Magnus Carlsen will remain the boy king of chess after retreating to the tiebreak stage against American challenger Fabiano Caruana, then easily shutting him down in the fast-paced format. The most dramatic World Chess Championship in some time is over, and Carlsen will pick up his fourth title just two days before his 28th birthday.
Carlsen and Caruana played to a tie in each of their first 12 games, a run which was capped off by a rather scandalous Game 12 in which Carlsen offered a draw early on and from a superior position. The chess world was shocked at Carlsen’s objectively lame decision not to try to win Game 12, but today’s result at least proves that his decision was sound. Carlsen took each of the first two rapid games today, winning the first in a 55-move grindfest, then taking the second in only half as many moves. The second tiebreaker game was the first time Carlsen really flexed on Caruana, and it effectively ended the American’s day early.
The first overtime phase of the World Championships if a best-of-four rapid chess bonanza (25 minutes on the clock plus 10 extra seconds per move), so Carlsen just needed not to lose both the third and fourth game to retain his title. He and Caruana played to 51 moves in the third rapid match, before Carlsen won again and once again showed that he’s the world’s best player under short time constraints.
Caruana called the result “fitting” and said that even though Carlsen is perhaps not as dominant as he was four years ago, he’s still the best player in the world.
Wiser chess analysts than I—so, quite literally anyone who knows what 44. a4 Nc7 45. Qf4 Ne6 means without looking it up—would perhaps say that Carlsen was smart to punt the match into tiebreakers where he would enjoy a huge situational advantage over Caruana, but since I am not such an analyst, I’m going to declare this result bullshit due to Carlsen’s cowardice in Game 12. He gets an asterisk this year and these two have to run it back next year, in the U.S.A. Thank you.