World Chess Championship: Where the First Eight Games Were Decided
Challenger Sergey Karjakin breaks a run of draws against World Champion Magnus Carlsen in Game 8 and now sits two points from a huge upset
The showdown between World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin was billed as the most anticipated chess match in decades. Not only would the World Championship take place stateside for the first time in 21 years, it featured a sometimes brash, often charismatic two-time defending champion from Norway versus a defensive-minded underdog.
Who would win this epic battle of East vs. West? For 11 days, the answer to that question was apparently no one.
The pair played to seven straight draws to open their best-of-12 match taking place in lower Manhattan. But on Monday, there was finally a breakthrough.
In Game 8, Karjakin scored the first win and took a big step in his quest to unseat Carlsen. Few anticipated the Russian to be the one to draw first blood, especially while playing with black. “It’s much better to play well than to play white,” he said afterward.
“Chess engines have entered our world—we train with them, we learn from them,” said Susan Polgar, a Hungarian-American grandmaster and coach of the No. 1-ranked college chess team at Webster University in Missouri. “On the opening, sometimes the preparation goes as deep as 20, 25, 30 (moves), or even further.”
Polgar also points to a long set departure from the playing styles of masters from the “Golden Era of Chess,” greats like Paul Morphy and Adolf Anderssen who executed brilliant sacrificial strategies. “The defensive skills are so much more refined now,” she said.
“Chess, by definition, is a drawn game,” said Polgar. “If both sides play perfectly, it’s an equal game. In order for either side to win, the other side must make a big mistake or multiple smaller mistakes. We have perfected the game in a way.”
Neither Carlsen nor Karjakin have thus far played perfectly, and neither player had broken through before Karjakin’s win on Monday night. The people, despite seven hard-fought games, wanteddecisive action and bloodshed, and they got it. Karjakin leads 4.5-3.5, and is two points away from becoming the World Chess Champion.
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