Magnus Carlsen holds off American challenger Fabiano Caruana in playoff to retain world chess crown

November 28, 2018

Norwegian world chess champion Magnus Carlsen has retained his crown, decisively defeating St. Louis Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana in a rapid playoff Wednesday in London after their 12-game title match this month failed to produce a decisive result.

Caruana, 26, bidding to become the first American to hold the world chess title since Bobby Fischer was stripped of the title in 1975, could not match the champion’s skill at faster time controls, losing all three games of the playoff Wednesday afternoon.

The much-anticipated match, pitting the world’s two highest-rated grandmasters, proved less than captivating at times, as all 12 games played at the slower, “classical” time controls resulted in draws a first in the history of the game.

For the 27-year-old Carlsen, it was his third successful title defense after first capturing the crown in 2013.

The champion seized the initiative in the first game of the playoff, in which both players are given essentially 25 minutes to play their entire game. He sacrificed a pawn to break up Caruana’s own pawn structure, and used his two bishops to dominate the middle gameplay.

White eventually emerged a pawn to the good in a rook endgame, and the champion’s careful technique left Caruana with no hope of preventing a White pawn from queening. He resigned on Move 55.

Carlsen followed that up with another win in Game 2 with Black, in Caruana’s desperate play left him open to tactics that exposed his queen and king. Facing a loss of material or a mating attack, Caruana resigned after just 28 moves.

With the advantage of the White pieces in Game 3, Carlsen was able to hold off the challenger with careful, solid play, simplifying down to a queen-and-bishop vs. queen-and-knight ending in which White steadily built up an overwhelming advantage, forcing Black to resign the game and the match on Move 54.

Carlsen-Caruana, Game 1, World Championship Playoff, London, November 2018

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 Bb4 4. e4 O-O 5. Nge2 c6 6. Bg2 a6 7. O-O b5 8. d4 d6 9. a3 Bxc3 10. Nxc3 bxc4 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Na4 Be6 13. Qxd8 Rxd8 14. Be3 Nbd7 15. f3 Rab8 16. Rac1 Rb3 17. Rfe1 Ne8 18. Bf1 Nd6 19. Rcd1 Nb5 20. Nc5 Rxb2 21. Nxe6 fxe6 22. Bxc4 Nd4 23. Bxd4 exd4 24. Bxe6+ Kf8 25. Rxd4 Ke7 26. Rxd7+ Rxd7 27. Bxd7 Kxd7 28. Rd1+ Ke6 29. f4 c5 30. Rd5 Rc2 31. h4 c4 32. f5+ Kf6 33. Rc5 h5 34. Kf1 Rc3 35. Kg2 Rxa3 36. Rxc4 Ke5 37. Rc7 Kxe4 38. Re7+ Kxf5 39. Rxg7 Kf6 40. Rg5 a5 41. Rxh5 a4 42. Ra5 Ra1 43. Kf3 a3 44. Ra6+ Kg7 45. Kg2 Ra2+ 46. Kh3 Ra1 47. h5 Kh7 48. g4 Kg7 49. Kh4 a2 50. Kg5 Kf7 51. h6 Rb1 52. Ra7+ Kg8 53. Rxa2 Rb5+ 54. Kg6 Rb6+ 55. Kh5 Black resigns.

Caruana-Carlsen, Game 2, World Championship Playoff, London, November 2018

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Nd5 Nxd5 8. exd5 Ne7 9. c4 Ng6 10. Qa4 Bd7 11. Qb4 Qb8 12. h4 h5 13. Be3 a6 14. Nc3 a5 15. Qb3 a4 16. Qd1 Be7 17. g3 Qc8 18. Be2 Bg4 19. Rc1 Bxe2 20. Qxe2 Qf5 21. c5 O-O 22. c6 bxc6 23. dxc6 Rfc8 24. Qc4 Bd8 25. Nd5 e4 26. c7 Bxc7 27. Nxc7 Ne5 28. Nd5 Kh7 White resigns.

Carlsen-Caruana, Game 3, World Championship Playoff, London, November 2018

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 Nc6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Bc5 6. Nc2 Nf6 7. Nc3 O-O 8. Be3 b6 9. Be2 Bb7 10. O-O Qe7 11. Qd2 Rfd8 12. Rfd1 Ne5 13. Bxc5 bxc5 14. f4 Ng6 15. Qe3 d6 16. Rd2 a6 17. Rad1 Qc7 18. b3 h6 19. g3 Rd7 20. Bf3 Re8 21. Qf2 Ne7 22. h3 Red8 23. Bg2 Nc6 24. g4 Qa5 25. Na4 Qc7 26. e5 dxe5 27. Nxc5 Rxd2 28. Rxd2 Rxd2 29. Qxd2 Ba8 30. fxe5 Qxe5 31. Nd7 Qb2 32. Qd6 Nxd7 33. Qxd7 Qxc2 34. Qe8+ Kh7 35. Qxa8 Qd1+ 36. Kh2 Qd6+ 37. Kh1 Nd4 38. Qe4+ f5 39. gxf5 exf5 40. Qe3 Ne6 41. b4 Ng5 42. c5 Qf6 43. c6 Ne6 44. a4 Nc7 45. Qf4 Ne6 46. Qd6 Qa1+ 47. Kh2 Nd4 48. c7 Qc3 49. Qc5 Qe3 50. c8=Q f4 51. Qg4 Black resigns.

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