World Championship Game 8: Carlsen in luck

by André Schulz
11/20/2018 – For the first time in the match, Fabiano Caruana chose to play the Open Sicilian 3.d4 against Carlsen. The World Champion went for the Sveshnikov variation, which would not have been totally unexpected by the Caruana team and the challenger secured some advantage, both on the board and on the clock. But, as GM WESLEY SO and GM YANNICK PELLETIER explain, after a missed opportunity on his 24th move, Caruana let Carlsen equalise and the game ended drawn. | Photos: Nikolai Dunaevsky / World Chess

The Sveshnikov Variation of the Sicilian The Sveshnikov Variation of the Sicilian

The Sveshnikov Variation of the Sicilian is one of the most popular and fascinating replies to 1.e4. Right from the beginning, Black is striving for active and dynamic counterplay, and this results in a double-edge struggle for the initiative. Dutch top grandmaster and six-times national champion Loek van Wely himself has played the Sveshnikov since 1998. On this DVD he comments on his latest encounters with world-class players like Shirov, Anand, Topalov and Kramnik, games which abound with combinatorial ideas and sacrifices; a feast for all fans of tactics.

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Record tied

Eight games, eight draws, the chess fans grumble. preferring to see some decisive games between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. Yet far from boring, some of these draws have been balanced on a knife's edge. We've been here before: Magnus Carlsen worked out what could have been a clear win in the first game, but then didn't play it. Fabiano Caruana was tantalisingly close to victory in the sixth game last Friday — at least for those with the benefit of super-strong computers — but couldn't break Carlsen's fortress.

German Grandmaster Robert Huebner wrote in his first half analysis (in German): 

"It is not, however, the goal of the World Championship participants to entertain the spectators as effectively as possible. They are concerned with achieving the best possible result. It seems to me a strange contradiction to demand, on the one hand, the content of the games be "thrilling" when, on the other hand, recognising that the element of competition is paramount. If the result is the most important thing, you have to leave it to the players how they want to pursue their goals; they will know best."

Apparently, Carlsen's choice of socks was subject to revision — they mysteriously went from bright red to black during the game!

Monday was the eighth game and the eighth straight draw, tying the record for most consecutive draws to start a World Championship set by Garry Kasparov And Viswanathan Anand, in their 1995 match in New York.

Demis Hassibis

Demis Hassabis, who made the first move, was studying computer science at the University of Cambridge in 1995

This time Caruana had to carry the "burden" of the white pieces again after Carlsen was "forced" to play White in back-to-back Games 6 and 7. It's become a bit of a running joke to say that White used to be considered to have an advantage before this match between the two best players in the world. In London, White had so-far failed to gain the upper hand and, on the contrary, the Black player has been closer to winning on a few occasions.

When Caruana pushed 3.d4 — eschewing the Rossolimo we saw in previous games — the question then became which open Sicilian variation Carlsen would choose?

No Rossolimo this time!

It turns out Carlsen had prepared the Sveshnikov. This sharp variation has been deeply analysed, particularly in the main line after 7.Bg5, where White has a hard time playing for a significant advantage.

Caruana took a different approach with 7.Nd5 and was excellently prepared. For the first time in this World Championship, White came out of the opening with a noticeable advantage.

GM Peter Leko, the 2004 World Championship challenger, commenting on the Chess Club and Scholastic Center's live show "Today in Chess" said:

“With Nd5 you basically force the game into your territory and this is one of the things that the team members really like because they can devote their time and try to find some specific idea where we’re going to try to surprise Magnus and not worrying that he’s going to surprise us again”.

Carlsen responded to White's queenside pawn majority with the aggressive thrust 8...g5, going for counterplay at the expense of opening holes in his kingside.

 

Leko:

"Basically these aggressive intentions from the black side are the way to create enough dynamics to counterbalance the problem that you are facing on the queenside. Now we are seeing some position where time is a huge factor. It’s clear that if White gets two extra tempi and gets b4-c5 in then Black’s position will just collapse.”

Caruana did manage to make a key queenside break with 21.c5 and secured a passed d-pawn, but he hesitated at a moment when chess engines' evaluation in favour of White reached their apex on move 24.

 

At this critical point, 24.Qh5 is more testing, and Caruana mentioned the line 24...Bg6 25.Qh6 in the post-game press conference as something he considered. Instead, the Challenger played the more timid 24.h3, much to Carlsen's relief, as he immediately removed the option of Qh5 with 24...Qe8. Soon the queens were exchanged and an endgame with opposite-coloured bishops made a draw most likely. On the 38th move, Caruana offered and a draw was agreed.


Game 8 summary

GM Daniel King provides a 5-minute look at the main events of the day:


Leko was a second for Vladimir Kramnik in his match against Anand in Bonn, 2008. As Anand explained himself on "Today in Chess" during Sunday's Game 7, his opening preparation was working best in the first five games against Kramnik. Leko reports having the feeling that if the match had been longer the situation would have changed in favour of Kramnik: “There were simply not enough games and Vishy won the match deservedly”.

In 2013, Leko then worked for Anand against Carlsen in Chennai. They managed to out-prepare Carlsen in the first three games, but Magnus played the Berlin Defence in Game 4 and that changed the psychological dynamic of the match because Carlsen got a boost of confidence as he became more secure with the black pieces. Leko drew a parallel to Caruana's effort in Game 2 in London.

It's worth remembering that the first player to win a game hasn't necessarily fared well historically. Anand lost a game to both Topalov in 2010 and Gelfand in 2012 before going on to win both matches. And of course, Carlsen lost Game 8 to Karjakin in 2016 (see Carlsen vs Karjakin 2016 revisited). Leko articulated why that pattern may have played out before:

“I think winning a game is extremely important but it’s just the beginning of the match. There are still a lot of games and it’s typically also the dynamic of a match [that] once somebody wins, the other one gets much more angry — gets somehow much more focused because he knows he needs to strike back...Until the score is even you know that there is nothing to lose…you have to go for it, and this also gives your opponent a chance and the whole match gets wide open.”

Each passing draw makes a win even more valuable, but also a dramatic rapid tiebreak more likely.


Match standings

 

Game 8 press conference


Game 8 analysed by GM Wesley So

You can read Wesley So's comments, then watch him think through a trio of devilish studies.

"I can't help wondering though why Magnus sticks to the Sicilian in these games. Against Sergey Karjakin two years ago he only played 1...e5 and had absolutely no problems."

 

Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian

Wesley So published two new opening DVDs: 1.b3, the so called Nimzo-Larsen-Attack, for White and his black secrets in the modern Italian. Get them in a package and save money!

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Round-up shows


All games of the match

 

Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson

Links




André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
Discussion and Feedback Join the public discussion or submit your feedback to the editors


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fair1play fair1play 11/30/2018 04:09
yes I cannot load Game either. @chessbase can you please restore annotations by GM So ? thank you
liametoh liametoh 11/29/2018 03:52
Anyone have problem viewing "Game 8 analysed by GM Wesley So"??
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/25/2018 05:11
@lajosarpad, you mentioned this erroneous logic before; I pointed it out then and it is still incorrect now. By becoming champion, the champion only proved he is the best at that point in time. It does not mean he is the best player interminably after that. If someone surpassed Carlsen in rating before the world championship occurred, is it still logical to assume that Carlsen is the best player in the world? In the first Anand-Carlsen world championship match was it logical to assume that Anand was the best player in the world, just because he won the previous world championship? Obviously not. The null hypothesis comes from statistics and controlled experiments and does not apply to a world championship.

You make a legitimate point that you are not convinced by the challenger failing to beat the champion in a match, but I am not convinced by the champion failing to beat the challenger in a match.

Rapid and blitz are not semi-random, there is a reason that Carlsen is the top ranked player in classical, rapid, and blitz.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/22/2018 08:31
@fgkdjlkag

The challenger has to beat the champion in order to convince me he is the best. If the challenger is not able to beat the champion, then he fails to convince me. The champion has already proven he is the best, therefore he should not lose the title in a semi-random event, like rapid, blitz or armageddon tiebreaks. You call the risk to be taken in the case of a tie "unjustified". I would like to remind you that the fact that the world champion has proven he is the best and the challenger has "only" proven he is a worthy challenger means that the null hypotheses is that the world champion is the best. It is the task of the challenger to actually challenge the world champion and prove that the title should be owned by him. This justifies the draw odds. I do not mean that not having draw odds for the champion would be unjustified, because other solutions could be used, but the draw odds to the champion is clearly justified and therefore that approach would be correct. If the match is not decided then I do not see the point of claiming that the challenger is the world champion. And roulette, rapid, blitz or armageddon games should not decide the match. Yes, the match has been interesting, but I would like to avoid a rapid tiebreak to such a high quality match. Also, in the past the world champion had draw odds and the challenger did not feel as pressurized as you suggest, in fact there were many grandmaster draws in matches. Of course, matches were longer and as a result, players were less afraid of "losing the match by accident". After 12 games the players would know more about the preparation of the other player and would be able to find some really threatening lines. 12 games are not necessarily enough for the players to learn each-others' repertoire's antidote.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/22/2018 08:29
@jsaldea

"This championship is decided by the player who is better phyically and mentally."

Agreed. The better chess player is the one who is able to play better and this ability is composed by mental and physical strength.
fgkdjlkag fgkdjlkag 11/22/2018 05:16
Regarding the comment below, what sense does it make to force the players to take unjustified risks during the classical portion because he knows that he is behind? Look at the 9 very interesting games played so far - this is opening preparation at the highest level. To go all out for a win also means to take excessive risk and play worse moves, thus lower quality games.

"This match format is flawed. With the tie-break in speed chess as a way out, no one needs to take risks to win." (JeanH)

Quite true, unfortunately... If the match ended with the "classical games" part, it would be necessary for the players to decide the match with the classical time controls, and it would be unlikely that the match would end with 12 draws... "
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 11/22/2018 12:33
This championship is decided by the player who is better phyically and mentally. Carlsen has been used to championship games, a veteran.. but Caruana is practising yoga, physically and mind meditation.. He is well up to the situation..
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 11/22/2018 12:28
jsaldea12 Just now
Let me correcr myself: How about this modified playoff after 12 classical drawn:
(a) 30 minutes each player, two games, If drawn,
(b) 20 minutes each player, two games. If drawn
(c) 10 minutes each player, two games.Only if drawnc will Carlsen claims outright the crown.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/21/2018 11:11
The World Championship Match exists to determine who the best chess player is. Of course it is a high publicity event, since the whole chess world is interested in the answer. It is a good idea to improve the hype as much as possible, but let's make sure the priority is to find out who the best player is. The 2004 Tripoli FIDE World Championship was certainly much more dramatic than this one, but I'm sure both Carlsen and Caruana would have an easier time against Kasimdzhanov or Adams than against each-other. By the way, the games were interesting so far.
Azzur Azzur 11/21/2018 07:10
A bit rich for Wesley So to criticise Carlsen's choice of 1... c5. Maybe he forgot how Carlen's 3 black games went??
Peter B Peter B 11/21/2018 02:31
"I can't help wondering though why Magnus sticks to the Sicilian in these games" surely the reason why i obvious: Carlsen equalised easily in Games 1, 3 and 5.
jsaldea12 jsaldea12 11/21/2018 02:27
That play-off after 12 classical draws is just a suggestion, a GOOD possibility. Of course after the 12th round, and it ends in draw, Carlsen outright retains the crown. But I agree with the observation of Kikiki wholeheartedly. The observation of JimNvegas.could be right. I admire Caruana doing as attacking Carlsen, (and Carlsen himself, not himself..
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 11/20/2018 09:25
"(...) let’s all remember chess is a difficult game to win, especially at this level where the two players are equally rated and so much money is on the line. " Jim Nvegas

Agreed. And the higher-rated two almost equally rated players are, the higher the probability of a draw. In theory, where both players play perfectly, it is a draw.

But you will see a lesser proportion of draws, for example, between equally but lower rated players. And the lower the equal rate is, the lesser is the probability of a draw.

If one is tired of many draws, it still is possible to follow lower-rated tournaments.
klklkl klklkl 11/20/2018 08:41
There's no chance of this match ending in 12 draws. Caruana is knocking at the door. Carlsen has shown tenacity in defence but hasn't threatened since the first game. In fact, I struggle to remember a Carlsen as weak in attack as the current model. I am surely not the only spectator with the sense of a World Champion at bay. If Caruana plays two more open sicilians with White, he will win one of them.
JimNvegas JimNvegas 11/20/2018 08:03
Personally, I believe both players may be waiting until late in the match to push for a win. This way the opponent has fewer games in which to recover. With that in mind I look for game 10 or 11 to be a deciding game. The games thus far have been interesting and I thought for awhile game 8 was going to show us a winner for both players seemed to be more aggressive but such was not the case. For those who are bored with all the draws lets all remember chess is a difficult game to win, especially at this level where the two players are equally rated and so much money is on the line.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/20/2018 05:12
"This match format is flawed. With the tie-break in speed chess as a way out, no one needs to take risks to win." (JeanH)

Quite true, unfortunately... If the match ended with the "classical games" part, it would be necessary for the players to decide the match with the classical time controls, and it would be unlikely that the match would end with 12 draws...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 11/20/2018 05:08
"It is not, however, the goal of the World Championship participants to entertain the spectators as effectively as possible. They are concerned with achieving the best possible result. It seems to me a strange contradiction to demand, on the one hand, the content of the games be "thrilling" when, on the other hand, recognising that the element of competition is paramount. If the result is the most important thing, you have to leave it to the players how they want to pursue their goals; they will know best." (GM Huebner)

I very much approve!!
Raymond Labelle Raymond Labelle 11/20/2018 05:01
"no one needs to take risks to win" Magnus has about 100 points rating points more than Fabiano in Rapid and about 150 more rating points than Fabiano in Blitz. Fabiano has a real interest of winning in the classical time control rather than trying out the Rapid and Blitz.

The more it goes however, the more a defeat could be disastrous, which would be the case in any format. Hence the prudence of the players. For example, when the championships were determined by the number of wins, regardless of draws, there were long series of draws – the more, in a format, a win is rewarded, the more, in that format, a defeat a punished – so, regardless of the format, players really do not want to lose, especially when the match is advanced and that there will be less chances to catch back.

Most of the games played in this match were hard-fought draws with some winning chances. Good interesting games. The fact that a game ends in a decisive result or in a draw is irrelevant for determining the quality of a game. For example, a game lost because of a stupid blunder is not a higher-quality game than a game where both players saw each other's subtle traps and were able to avoid them and which ended in a draw.
Daniel Miller Daniel Miller 11/20/2018 02:49
There is no reason why a match must have a winner. Also, no reason why it is not still 24 games. I prefer the historical format with the champ retaining title but splitting money in case of a tie. .
Petrosianic Petrosianic 11/20/2018 02:48
This game is a good example of how engines have skewed chess. Everyone is convinced that 24. Qh5 was good, even though nobody sees anything specific, just because an engine liked it. A super sharp computer line where White has to find a long series of "Only Moves" with disaster looming if he misses one is not the kind of thing a human player could or should play. But thanks to engines, everyone is convinced of the opposite.
JeanH JeanH 11/20/2018 02:27
This match format is flawed. With the tie-break in speed chess as a way out, no one needs to take risks to win. Unless one player blunders, we will see four more draws...
freedon freedon 11/20/2018 11:57
so what ? do you really believe this match is equal at any scale with Kasparov Anand??
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