World Championship Game 2: Preparation counterpunch

by Antonio Pereira
11/11/2018 – On Friday's seven-hour marathon Magnus Carlsen got the upper hand in the opening, and rather symmetrically Fabiano Caruana managed to surprise the World Champion with the black pieces in game two. Magnus decided to keep things safe to avoid falling prey to Caruana's preparation and happily settled for a draw in his first white game of the match. Therefore, the 2018 World Championship is still tied, but that does not mean there has been a lack of excitement. JAN-KRZYSZTOF DUDA analysed Saturday's game for us. | Photo: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Ready-made lines

In an interview with, Magnus Carlsen had declared that this match would have less to do with preparation than his previous three World Championships. However, that must be read as a statement that weighs the relative priority given to preparation by Anand, Karjakin and Caruana — i.e. it does not mean that Fabiano is not armed to the teeth! The slightest of edges might turn the tide in either direction.

Magnus came from missing a huge chance to start the match with a tour de force, and if we go by previous performances by the World Champion it is very likely that he was more than eager to "recover" quickly. Earlier this year, in a video produced by, he had clearly stated what tends to be his attitude after a loss:

For me, I just need to somehow be able to strike back. I need to get a win right after a loss or a disappointing result because if these bad results linger it's just gonna take a lot of time to get your confidence again.

By the end of the month, we will know how these two games affected the current World Champion. Maybe he did not feel that missing his chance in the opener was a big deal, and instead, he really thinks that getting the upper hand with Black can actually be seen as a positive outcome — as he stated in Friday's press conference. We can only speculate...

Game 2 video summary

Report by GM Daniel King

It does not look like Caruana is feeling the pressure | Photo: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

In the game, a Queen's Gambit Declined position reached a turning point as early as move ten. After Fabiano's 10...Rd8, Carlsen took no less than 17 minutes to choose the cautious 11.Be2 instead of the principled 11.Nd2. During the press conference, Magnus confessed that he was shocked — it was clear that he spent time reflecting on whether to delve into a position where Caruana might have something deeply prepared or not. He took the practical choice and probably does not regret his decision.

Caruana was clearly in the driving seat and Magnus let an hour of his clock run down in the next six moves — the American spent over a minute on a single move only twice in the meantime. At that point, Magnus could have given up his knight temporarily, but once again chose the safer route. See if you can find the right continuations after 17.Nxf7 against the computer in the following diagram: 


Carlsen played 17.Bf3 instead of going for the sacrifice. Later in the game, Caruana could have taken revenge for the torture of the previous day, but instead agreed to a draw on move 49. 

Did you find the critical moves in the diagram? You can check your answers by going through the game with annotations by the 19th highest ranked player in the world, Jan-Krzysztof Duda:

"A relatively easy draw today by Fabiano Caruana. Perhaps the World Champion was frustrated a bit with yesterday's game, and decided to play a simple game today."


Danny King and the players during round two press conference | Photo: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

"I am not happy about this, but it's better than losing"

During the post-game press conference, Magnus talked about how he "went on full grovel", but he was also able to see the bright side of the situation and summed up his feelings this way: "I was surprised in the opening...I miscalculated something. Then I had to beg for a draw, but that went without problems".

Game 2 press conference

Round-up show

GM Yannick Pelletier analyses Game 2

Match standings



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register