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  • Norway's Magnus Carlsen defeated the USA's Fabiano Caruana in Wednesday's tiebreaker.
By Mark McClusky
November 28, 2018

Norway’s Magnus Carlsen beat the United States' Fabiano Caruana in the 2018 Chess World Championship match on Wednesday in one of the most captivating tournaments in history. With Carlsen's win, he retained the title he first captured in 2013. 

"I am very happy," Carlsen said. "I felt like I had a really good at work today. Everything went perfectly."

The win was decided by a series of tiebreaker games in London. The tiebreakers came after the match went three weeks with 12 straight draws. 

Caruana had the chance to become the second American-born World Champion and the first since Bobby Fischer in 1972 if he had won. Caruana was profiled in an "SI: Under the Cover" documentary, which is now available to stream on SI TV.

Following the loss, Caruana released  the following statement:

"This was a hard fought match to the end, and I want to congratulate Magnus on defending his title. I was up against one of the most talented players in the history of chess, and I gave it everything I had. Throughout the championship I've heard from fans around the world and want to thank them for their support. I feel that we put this beautiful game back on the map in America and hope it will inspire a new generation of players. I look forward to the opportunity to make another bid for the title."

SI.com kept a live blog of the match. Look back to see how Carlsen got the victory.

Update: 1:21 p.m.

Carlsen wins, and retains his world title. A dominating performance for Carlsen in the rapid tiebreaker.

Update: 1:15 p.m.

Carlsen breaks through! He's got a clearly winning position as Caruana fights for his survival. Barring some sort of blunder, Carlsen is going to defend his world title.

Update: 1:12 p.m.

Game Three has been locked into an endgame that appears very even to the computer.

Update: 12:58 p.m.

After Carlsen's 30th move, the computer thinks that the position is exactly even. Caruana still searching for a breakthough, and will likely have to go on the attack on the king side of the board, since a draw is as good as a loss in this match situation.

Update: 12:42 p.m.

The third game has evolved into a closed position that looks like it's headed toward a draw. Caruana has to find some way to threaten a win from this setup.  

Update: 12:29 p.m.

A basically equal opening is played out, as both players decline the chance to exchange off pieces. 

Update: 12:20 p.m.

Carlsen will play White in the next game, needing only a draw to win the match. Caruana will need to find a way to break through with the Black pieces, which is a huge task at the top levels of chess. Caruana must be feeling rattled and discouraged after turning a draw into a loss in Game 1, and a bad loss in Game 2. We will learn a lot about his mental toughness in this third game.

Update: 12:11 p.m.

Huge win for Carlsen in game two of the tiebreaker with the Black pieces. A really rough game from Caruana with the White pieces, with a couple of moves that read as nearly blunders. Carlsen is one draw away from defending his world title. 

Update: 11:38 a.m.

Part of the tension in modern chess is the gap between how humans see the game and how computer engines see the game. The computers hated Caruana's 21st move, but the human analysts on Chess.com liked it much more. It's an agressive play that puts the game on edge. Computers can calculate every move in every position which leads to them being a more tactical and less strategic than most human players.

Update: 11:23 a.m.

We are off and running on Game 2 of the rapid tiebreaker. The players blast throught their opening very quickly, playing variations that they've played in several games in the match. They're 17 moves into the game, and commentators on Chess.com find Caruana's position to be slightly better, as does the Stockfish computer engine. 

Update: 11:08 a.m.

We have our first win of the World Championship: Carlsen takes the game in 55 moves. Caruana had a chance to wriggle free in this game, but made a crucial mistake in the endgame, and Carlsen found a winning combination. Caruana will be very discouraged here--he was behind much of the game, found an escape route, but wasn't able to convert. He will control White in the next game, and faces a must-win situation.

Update: 10:47 a.m.

Carlsen takes more than nine minutes to make his 24th move: Bxe6+. They then trade off all of their minor pieces and a pair of rooks, leaving each player with a single rook, and White with an extra pawn. This seems to be a weaker move than Carlsen could have made, and Robert Hess is wondering if Carlsen has let Caruana off the hook here.

Update: 10:34 a.m.

Caruana moves 19...Nb5. The computer hates this move, and there's a rapid flury of pieces taken. After the 22nd move, the computer analysis sees Carlsen as a big favorite to win the first game of the rapid tiebreaker. 

Update: 10:17 a.m.

The two players trade off their queens on the 13th moves of the game. Computer analysis shows that Carlsen has about a half-pawn advantage, but human comentators like Grandmaster Robert Hess on Chess.com find Caruana's position weak. "This is just hard for a human to look at," Hess says.

Update: 10:09 a.m.

Carlsen has played the English Opening as the players have gone relatively quickly though their first 8 moves. It's been an agressive line from Carlsen trying to establish control of the center of the board.

Update: 10 a.m.

In the first game of the rapid tiebreakers, Carlsen will play the White pieces, while Caruana will control the Black.

Update: 9:45 a.m.

Carlsen and Caruana have played each other 23 times under shorter time limits like the ones they will face today. In those games, Carlsen has won 13 of them, Caruana has won six, and there have been four draws.

The tiebreakers come after the two players have battled to draws in each of the 12 scheduled games in their match. It’s the first time that two players failed to have a single decisive game over the course of a world championship match. The first 12 games were played under normal time restrictions for a championship chess match, giving the players hours to make the moves in the game. For the tiebreakers, the time allotted to the players is compressed, leading to faster decisions and a higher likelihood of errors.

Format

Here is the format for today’s tiebreakers:

A best-of-four mini-match will be played under “rapid” rules. Each player will have 25 minutes to make their moves for the game, with an additional 10 seconds added to the players’ clocks after each move.

If that set of games still leaves the players tied, there will then be two games played under “blitz” rules: each player gets five minutes on the clock, with three seconds added after each move. If that two-game match is drawn, they will play up to another four of those two-game blitz matches.

And if all that fails, they will play a sudden-death game of Armageddon chess. The players would draw lots to see who plays the white and black pieces. The player with white is given five minutes, and the Black player only gets four. But Black only has to draw the game to win and win the World Championship.

Conventional wisdom throughout the match has held that Carlsen would have an advantage in a tie-breaker. He is higher-ranked than Caruana in both the rapid and blitz formats, and actually defended his title in a tie-breaker against Russian Sergey Karjakin two years ago.

But after a surprising Game 12 draw, where Carlsen offered Caruana a draw while holding a superior position with the Black pieces, commentators including former World Champion Garry Kasparov have questioned Carlsen’s confidence.

“In light of this shocking draw offer from Magnus in a superior position with more time, I reconsider my evaluation of him being the favorite in rapids,” Kasparov wrote on Twitter. “Tiebreaks require tremendous nerves and he seems to be losing his.”

The first game of the tiebreakers starts at 10 a.m. Eastern time. Follow along here for all the action.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)