- Carlsen and Caruana play to 55-move draw –as it happened
- Best-of-12-games match knotted at 5½-all after 11 draws
- Carlsen on opening surprise: ‘I just decided to shut it down’
Bryan Armen Graham-The Guardian
The penultimate scheduled contest of Magnus Carlsen’s world championship title defense against Fabiano Caruana fizzled out practically before liftoff on Saturday, ending in a simple two-and-a-quarter-hour draw to leave their best-of-12-games match knotted at 5½-all with one game remaining.
“I’m not thrilled, obviously,” the 27-year-old champion from Norway said. “I got surprised in the opening and just decided to shut it down. It wasn’t great but it’s no disaster. Now I’ve just got to play well in one more classical and see what happens.”
Said Caruana: “Nothing really happened today.”
World Chess Championship 2018
Carlsen, as white, played into Caruana’s Petroff with an opening line that paralleled their August meeting at the Sinquefield Cup, which ended in a draw. The American challenger and world No 2 was first to deviate, castling on the kingside (7. O-O) instead of the Nc6 he’d played in St Louis.
A briefly promising double-edge position took shape with (8. Qd2 Nd7 9. O-O-O Nf6 10. Bd3 c5), but Carlsen expended 23 minutes on his next two moves (11. Rhe1 Be6 12. Kb1 Qa5) and admitted he’d been thrown for a curve once more by Caruana’s exhaustively researched opening preparation and not for the first time during the fortnight. Eventually the champion offered up a queen exchange with 13. c4 and the ladies were off the board (13. … Qxd2 14. Bxd2), abruptly stripping the tension from the affair.
Carlsen and Caruana played to a simple draw in Game 11.
“I wasn’t pleased from the opening and then after that I just wanted to play it safe,” Carlsen said. “I was trying to push a little bit, but it’s nothing real. In this match situation I thought there was no reason to go crazy.”
The action soon entered an opposite-colored bishop endgame which Caruana held with no problems before consenting to a 55-move draw after two hours and 13 minutes, the shortest game of the match so far.
The 11 straight draws represent the longest streak of games to open a match without a decisive result in the recognized 132-year history of world championship play. The previous mark was set during the 1995 meeting between Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand, which started with eight consecutive draws before Kasparov broke through en route to a 10½-7½ victory.
The players will look forward to another rest day on Sunday before the competition resumes on Monday at the College in Holborn with Game 12, where a decisive result could lift the winner over the 6½-point threshold and determine an outright winner in the €1m ($1.14m) showdown.
“There’s a lot riding on the last game,” said the 26-year-old Caruana, who will play with the white pieces in a one-off that could make him only the second American-born player to capture the world championship after Bobby Fischer in 1972. “It will be very tense for both of us. I’m not going to go crazy or anything, of course, but I will try to put pressure on him.”
He added: “What can I say? It’s going to be a tough game. At this point the tension is sort of at its peak. If I knew what would happen I would tell you.”
Should Monday’s final classical game end in another bloodless result, Carlsen will be a prohibitive favorite in Wednesday’s tie-breaker, which consists of a series of games under tighter time controls. The Norwegian, who in addition to his No 1 ranking is the world’s top rated rapid player and top rated blitz player (compared to Caruana’s respective ratings of No 8 and No 16), is unbeaten in tie-breakers over the last 13 years.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Carlsen, who extended a career-high streak of 16 straight draws stretching back to last month’s European Club Cup in Porto Carras, Greece. “A lot depends on what (Caruana) wants to do. If he wants to shut it down then that’s fine by me, we’ll play rapid (on Wednesday).
“Otherwise we’ll have a fight.”