World Chess Championship Game 3: Caruana Repeats Rossolimo But Can't Break Carlsen
In round three, Fabiano Caruana couldn't get anything with white, but at least he didn't suffer like in round one. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

World Chess Championship Game 3: Caruana Repeats Rossolimo But Can't Break Carlsen

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Nov 12, 2018, 3:23 PM |
52 | Chess Event Coverage

In sport, the "Magnus Effect" creates curves where there would otherwise be straight lines, but for Magnus Carlsen, it's another flat trajectory to his world championship defense. Just like in 2016, a series of draws has opened the 2018 world chess championship, but this time Fabiano Caruana is creating the vacuum.

In today's round three, both sides had a whisper of a chance. According to Carlsen, his opponent's came in the form of a single move. When that was missed, Carlsen got to apply some pressure himself. Neither man could break through.

Magnus Carlsen

The "Lebron James of Chess" struts in with his own "crossover" step. How does it compare? | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Carlsen's disappointment in the opening was similar to round two, except this time he was even more laconic and family-friendly. Instead of cursing with "oh shit" as he verbalized on Saturday, this time he was asked if he was satisfied with the opening and he said simply, "nope."

For the third game in a row, Black had more winning chances, but again equality won the day. The score is now 1.5-1.5 with three draws. Well, for the champ, it was actually his fourth draw in four days, if you count his attendance at yesterday's 0-0 tie between Chelsea and Everton.

Magnus Carlsen Fabiano Caruana

Carlsen gets the dominant grip in the handshake before he got the slightly-less-than-dominant endgame. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Caruana arrived again with a few spots of rain on his sport coat, but that wasn't the most important repetition. He again faced the Sicilian with the Rossolimo Variation, but this time opted for 6. 0-0 instead of 6. h3 as in game one.

"I thought we were more or less on our own early on," Caruana said.

It looked a bit like a 2015 encounter between the two at Tata Steel, where the American would rule the mostly-useless queenside while Carlsen nearly mated on the kingside. Since Carlsen won that one in 39 moves, clearly a deviation was necessary. Today most of the play revolved around the open a-file (for more on Carlsen's victory in that game, you can skip to 10:50 in this Chess.com video analysis).

Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano Caruana said that despite its lofty stage, the match has settled in to his normal tournament routine at this point. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

But today Caruana erred with a lackadaisical choice of move orders. Instead of trading rooks on move 15, then playing 16. Bd2 and 17. Qa1, he inverted the move order and played the bishop development first. He forgot that trading was not mandatory, and after the Norwegian calmly retreated the rook back home, the file was shared.

"I just made one really, really bad move," Caruana said. "It was just a blackout."

"Clearly after 17. Qa1, Black is nowhere near equality," Carlsen said of the planned sequence he expected of his opponent. "The black position is fairly solid but I'm not going to equalize the game anytime soon. White's going to have all the fun...I thought I was just in for a long day. Obviously a few moves later I was much happier."

Magnus Carlsen

Carlsen has won the facial expression battle, and this one did not lie. He was not pleased with his opening. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

All the heavies then came off the board in a hurry, even swinging the pendulum back toward Carlsen. However, he never quite got a passer on the kingside. Even the space advantage and bishop-for-knight ending wasn't enough to break the game or match deadlock. Caruana then simplified into a rook-pawn ending with "wrong-color bishop," which immediately led to a handshake and surely more than a few beginner Norwegian fans wondering why their hero wasn't winning.

Don't phone the local TV station; instead read about the ending here and then give it a shot yourself to see if you also have a piece of your hero's endgame knowledge.

sam shankland world championship chess

"I think Carlsen could have tortured me a little bit more," Caruana said, adding that he kind of expected his opponent to shuffle pieces around before trading pawns on e4. For his part, Carlsen didn't see anything coming of that idea.

As usual, if Russian schoolboy knowledge is more your thing, Alex Yermolinsky's baritone has you covered:

Carlsen also dispelled the notion that anything improper happened with the touch-move rule. At one point, with Caruana away from the board, Carlsen adjusted his knight on d7. Despite some initial theories on Twitter, later the Norwegian broadcasters slowed down the video and showed that the champ did indeed voice that he was adjusting the piece (some top GMs mentioned they don't bother to do this when their opponent is not at the board, but then, those likely aren't situations where tens of thousands of people are watching your every breath!). 

Magnus Carlsen

Before he broke out his Patagonia jacket again when it got cold, Carlsen was back to rocking the grey suit again. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Before he was directly asked about it at the press conference, Carlsen seemed aware that this issue had been raised. He did something uncommon for him, or for any chess press conference. After answering the question about the topic ("I said 'j'adoube,' so there was nothing there"), journalists then posed a different question to Caruana, then Carlsen took it upon himself to bring the issue back up after his opponent had finished his answer.

"I very much understand the hunger for stories," Carlsen said. But he said there are two arbiters present that also have access to video. "I don't really understand what all the fuss is about."

Indeed, before the round, chief arbiter Stephane Escafre joked with the press corps that there was no need to take his picture, because if it was needed, then something had gone wrong. Well, let's include him, if only to dispel any wayward theories once and for all:

So now that three games have gone by, how is the challenger feeling about his first-ever extended match, that also happens to have chess immortality on the line?

"I don't know if I'd call it 'fun,'" Caruana said. "It's definitely an experience that I'm happy that I'm having. It's quite a new one, but it also starts to feel like a normal tournament very quickly. The first game, and especially the start of the first game, was really a novel experience, but now it feels pretty normal. You prepare and you play."

Fabiano Caruana

Unlike round one, today's first move was also more "normal." The guest of honor got Caruana's wishes right—1. e4. But the challenger inspected it carefully after the opening-round snafu! | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Carlsen has of course been down this world-championship road several times before. He seems to be deriving more enjoyment from the experience.

"Yeah, I mean, otherwise I wouldn't be here," Carlsen said about whether he liked being the focal point of the chess world. "It's obviously tough, and there's obviously a lot of pressure. But I try to enjoy this as much as I can. That's for sure. Otherwise it's hard to last."

Magnus Carlsen

Looking to the heavens for answers? Actually Carlsen just wanted to see the moves on the big board.  | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

If you're wondering who another top player is rooting for, you might be surprised. Despite his poor head-to-head record against him, and his two losses in Speed Chess Championship Finals, Hikaru Nakamura is pulling for the champ and not his own countryman. His reason is simple: Nakamura thinks it would be "a little bit odd" for a world champion to "not (be) as strong" in rapid and blitz as he is in classical.

"Historically it would be little bit off if Magnus doesn't win," Nakamura said while playing Tata Steel India.

The Norwegian media outlet VG asked Caruana about Nakamura's comments, to which the fellow American replied: "Hikaru has his own opinions. I wasn't really expecting that. But he can say what he wants."

For the third consecutive round, World Chess has not released the replay of the post-round press conference, despite promises to the contrary for media to have access. There is one area that they've been more consistent. Despite World Chess CEO Ilya Merenzon saying after round two that overcrowding is "not going to be an issue [all of] the next nine rounds," the system from the weekend round was back in place on a Monday:

null

Like the Rossolimo, 30-minute time slots to watch the players returned today at the world championship. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Special thanks to Tarjei Svensen and GM Jonathan Tisdall for helping with this report.

To follow the match, Chess.com has extensive coverage, including daily reports on game days right here on Chess.com/news. You can catch all of the moves live at Chess.com/wcc2018 and watch Chess.com's best-known commentators, IM Danny Rensch and GM Robert Hess, on either Twitch.tv/Chess or Chess.com/TV. Special guests, including Hikaru Nakamura, Hou Yifan, 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 Chess.com). 

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 Chess.com members, on each rest day. 


Previous reports:

More from FM MikeKlein
Caruana Back In Action For 4-Man London Chess Classic

Caruana Back In Action For 4-Man London Chess Classic

On The Ground And In The Air: Fabiano The Dog Walker, Skydiving Chess

On The Ground And In The Air: Fabiano The Dog Walker, Skydiving Chess