Chess Championship: why Carlsen must fear his opponent this time

Chess Championship: why Carlsen must fear his opponent this time
  • Defending champion Magnus Carlsen and American Fabiano Caruana will face each other in the final of the World Chess Championship.
  • The duel is eagerly awaited as both finalists have very different strengths.
  • "This time it's the real duel," says Carlsen.

As for the last time an American chess player fought for the world title, that was one thing for the big politics. The moody genius Bobby Fischer was adamant to compete against Boris Spasskij in Reykjavík in July 1972 because he did not like the general conditions. So Henry Kissinger, then National Security Advisor, called him and said, "America wishes you to go and defeat the Russians." Although there are divided opinions, whether Kissinger appeal was decisive or at least the short-term increase in the prize money. Anyway, Fischer went there and won, it became an epic duel, and in the middle of the Cold War, a battle of systems shifted to the board.

Forty-six years later, Fabian Caruana, 26, is once again contesting a World Cup match for American chess player. From this Friday on Holborn College in the heart of London, he challenges Norwegian champion Magnus Carlsen, 27. But no-one from around the US president has had to incite him to appear, and the prize money is also half-okay with a million dollars. The sport of chess is still extremely politicized, as recently showed the election of the long-time Russian top politician Arkady Dvorkovich as president of the World Chess Federation (Fide). But the World Cup duel itself does not electrify because of any political implications, but from a purely sporting perspective.

The technician on the board

Fabiano Caruana does not play as artistic and intuitive as other chess, he is considered a meticulous inventor. If he fights for the World Cup title in the winter, maybe the US will be enthusiastic about the sport.

By Johannes Aumüller

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Because even if that may sound strange in a World Cup match, the attraction of this encounter is not least in the fact that for the first time in a long time the two undoubtedly best players compete against each other for the title of thinker. "This time it's the real duel," Carlsen says even before his fourth world title fight since 2013.

The chess strengths of the finalists are different

It should also be so interesting because the combatants differ in many ways. Carlsen has long been a well-marketed sports pop star who likes to present himself self-confidently, but also acts moodily. Caruana, on the other hand, who started at the beginning of his career for Italy, is more reluctant. The chess strengths are also different: Carlsen lives in particular from his intuition and from the fact that he can estimate positions in the advanced stage of a game better than others. Caruana describes herself as someone who does not act so much on feeling, but rather approaches science.

There is no clear favorite. Carlsen suspects that his five-year dominance has gone somewhat to his head. Caruana has been in strong form over the past few months, moving up to three points in the world rankings. But in the direct duels dated his last of a total of five wins against the Norwegian from 2015.

Twelve games are scheduled in the next two and a half weeks, each can take six, seven hours. If there is a draw after that, the decision in rapid chess games with extremely reduced thinking time. This is to be avoided from Caruanas view absolutely. For in rapid chess Carlsen is considered a lot better.

A silent killer brings the decision

With a seemingly inconspicuous move, Fabiano Caruana takes his opponent's game ideas. And then follows an unpleasant attack. The balance sheet for the Candidates tournament in Berlin.

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