WCC 2018 Rd 2: Black wins the opening battle once again, Magnus manages to withstand Fabiano's prep
Fabiano Caruana catches Magnus Carlsen off-guard with 10...Rd8!? 1.0-1.0. Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

WCC 2018 Rd 2: Black wins the opening battle once again, Magnus manages to withstand Fabiano's prep

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In the 2nd round of World Chess Championship 2018, the nearly four-hour game was significantly 'shorter' than the previous round. Once again, Black won the opening battle, became the aggressor, won time with each move, went into a pawn up rook ending, once again the game ended as a draw. Oh, déjà vu! The only difference was- the players were sitting on reversed chairs.

"This seems to be a trend in modern chess, you have a lot of freedom to maneuver as Black," notes Caruana, about the 2nd side pressing in both the games. The first surprise was employed by Carlsen, as he pushed the d-pawn. But the 'real' surprise came as late as move 10, when Caruana uncorked the rare 10...Rd8!?


Game 2 commences! Source: ChessBase India

After successfully surprising Caruana in round 1 with the Sicillian, a rare guest in WCC matches, Carlsen once again sprung a slight surprise, playing 1.d4. And after that? The game went into the theoretical waters of the QGD, which along with Ruy Lopez, is the ‘King of WCC matches’. (Oh, I might have to correct it to queen here. You get what I mean! )

Starting from 10...Rd8, Magnus began to burn loads of time on his clock, as he tried to figure his way out. When asked about Fabiano's surprise, he seems unfazed: "It tells me he's willing to go his own way and not follow mainline theory, which is nothing new obviously."

Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano used his famed opening preparation to good today, and more than equalized out of the opening. Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Then, Magnus got a chance to complicate matters with the sacrifice 17.Nxf7!? which would take the game into muddy waters, but that certainly seemed committal when you are more than 45 mins behind on the clock. Both the players agreed that this was leading to nothing for White.

"I have some aggressive instincts!" Carlsen noted about the question of him not playing 17.Nxf7. He adds: "I just couldn't make it work... I thought at this point there is just way better equity in playing it safe."

Then, suddenly by move 20 it seemed that Magnus has solved all his opening problems. (Seems weird to say when you play White? ) But a couple of inaccuracies by the champ meant that he was fated to an unpleasant complex of ugly pawns. He held on though, and Caruana could not pose much problems with his extra pawn in the rook endgame.

An uncomfortable day at office for King Magnus. Photo: Niki Raga/Chess24

Caruana though, did not press Magnus as "revenge" for the day before, understandably not trying for more since there is no clear way to proceed.

Despite all the pressure, Fabiano has been in his usual calm and composed body state. His face remains stoic as well, with no expressions! Photo: Niki Raga/Chess24

At the end of the day, it was the same result.. though Fabiano is definitely the happier man. But it still remains a very open question, who has the psychological edge?

It's been an exciting two rounds so far. This incredible start is a precedent for what is to come in the next few days!

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus with his second Peter Heine Nielsen and father Henrik Carlsen. Oh, it is raining heavily in London! Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

The match has been very exciting so far, with both players throwing surprises at the other. The theoretical battles are becoming really interesting, and I cannot wait to see the next rounds! Yesterday was a rest day, play will resume from today, 12th November.

A big question is if Magnus' Sicillian was a one-off, or will he use it as his main weapon for this championship?

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Both players have switched initiatives in the two games. We could not have had any better opening games! Time for detailed analysis on the game now. Photo: Chess.com.

Analysis by @vinniethepooh