Carlsen vs Karjakin: The Final Countdown

Carlsen vs Karjakin: The Final Countdown

| 24 | Amazing Games

The most awaited chess event of the year is right in front of us, and there is definitely no lack of forecasts. Both professional players and amateurs have their opinions about the coming world championship match. Of course, we have discussed this subject here too. In trying to find the components that might influence the outcome of the match, we looked at variety of factors.

In this article, we found a weird correlation between Sergey Karjakin's chess results and the price of crude oil. (By the way, did you notice the recent slide in the price per barrel? Not good for the challenger!) But on the other side, as we noted here and here, the contender has something that cannot be underestimated.

There are things even less predictable than the price of oil. When Magnus Carlsen hit a slump about a year ago, we were looking for a possible explanation. Yes, our theory was far-fetched, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so, judging by this photo from Lada Lexus' Facebook page, she finally met her chess hero in person!

Now let's talk about pure chess. The games of both great players have been analyzed and re-analyzed in thousands of online and offline publications, so I want to look at their games from a different angle.

A modern tournament game between two super grandmasters is not what it used to be. Today it is sometimes very difficult even to say for sure when the game actually began. At first, it is a fight between the players' computers (also known as "home preparation").

Your motherboard is so ... insert caption in comment

Blitz chess is a totally different animal. Since grandmasters usually don't reveal their opening secrets in blitz games, such games are a true competition of calculation, intuition and strength of character! So, let's look at the blitz games between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin and see if they provide any patterns that we might see in their World Championship match. Here are some obvious conclusions:

1. In static positions (and especially in endgame positions where not many tactics can be found), Carlsen has a huge edge thanks to his trademark squeeze.

Carlsen's spirit animal?

2. When Karjakin initiates an attack, it usually backfires no matter how promising it looks:

While the following game is not a blitz game (it is a blindfold encounter), it is probably the best illustration of the concept:
3. Karjakin waits until Carlsen strikes first and then counterattacks:

Evidently  both players have pretty limited first-strike capabilities!

Based on their blitz encounters, it looks like the best strategy for Karjakin is going to be to lure Carlsen's pieces forward and then hit them with a counterattack! We already discussed this strategy in a separate article.

While the result of these blitz games between Carlsen and Karjakin is more or less in line with the heavy odds given by bookmakers (their recent forecast gave Carlsen a 78.79% chance to win), as I explained in my previous article, I don't think the real situation is that bleak for the challenger. If he strategically chooses the openings that give him good chances to strike with an unexpected counterattack, then the match could bring us some surprises.

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