'A 3-Hour Tour, A 3-Hour Tour': Double Death Match Features Caruana, Trent

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

For the last Death Match, the two competitors, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, combined for more than 5500 Elo points. You might think that's about as high as things can go, but you'd be wrong.

How does 10,000 points sound?

On Thursday, February 4th, for the first time ever, will host two Death Matches on the same day. That's not the only novelty. One set of players is linked by professional management, while the others work at this web site.

As if that's still not enough, for the first time will "mic up" two players, and have the other two play with odds! This is not your father's Death Match. Members who've followed all 34 matches with more or less the same format will need some explanation of all this newness.

First, the lineups. The initial match will be contested by Vice-President IM Danny Rensch, who will attempt to become only the third person ever to win two Death Matches (GMs Andreikin and Nakamura have done this already). He will face fellow IM-turned-commentator Lawrence Trent, and the winner of this match will tip the historical scales in favor of either the U.S. or international team -- in head-to-head Death Matches, Americans and internationals have each won seven matches.

The main event and the undercard. Unlike a Las Vegas prize fight, they're both guaranteed to "go the distance," which is three hours each.

Both have the gift of gab (their wit is charming or scathing, depending on the need), and that will be on display too. Rensch and Trent will banter at each other while playing live. Members will be able to listen to the kibitzing from the same stream.

"Get ready for as much trash talk, and hopefully some decent chess, as you've ever seen during a blitz Death Match," Rensch said, already throwing the first salvo.

IM Lawrence Trent shortly after being told who is opponent was (kidding -- the frequent commentator was "on the clock" here at the 2015 Millionaire Open).

After that match concludes, the man who employs Trent will take over after only a short break in the action. GM Fabiano Caruana, who is managed by Trent, will grab the mouse for his own three hours of blitz and bullet. staff member and frequent article writer, analysis provider and commentator GM Robert Hess will oppose him. 

This makes February 4 the real-life equivalent of "Gilligan's Island." There will be two three-hour tours on the same day, with playing the role of the S.S. Minnow.

Trent was even more excited than his boss after Caruana beat Nakamura in 2015's Showdown in St. Louis.

Caruana and Hess are childhood friends, but in recognition of the *slight* difference in rating these days, Caruana will spot Hess three games (one in each of the time controls). This is the first time that one player will give odds to another in a Death Match.

Since both are of the American federation, their final tally won't affect the U.S. versus international total, but Caruana will also be vying to become the third man to win two Death Matches (he won Death Match 15 in 2013). For Hess, he'll try to avoid the ignominy of losing his third Death Match (he's already the only person to lose two).

While commentating Robert Hess signals Tania Sachdev with the "right ear tug" but the commentator will be on his own February 4.

This time around Hess is not distracted by college (he graduated from Yale last year), and you could also say that he's got the home-field advantage of playing on Consider: Hess has played 3400+ blitz games and 5000+ bullet games on the live server. Caruana's played about a tenth of that (about 300 games of blitz and 600 of bullet).

The first of the two matches - the battle of international master commentators - will start at 9 a.m. Pacific (UTC -8), which is noon New York, and 5 p.m. London. With only one hour scheduled between the two matches (likely less with all of the interviews), the Caruana-Hess odds match is set to start at 1 p.m. Pacific, 4 p.m. New York, and 9 p.m. London.

Both can be seen live on or

Trent said last year that Caruana can almost bench press his own weight, but has yet to add feats of strength to Death Matches.

Though IMs Rensch and Trent have never played, perhaps they can be measured by a common opponent. Both are famous, or perhaps infamous, for their entertaining losses to GM Magnus Carlsen

First up we present Rensch, who despite knicking Carlsen for a solitary draw in five games of a 2-1 time odds match, also had to make fun of himself on ChessCenter for his shortest loss:

Trent, not to be outdone on the self-deprecation, was quick to say in a recent interview that helping Caruana with actual chess preparation could "jeopardize his career."

Trent also went down recently to Carlsen. Their odds were of the material variety. Thankfully for him no video seems to exist, but Trent himself reported the results via Twitter:

Trent actually won five games but the "bet" was to win at least 6.5/10, which he could not. (A further disclosure: Carlsen easily beat this author twice at 5-1 time odds, so the company of "disgraced" chess players is growing!)

Hess and Caruana, both spending large chunks of their formative years in New York City, met at least once in their early Argentina! This game played in the 2001 Pan-Am Junior Championship was relatively equal until Hess's king wandered the wrong way on move 22.

Feel free to give your predictions in the comments below. Who will talk a better game, Rensch or Trent? Was three games the right amount of odds for Caruana to give Hess? Let us know what you think!

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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