World Championship Game 11: "At this point the tension is at its peak"

by Macauley Peterson
11/25/2018 – And then there was one! The World Championship match is headed to a dramatic conclusion after Magnus Carlsen could not score a goal in his last White game. Game 11 ended up as one of the shorter and least interesting draws of the match although it started promisingly enough. The previous Challenger Sergey Karjakin was the surprise guest making the ceremonial first move and he got a smile out of both players by starting with 1.b4 for Magnus. Carlsen opted not to take Karjakin's suggestion to heart and played into a critical line from the Petroff preparation of Caruana — a line shown in the training video accidentally leaked before Game 4. Guest analysis by GM BORIS GELFAND and IM LAWRENCE TRENT. | Photos: World Chess

The Reliable Petroff The Reliable Petroff

The Petroff (or Russian) Defence which is characterised by the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 has been popular at the highest levels for many years and enjoys the reputation of being an extremely solid defence.


Will we see a Drawxit?

Today in Brussels, EU and UK leaders are meeting to finalise a Brexit deal, which has been the talk of the town this past week. You can scarcely go into a restaurant in central London without hearing someone discussing the political wrangling surrounding this controversial topic.

In the chess world, the question is when will we see a decisive game in this Championship? Fans were looking to Magnus Carlsen to press with his last White game on Saturday, and the opening phase initially sparked interest when it mirrored the ChessBase analysis file inadvertently leaked prior to Game 4.

A former second of Magnus thinks his current team got a gift

This was precisely what appeared on the board after nine moves in Game 11: 


Despite this bit of advance intelligence, Carlsen was not able to get much of any edge out of the opening. The players followed a recent game— Krishnan Sasikiran ½-½ Evgenij Miroshnichenko from the St Louis Winter Classic A group — all the way to a queen trade on move 14.


Here Miroshnichenko preferred 14…Rfe8. "My conclusion was that Re8 is actually safer", he told me via Skype. "I was still in my book". He noted that Magnus' pawn push 13.c4, offering the queen trade, is suggested by chess engines as the best move, and it even promises some advantage for White at first but, he added, there are "not that many ideas against the Petroff, to be honest".

Caruana opted for 14...h6 keeping the knight out of g5 and after 15.Nh4 Rfe8 16.Ng6 Ng4 17.Nxe7 Rxe7 18.Re2 Ne5 19.Bf4 Nxd3 the players reached an equal position with opposite-coloured bishops.

In his round-up show, IM Lawrence Trent, who used to manage Caruana and was instrumental in bringing Rustam Kasimdzhanov on board as Fabi's chief trainer and second, had this to say about Carlsen's opening choices:

"Once this match is over, there are some big questions that are going to have to be asked about Magnus' opening preparation, and even though he said he's happy with his team, I'm not sure I'd be happy — that if I knew I were starting with this position [after 9...Nf6] that I couldn't try and even fight for a realistic practical edge."


Carlsen struggling in the opening | Photo: World Chess

Sergey Karjakin was the early guest on the official webcast after making the ceremonial first move. The players were both unaware that Karjakin would be there until minutes before the start of the game, but they couldn't help cracking a smile when he put 1.b4 on the board for Magnus. Afterwards, the former Challenger spoke about this and the match in general. One point he made, in particular, pertains to Carlsen's opening prep and its relationship to the match format:

“The problem of these matches is that the players are afraid to lose and they don’t want to [take] any risk. I feel like Magnus was trying to play super solid chess at some point and in a tournament he would not play like that.”

Replay Karjakin's first move and guest commentary

GM Sergey Karjakin joins Judit Polgar and IM Anna Rudolf

Commenting on the Saint Louis Chess Club's "Today in Chess" live show, Garry Kasparov was also playing amateur psychologist, diagnosing the World Champion's problem as the "gravity of past success": 

“It seems to me that Magnus had no big ideas for the match and he decided, wisely, not to take too much risk and to stick with his real strength which is to play for a small edge and just to keep playing, trying to use his minimal advantages...Minimising risk, that’s the style, and it’s very hard to has been working for so long, trying to change it and going back to a more aggressive approach makes him very uncomfortable.”

CaruanaHe sees the present moment in Carlsen's career as the culmination of a trend away from an aggressive approach in the opening towards a more technical style that began in 2010 when he became the world's highest rated player.

“Fabiano is extremely stable, you can feel it", says Kasparov. "Even if something changes, even if something is happening in the game, he’s not panicking.”

This characteristic of the Challenger, Kasparov thinks, is depressing for Carlsen, and makes him vulnerable. Even so, he expects both players will do what they think is best to win the match. “At the end of the day if it’s 6-6 [Carlsen] believes that he would be the favourite in rapid…He would be happy to collect it even if it would be decided in blitz.”

Kasparov also expects the public's dismay over the drawing streak will be short-lived. “At the end of the day people will forget what was the score; they will remember who won the match...The public doesn’t care if you played great chess and lost.”

At the press conference, Caruana said that the final game and any possible tiebreak will be decided by nerves. When asked if he would have "fighting spirit" in Monday's Game 12, when he will have the white pieces, he calmly replied, “I always have fighting spirit, and of course there’s a lot riding on the last game. It will be very tense for both of us. I’m not going to go crazy or anything but I’ll definitely try to put pressure on him.”

Match standings


Game 11 summary

GM Daniel King presents a brief summary of the game

Game 11 press conference

Caruana: "At this point the tension is at its peak"

Game 11 analysed by Boris Gelfand

Former World Championship challenger Boris Gelfand played a tiebreak himself against Viswanathan Anand to decide their 2012 match in Moscow:

"I am happy to see that Fabiano sticks to a Petroff, which served him well this year...before my World Championship match vs Vishy Anand in 2012, I switched to the Sveshnikov (Magnus' choice in this match!) in order to surprise my opponent. It seems that Fabiano has even more trust in Petroff than I had!"


Round-up shows

IM Lawrence Trent reviews the game

All games of the match



Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/26/2018 09:55
@ Balthus:

"So this is what it looks like when the big guns of chess go for the penalty shoot out from like the 15th minute of the match."... the obvious solution being quite simply to suppress the penalty shoots...
Balthus Balthus 11/26/2018 07:32
So this is what it looks like when the big guns of chess go for the penalty shoot out from like the 15th minute of the match.
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 11/26/2018 07:27
Should Fisher Chess replace Classical chess to remove the preparation effect for World Championships?

Free the players from opening preparation and have them play the whole game over the board?
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/26/2018 03:32
@ Pichy59:

And also, quite simply, that this is the very first World Championship match in history between two 2800+ players...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/26/2018 03:10
@ Air Bubble

- "(...) bit overreacted yesterday with that Amaretto (...)" No problem! This can be quite good, Amaretto; I hope that yours was!!

- "The curve of Carlsen is little bit going down, but perhaps we shouldn't pay too much attention to slight seasonal fluctuations..."

The only reason why I explained this was that another commentator was saying that, in effect, Carlsen hasn't ever demonstrate anything very convincing, all in all: two matches against a completely declining Anand (...and I explained why, in my opinion, Anand wasn't at all so much declining as that at the time of their matches...), the match against Karjakin, and the present match against Caruana which, according to him, would mean, in case of a drawn match, that, in fact, Carlsen is not such an extraordinary player as that, as he wouldn't have managed to win the match outright. And I answered that to compare a 2013 - 2014 Carlsen with a 2018 Carlsen isn't a logical comparison, because Carlsen's level has declined considerably since 2013 - 2014. Which doesn't mean that he will not manage in the future to play once more at his previous level; only that, for the moment, there is a big difference between the previous Carlsen, and today's Carlsen...
sodacat sodacat 11/26/2018 01:08
Rapid or blitz games are no way to decide a world championship. A better solution would be the introduction of a rule after twelve tied games that the players cannot play the same first move that they have used in any previous game in the match and whoever wins the next game wins the match.
garri616 garri616 11/26/2018 10:37
it's hard to say that Magnus is a Dominant player,
Air Bubble Air Bubble 11/26/2018 10:23
@Peterarlsen , bit overreacted yesterday with that Amaretto, in the end all players have ups and downs...i guess. The curve of Carlsen is little bit going down, but perhaps we shouldn't pay too much attention to slight seasonal fluctuations... Anand is really amazing still competing on this high level.
Pichy59 Pichy59 11/26/2018 10:00
When two martial Artist fight to the death let say a US Marine who knows Semper Fu Vs an Israel military who knows Krav Maga The fight might be very even and they can probably fight for hours before one of them kill the other, this is a good example of two great Chess gladiators GM Carlsen vs GM Caruana where their defensive skills, strategic knowledge, and tactical skills are so similar that in long classical games the result more likely will end up in a series of draws games. Now if a Semper Fu fighter or a Krav Maga fighter fight against a mediocre martial artist the fight will not last that long probably 1 to 3 minutes, well the same if GM Carlsen or GM Caruana play versus a 2700-2750 rated player that his chess knowledge is NOT a la par with either of these two chess gladiators.

Note: Remember that these two GM carlsen and GM Caruana not only are even in ratings but , also had several months to prepare against each other with top programs like Komodo and SF with very fast computer at their disposal. It would be better for future World Chess Championship to start the match no later than two weeks after the candidate is selected, since in two weeks they will not have enough time to make computer preparation against each other. In fast time control it is hard to remember all the computer preparation and GM Carlsen greater chess skills will prevail
Pichy59 Pichy59 11/26/2018 07:18
20, or even 30 years from now, you can say to your children or grandchildren unless FIDE decides to have another rating inflation, that you watched on the computer the World Chess Championship with the two highest rated players ever if you take into consideration that GM Carlsen reached at one point 2889.2 and GM Caruana 2851.3. I know that GM Kasparov reached a higher rating than GM Caruana, but when he played versus the other Opponents for the title their combined ratings was not as high as in this match. At the moment GM Caruana is at the same level of GM Carlsen if they take .15 rating of a point from Carlsen for every draw 11 in total. Both players should be around 2833.1
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/26/2018 05:25
@ Capablamnik: And perhaps with 17 games, as Carlsen thought that 16 or 18 would be ideal...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/26/2018 05:24
@ Capablamnik: This would quite suits me, but I think that it would be better to make the Challenger choose between an extra-white and an extra-black, as, sometimes, it seems that, in a match, Black could be considered as having an advantage for preparation reasons. (For example, Judit Polgar discussed this around the first half of the present match in her live commentary.) And this wouldn't have any drawbacks; I am nearly sure that the Challenger would choose an extra-white, but this gives him the choice, rather than imposing him an extra-white, in the rather unlikely case he would prefer an extra-black...
Capablamnik Capablamnik 11/26/2018 04:50
How about this:

1. Odd number of games (11 games, 13 games, 15 games...) instead of even number of games.
2. Draw odds for the current champion.
3. Extra white for the challenger!
Masquer Masquer 11/26/2018 04:21
Carlsen understands that a 12-game match is too short to take any real risks. Why can't FIDE get it right and make these WC matches longer, as Carlsen himself suggested?
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/25/2018 11:37
@ Air Bubble: "Anand never reached the level of Elo then Carlsen..."

Furthermore, no one ever reached Carlsen's best Elo level, so, one more time, "what's your point?"!
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/25/2018 11:29
@ Air Bubble: "Anand never reached the level of Elo then Carlsen..." If I may return you the compliment: "what's your point?"!!
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/25/2018 11:23
@ genem: And, as for many very good ideas, I rather wonder why no one ever thought of this! (Some say that this is the "distinguishing mark" of the best ideas...)
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/25/2018 11:18
@ genem: Excellent idea! Wouldn't be surprise to see your idea been used for the next World Chess Championship if someone from FIDE, Agon, etc. would stumble on this page's comments...
genem genem 11/25/2018 10:14
I wonder why they play every game of the match on the same chessboard with the same pieces. Instead, why not have 12 copies of the board and 12 sets of pieces, and then auction each board + pieces pair after (or even during) the match? And for maximum provenance, mark the underside of each pawn and piece with its actual starting square in the game, and mark which end of the board was White. Maybe have the players sign the underside of the board, with the date and game number. Let's generate some souvenirs!
Air Bubble Air Bubble 11/25/2018 10:07
@ Petrarlsen Anand lost more hair then Carlsen last years… so what's your point? Anand never reached the level of Elo then Carlsen...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/25/2018 10:03
@ Air Bubble: I don't want to retire neither Carlsen nor Anand; I simply note that Carlsen lost more points than Anand, since the moment of their respective peak ratings: this is an objective observation. You would "rather retire Anand", as you say, but Anand's level declined less than Carlsen's level, so this is rather strange, in my opinion...

And Anand is still able to beat Nakamura, one of the best blitz players on the planet, in a blitz tournament, so why should he retire?
Air Bubble Air Bubble 11/25/2018 09:22
@Petrarlsen : are you seriously considering retiring Carlsen, and let him play video games instead of some solid chess? I rather retire Anand , looking at the last four years…no?
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/25/2018 08:54
@ amarpan: And it isn't logical that you take into account the fact that Anand wasn't at his peak at the moment of his matches against Carlsen (and Anand's level wasn't clearly declining at this time, as, in July 2015, AFTER his matches against Carlsen, he obtained a 2816 rating, only one point shy of his best ever 2817 rating), and that you don't take into account Carlsen's more pronounced Elo points' loss...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/25/2018 08:47
@ amarpan:

1) Anand won convincingly the 2014 Candidates, ahead of all the young players, so he was a legitimate Challenger, and, as the Candidates are a 14-games event, Anand hadn't any reasons to be unable to play correctly the 12-games World Championship match.

2) Between Carlsen's peak level, 2882, and his present level, 2835, there is a 47 points gap, the same as the gap between a player with a 2800 rating and a player with a 2753 rating (it also corresponds to the difference between the World n° 5 and the World n° 15 on the November 2018 list), so the 2013 - 2014 Carlsen isn't really the same player as the 2018 Carlsen (exactly what Carlsen himself meant when he said that that his favorite player of the past is himself a few years ago). It is also interesting to note that Anand, who is 21 years older than Carlsen, has only lost 44 points from his peak rating, so Carlsen has in fact lost more points than Anand.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/25/2018 08:31
@ fixpont: "12-game match is perfectly fine (...)"

Carlsen thinks that 16 or 18 games would be much better, so it is at least something that would have to be considered.
amarpan amarpan 11/25/2018 08:13
In the event of a draw or a loss by Carlsen, one must rethink of his legacy as a classical world champion. Thus far he has only managed to defeat Vishwanathan Anand within the 12 game contest, who is 20 years older than him and was not exactly at the peak of his playing abilities. Aside from Anand, Carlsen's challengers have been those closer to his age and he would have failed to beat them in a 12 game classical duel.
SambalOelek SambalOelek 11/25/2018 07:46
The world chess championship is also a world rapid and blitz championship...most probably ;)
mofai mofai 11/25/2018 04:37
It's still not clear, how to watch the official live streaming via chessbase (assuming I have premium chessbase account)?
fixpont fixpont 11/25/2018 04:23
12-game match is perfectly fine, give the Champ back the draw odds, force the challenger to win at least 1 game in order to become WC, force him to prepare risky-winning lines, force the challenger to see "draw" as bad result in the long run, create imbalance at the beginning of the match and you will see better matches. It's not about the numbers 12 or 24 both are the same.
Beeswax01 Beeswax01 11/25/2018 03:10
In a 12 game match - the finish line is too close to permit players to relax and express their real ideas: Since it is possible to imagine making 12 draws - this is what they do. It is not possible for a human to imagine making 24 draws. A 24 game match - would therefore be a real match. These 12 game matches are an insult to chess and an insult to fans and an insult to players. Shame on FIDE for following the Money.