World Chess Championship Game 2: Carlsen 'Grovels' To Draw After Caruana's Opening Surprise
In about half the time as yesterday, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana drew in round two. | Photo: Mike Klein/

World Chess Championship Game 2: Carlsen 'Grovels' To Draw After Caruana's Opening Surprise

| 89 | Chess Event Coverage

A few hours before the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the two best chess players in the world also agreed to peace at the 2018 world chess championship. After round one's seven-hour battle, today the draw between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana came in about half that time.

There were some important similarities, however. Black was again the aggressor, and again enjoyed the surplus pawn in a rook ending. However, the challenger didn't press the position nearly as much as he was forced to endure yesterday.

Fabiano Caruana

Many pundits expected Fabiano Caruana to have more opening secrets than the champion, and today the American used his first. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Correcting the anecdotal lede from yesterday, Caruana said that it's actually not that easy getting food late at night in London. Score one for hunger pains today.

In round two, Carlsen labored out of the opening after 10...Rd8. He spent about 17 minutes on his response, despite being aware of the position one ply previously, correctly citing the 1978 title match between Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi.

In fact in Baguio City the two players reached the position after White's 10th move three times, with Karpov always Black. The champ played 10...Be7 twice and drew, but once played 10...Re8 with a fantastic knight sac that wasn't merely Tal-like. It was from the actual Mikhail Tal (Karpov's second)!

Carlsen said he saw a "very clear parallel" between his situation and Korchnoi's shock, despite the result going Korchnoi's way on that day. In fact, the generational difference worried him even more; he explained that his predicament could be even more dire since the weaponry was surely made partly of computer silicon and not just human ingenuity.

Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen: Looking over his shoulder and wondering which computer told Caruana to play 10...Rd8. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Despite all of that, Korchnoi did survive on that 21st match game and even won. The position after White's 10th is still theoretically relevant today. (Hikaru Nakamura played 10...Be7 against Sergey Karjakin at the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz earlier this year and drew.)

Carlsen seemed acutely aware of the 1978 games and only admitted to knowing about 10...Re8 and 10...Be7. Instead, Caruana uncorked the much less common 10...Rd8 and the Norwegian went into mental Svalbard to figure out what to do next. Actually, his reaction was a little less lyrical.

"Oh shit!" was Carlsen's recollection of his thought process when the rook landed on the queen's file. Both players agreed that the critical test was 11.Nd2 but Carlsen wanted something safer. Still, pretty soon after he admitted to be in "full grovel mode" to hold the balance after an oversight.

"15. Ne5 is just a miscalculation…I just missed 15...Bd6," he said.

Carlsen then accepted many ugly pawns in order to swap pieces and reach a worse but drawn rook ending. His position wasn't as desperate as Caruana's yesterday, but both players have now had the unfortunate experience of getting worse opening positions with White.

"This seems to be a trend in modern chess—you have a lot more freedom to maneuver as Black," Caruana said about the second side getting the better position two days in a row. He said computers are opening pathways rather than making repetitive games. "New variations keep popping up. There's a lot of creative freedom," he said. 

Sam Shankland

Carlsen had a little more to say about the chance to go for broke with 17. Nxf7?!

"I have some aggressive instincts!" He said. "I just couldn’t make it work…I thought at this point there is just way better equity in playing it safe."

Caruana also calculated the move and said, "It didn't really seem to be a problem." He noted that he had several moves at his disposal.

Here's Alex Yermolinsky's take on the game:

Carlsen might have been jolted by the 10th move, but on a meta-level, the idea of being surprised unfazed him. "It tells me he's willing to go his own way and not follow mainline theory, which is nothing new obviously," he said. 

Fabiano Caruana Danny King

Caruana and Danny King at the press conference. Will this duo represent two "kings" at month's end? | Photo: Mike Klein/

Despite the lack of winning chances today, the champ did add one improvement over round one. Whereas yesterday he donned a jacket mid-game, today he came more prepared and wore an undershirt for warmth.

"I don't think it's good for the game if people are freezing," he said.

Speaking of other weather-related matters, it rained for the second straight day in London. Today's downpour at game time was much heavier. Again, it seemed the champion's experience paid off. 

Compare Caruana's sportcoat moments after he sat down:

Fabiano Caruana

As we learned in round one, this one-time Brooklynite is a fan of hip-hop, so go on and brush your shoulders off. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Now witness Carlsen's technique. After three complete world-championship matches, he's been through the metaphorical and actual storm before:

Magnus Carlsen

You'd think Peter Heine Nielsen's height would make him perfect for umbrella-holding, but the Carlsens like to treat the hired help well. | Photo: Ole Kristian Strøm/VG.

One other non-sporting issue that popped up today was the weekend crowds. According to World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon, it sold more than the standard 250 tickets today to accommodate all of the requests (he guessed it was around 300).

As a result, guests paying for the standard ticket, which costs £70, were not given unlimited access to the area where you can watch the players. Instead, they received 30-minute time slots, but could get another slot if one became available, and could also get unlimited access after 6 p.m. (three hours into the round).

"The reason is that the capacity of the building is limited by law," Merenzon said. "On some days like weekends it is completely sold out. We gave people the ability to take turns so it is safe to be inside."

He said this was similar to the New York 2016 system (actually there it was standing-room only, and limited to 15 minutes on busy days, although there the viewing area was hardly a place you'd want to stand for hours on end). Unlike New York, there are more areas for fans to circulate, including about 50 seats available to watch the live commentary (which was off limits to spectators in 2016).

Ilya Merenzon

World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon (left) came in to the media room to explain the decisions of the day in regards to spectator access. | Photo: Mike Klein/

"It’s a little bit different to sell tickets to chess events as opposed to other sports events because the games can go so long and people don’t stick around for the whole event," Merenzon said.  "It’s a little bit of an inconvenience but when we measured how much time people watched players [in New York], it was only eight percent of the time.”

The fine print on the printed tickets does state that this limitation is a right that organizers may invoke. But it is not clear if this stipulation is apparent when purchasing the ticket, or instead only upon printing of the ticket.

Merenzon said today's invocation of 30-minute windows was his decision. He said he has to balance the desire for a larger site with proximity to central London (other larger arenas for the event were too far outside the city he claimed). This is not the only space issue facing the event. Merenzon did not invite most chess media to the opening ceremony, including Additionally, the media room is well over capacity, although a second cafe room has had signage added making it sort of a media annex.

"There is a tradeoff," he said.


To follow the match, has extensive coverage, including daily reports on game days right here on You can catch all of the moves live at and watch's best-known commentators, IM Danny Rensch and GM Robert Hess, on either or Special guests, including GMs Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, Sam Shankland and more will be joining the live coverage on different days. 

In addition, GM Alex Yermolinsky will be doing round-by-round wrap-up videos, available immediately after every round on all your favorite social platforms (Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and 

The current U.S. chess champion GM Sam Shankland will provide written, in-depth analysis of each game in our news reports.

GM Yasser Seirawan will share his thoughts on the match standings and inner workings of how the players are approaching each game with videos, exclusive to members, on each rest day. 

Previous reports:

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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