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Carlsen-Karjakin: What The Experts Say

Carlsen-Karjakin: What The Experts Say

It's prediction time for the big match that starts Friday. Chess.com asked experts from the chess world about their predictions for the match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin.

The first match game in New York between Carlsen and Karjakin, scheduled for this Friday, will be the 22nd time that the two players, both born in 1990, face each other for a classical game of chess. The Norwegian won four times, the Russian once, and 16 games ended in a draw.

Carlsen plays the match with a rating of 2853 behind his name, 29 points below his peak rating of 2.5 years ago. Karjakin is rated 2772 , which is 16 points behind his peak rating of July 2011.

With a rating difference of 81 points, Carlsen is the favorite if we only look at Elo. Do the experts agree? And, to what extent?

Before we give you their answers, we start with GM David Smerdon's analysis on the November FIDE ratings and what they imply for the match.

Surprisingly (at least to me), Magnus has a bigger lead on Sergey in the classical ratings than in either rapid or blitz, despite his reputation for being awesome at fast controls. The 81-point gap means his expected score in a single game is 61 percent. Statistically, that means his chances of winning a 12-game match outright are even higher: about 70 percent.

Sergey’s chances are about 14 percent, with a 16 percent chance of the match ending 6-6 and going to tie-breaks. In that case we can use the latest rapid ratings to work out the chances of Magnus winning the four-game rapid tie-break outright (49 percent) or of it ending 2-2 (34 percent) and going to blitz. Then we can use the blitz ratings…etc.

Summing it all up, if we swapped Magnus and Sergey for two computers with the same ratings as the two players, we’d expect the Carlsen computer to win the championship about 82 percent of the time. 

Of course, these stats don’t take into account a bunch of factors (like that the result of previous games can affect future performance, or Sergey’s awesome team and resources). You’d be crazy to think Magnus’ chances are that high in reality. But they’re probably still higher than Hillary [Clinton].

We've asked a number of experts about their predictions—a variety of writers, journalists and other chess personalities.

GM Maurice Ashley, chess commentator:

I think Magnus Carlsen will win in 11 games because he is clearly the stronger player and has more match experience.

IM Jovanka Houska, chess author (and soon commentator!):

I think Magnus will win in 12 (long!) games because he possesses extraordinary defending skills and psychologically he's just better at turning the pressure up in critical moments!

IM Jovanka Houska

GM Susan Polgar, former women's world champion:

I think Magnus will win in 11 games because he's Magnus .

Rex Sinquefield, founder & sponsor of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis:

Carlsen wins easily.

Mark Crowther, editor of The Week In Chess:
I think Carlsen will win in 10 games because he has never played better, and has far more match experience than Karjakin. There's no real reason not to believe the rating list, which suggests that there's a significant gap between them.

IM Nazi Paikidze, reigning U.S. women's champion:

I think Magnus Carlsen will win in 10 games because he is a stronger player—he also has experience playing and winning the world championship matches, an extremely important advantage.

IM Nazi Paikidze.

Leontxo Garcia, reporter for El Pais:
I think Carlsen will win in 11 games because he is a genius, and Karjakin is just brilliant.

GM Mihail Marin, chess author:
I think Carlsen will win in 10-11 games because he simply is the better player and knows how to avoid the opponent's’ specific preparation, which, if working, would partly neutralize the difference of strength.

GM David Smerdon, economics researcher:
I think Carlsen will win in 12 games because any member of the world’s elite, with the massive support available in Karjakin’s team, is capable of detonating at least one and maybe two prepared opening "bombs," which is why I think the match will go the distance. But in the end, over 12 games, Carlsen should prevail.

Kaja Marie Snare, chess reporter for Agon & NRK:
I think Magnus Carlsen will win in 12 games because as reigning champion and world number one he is the favorite, and it took him 10 games in 2013 and 11 in 2014. 10, 11, 12.

IM Lawrence Trent, chess commentator, manager of Fabiano Caruana:
I think Carlsen wins in 11 games because he is simply the better player and has proven that he can handle the tension of such an occasion.

GM Simon Williams, chess commentator & coach"
I think Magnus will win in 12 games because I feel that it will be a very close match. Much closer than people think due to Karjakin's opening preparation, which I expect will be excellent.

On average, the experts think that Carlsen will win the match in 11.1 games. But what about you, readers of Chess.com news section? What do you think?

Will Carlsen win, and if so, in more than 11 games, or fewer?

By the way, Bwin has the odds payout at 1.2 for Carlsen, and 4.40 for Karjakin. What are your odds for the following?

  1. Karjakin to win the match
  2. A Benoni to be played in this match
  3. A four-queens game to occur
  4. A promotion to a knight
  5. One game not be played at all, like during Fischer-Spassky and Kramnik-Topalov
  6. A 7-0 sweep by one of the players
  7. A checkmate on the board
  8. Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates to attend the match after all

Leave your list of odds in the comments! You are the real experts, after all. 

This report was co-written by FM Mike Klein.

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