What If Carlsen And Caruana Were Martial Arts Fighters?
GM Serper examines a metaphor.

What If Carlsen And Caruana Were Martial Arts Fighters?

| 39 | Chess Players

One of the leading Russian newspapers, "Izvestia," has published an interview with the president of the Russian Chess Federation and captain of the Russian Olympic team, Andrey Filatov. This interview got my attention when Filatov claimed that Fabiano Caruana's chances to beat Magnus Carlsen in the upcoming world chess championship are 60 to 40!

And here comes the most interesting part of the interview:

Andrey Filatov (AF): The main reason for this forecast is that Fabiano has learned how to destroy Magnus' ego.

Izvestia: Can you please elaborate?

AF: As the chief coach of the national team, I can say that today chess players have begun to work in a different direction. All professionals are looking for the ways to destroy their rival's ego. They try to choose the openings, the style of play that causes discomfort to their opponents. They try to find the opponent's weak spot and constantly hit him there. [...] I will give you an example from mixed martial arts. Khabib Nurmagomedov won the fight against Conor McGregor, but his ego was destroyed. He could not withstand all the [insults by McGregor] and his team, which led to an emotional outburst and his jump outside of the octagon, which cost our fighter very dearly.

carlsen vs caruana chess

Carlsen vs Caruana.

While the psychological aspect of chess is nothing new (remember Bobby Fischer's famous quote: "I like the moment when I break a man's ego!"), the comparison of chess and martial arts made me think. The interview clearly suggests that in the chess version of the latest UFC lightweight championship, Caruana is McGregor and Carlsen is Khabib. The more I think about it the more it looks to me that it is the other way around.

Here is a simple example. Who will ever forget McGregor's famous entrance?

What's an entrance for a chess player? Why, the opening of course! I cannot imagine Caruana playing an opening like this. And what about Carlsen? Here it is, enjoy!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea! Nevertheless, don't hold your breath waiting for an opening like this in the world championship match. Carlsen has definitely prepared a well-thought-out opening strategy for the match. For starters, some openings that Caruana plays really well will be out. It is good news for those chess fans who cringe when they hear "Berlin Defense." 

Carlsen tried this opening against Caruana already:

It is a well-known fact that Carlsen's legendary technique is the strongest side of his chess. Nevertheless, relying on pure technique didn't work quite well in many of Carlsen's games vs. Caruana. Look at the following diagram. Can you imagine Carlsen losing a position like this against any human player? And yet, that's exactly what happened:

Therefore, I suspect that in this match, Carlsen will try to get unbalanced positions right out of openings, just like he did playing Caruana before. So, while the Berlin is out, we might see something like this:

I know, it is just blitz, but in their games with a regular time control Carlsen was also frequently looking for opening adventures:

If we further use the martial arts analogy, Carlsen is going to avoid clinch fighting in this match. Instead he is probably going to adopt Muhammad Ali's advice: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!"

While I can be completely wrong in my strategy forecast, I am absolutely sure about one thing: It is going to be a very exciting match!

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