are accurate. Their approaches are logical. These marks of creativity come out when you follow their games live on the internet.
If each game in the 12-game series is drawn, the match goes into the overtime Rapid and Blitz playoffs – speed chess. Carlsen is the Rapid and Blitz champion.
The 2018 World Chess Championship ends on November 28. Two days later, Carlsen celebrates his 28th birthday.