Reigning World Champion and grandmaster Magnus Carlsen meets what is deemed to be his toughest challenger yet in the 2018 Chess World Championship. Carlsen has kept this title since 2013 when he defeated Viswanathan Anand. This year’s championship, held in London from November 9 – 28, will see the Norwegian face off against rising chess-star Fabiano Caruana. The tournament is a best-of-12 game match in which the first player to get 6.5 points wins.
A Norwegian chess prodigy, Carlsen became a grandmaster at the age of 12, and fifteen years later he still holds the highest FIDE rating of all time with 2835. While he has studied chess extensively throughout his career (he was at one point trained by Garri Kasparaov, by some deemed to be the greatest chess player in history), Carlsen also has the advantage of a great natural intuition, which makes him less predictable to his opponents. 2018 will be the first World Championship of the 26-year old Italian-American Fabiano Caruana, who is said to be so intelligent that Kasparov discouraged the young boy’s parents from allowing Caruana to aim for a career as a professional chess player, telling them that he should channel his brains elsewhere.
However, Caruana ended up choosing chess over studies, and in 2014 he became the US’ youngest grandmaster in history. His fans are hoping that he will win the World Championship and become the first American to hold the title since 1975. Although this is the first time they play each other at World Championship level, Carlsen and Caruana have played against each other countless times before and know each other’s styles. Despite his undeniable talent, Caruana is still a rather unfamiliar face in the world of chess. Magnus Carlsen on the other hand, was catapulted to international fame at a young age and has since remained enough of a celebrity to embark on a modelling career and score a guest appearance on The Simpsons. Carlsen has also sparked a “chess-fever” in his home country; the matches, which can sometimes last six to seven hours, are broadcast live on several Norwegian TV channels, with commentators and experts analysing every past as well as potential move.
The first match of the 2018 tournament turned into something of a thriller when Carlsen,
who was playing with black, made a blunder at his 40th move in the match. The Norwegian is known to be a strong player with black pieces, and the chess computer Stockfish had up until his blunder given him an advantage of 3.0, the equivalent of three pawns. However, this soon changed, and the reigning champion had to fight to secure a draw against Caruana. As the second day also culminated in a draw, both players now have 1 point each. Commenting on the match afterwards, Carlsen, who is infamously competitive, said that he was unhappy with the match ending in a draw, but that it was “better than losing.” It remains to be seen whether the “Mozart of chess” can defend his title against what appears to be a new Bobby Fischer.