Carlsen chess champ for the fourth time

After 12 draws, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen makes rapid work of American Caruana

Magnus Carlsen

Photo: Frank Augstein / TT Nyhetsbyrån
Norwegian Magnus Carlsen with the World Chess Championship trophy.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo

The Norwegian chess master will keep the World Champion title after an even and intense World Chess Championship match in London.

After 12 even games in regular chess, which all ended in a draw, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, 27, and American Fabiano Caruana needed rapid chess to decide who would become the new Chess World Champion. With less time on the clock, Carlsen showed no mercy and won three straight games, 3-0, defending the title for the third time in a row.

“I’m very happy. It was a good day on the job,” he told the world in the press conference after the match.

It seemed impossible to separate the two young players in regular chess, but when the time was shortened from the regular 90 minutes to 25 minutes in the rapid games, Carlsen proved himself the better player by far.

“It was all or nothing,” he said. “Earlier today, before the rapid games began, I didn’t even feel like I was close to becoming world champion again. I never thought, ‘This is it, it’s happening,’ or anything like that.

“It was exciting from beginning to end,” he continued with a smile.

Caruana, who proved himself just as good a player as Carlsen in regular chess—even better, according to some—wasn’t quite as happy at the press conference afterwards.

“It’s disappointing, being so close,” Caruana said. “I didn’t play on Magnus’ level today. I wasn’t even close.”

Carlsen, who’s on his way to becoming one of the most celebrated chess players in history, was lauded for his skills in rapid chess by his former coach and chess legend Garry Kasparov.

“Carlsen’s level in rapid chess is nothing but phenomenal. We all play worse with less time on the clock, but Carlsen is so close to his normal level, it’s almost frightening,” Kasparov tweeted only minutes after the world champion was crowned for the fourth consecutive time.

With four World Chess Championship titles, Carlsen has now won as many titles as Kasparov. Only German Emanuel Lasker and Russian Mikhail Botvinnik have won more.

But Carlsen probably felt the pressure, arriving at the venue in London on the last day. Caruana had played just as well, maybe better, in regular chess, and out of the four earlier rapid chess games between the two, Carlsen had only won half.

During the regular chess, Caruana had a couple of missed opportunities for securing the world championship. If Caruana had succeeded, this could have been Carlsen’s last Chess World Championship match, he revealed to a shocked press after securing the victory.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t have retired, but I’m not sure if I would have gone for another world championship. Now we’ll wait and see. I have two years to improve my game even further for the next world championship.”

In an interview in between the games in London, Carlsen revealed that his biggest chess idol is himself from a few years ago. Even though that might sound arrogant, he has a point. Carlsen’s level of play is not as good as it used to be, and he has been finding it hard to explain why an older and more experienced version of himself has been struggling to play as good as he used to.

During this year’s world championship some critical voices have claimed that the sport, if it is a sport (a topic that has been debated hard in Norwegian media) is boring and needs rejuvenation. Carlsen agrees to an extent, and even has some ideas.

“I think we should incorporate more rapid and lightning chess,” he said. “It’s chess in an even purer form, I think. It’s more about instincts and not as much about months of preparations, and it’s so much more audience friendly. I think that would be doing the sport a big favor.”

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the December 28, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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