After 12 draws, the World Chess Championship will pick up speed: NPR

Defending World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen (right) of Norway takes on Italian-American challenger Fabiano Caruana in the opening minutes of round 12 of their World Chess Championship match on Monday in London.

Matt Dunham/AP

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Matt Dunham/AP

Defending World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen (right) of Norway takes on Italian-American challenger Fabiano Caruana in the opening minutes of round 12 of their World Chess Championship match on Monday in London.

Matt Dunham/AP

The World Chess Championship heads to a dramatic conclusion on Wednesday, which could give the United States its first champion since Bobby Fischer won the crown in 1972.

Players will engage in a series of fast-paced tiebreakers at the London event, which will get faster and faster as they keep shooting.

Fabiano Caruana, the 26-year-old Italian-American prodigy who grew up in Brooklyn, is definitely the underdog. For 12 games, he faced the current World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen. And every match ended in a draw.

“I had mediocre years, I had good years,” Caruana said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “This year has been by far the best.”

According to organizer World Chess, this is the first championship match where no one has won a game in the first 12 games of regular play.

Carlsen, who is 27 and hails from Norway, has been on top of the game for much of his adult life. He has held the title of world champion since 2013.

But some observers believe he may be losing his edge. “He’s a shadow of himself, of his best moments,” chess grandmaster Judit Polgár told NPR’s Here & Now.

Carlsen raised his eyebrows at a crucial moment in Game 12 when he looked to be in a stronger position, but suddenly offered to leave the game as a draw.

“For some reason he chose not to invest the energy and instead offered a draw after 31 moves, which Caruana accepted,” according to a World Chess report.

This decision puzzled legendary chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov.

“In light of this shocking draw offer from Magnus in a top position with more time, I reconsider my assessment that he is the favorite in the rapids,” Kasparov wrote on Twitter. “Tie-breakers require huge nerves and he seems to be losing his.”

At the same time, World Chess pointed out that although computer calculations indicate that Carlsen was more likely to win when he offered the draw, “the position was complicated and it was clear that it would take a lot of maneuvering, and many hours, if Carlsen hoped to break through.”

“I wasn’t in the mood to find the punch,” Carlsen said after the match, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Polgár said Carlsen was previously known for avoiding draws. She says the two players are very balanced. “I think he’s lost his appetite to win, or it’s not that important for him to win again, somehow he can’t motivate himself as much as he can. could before,” she said.

These last 12 games have been played under time rules which mean each game can take hours. Players have 100 minutes each for the first 40 moves, with even more time added later.

But on Wednesday, the pace of the game will pick up – a lot. The challenge of tie-breaks is that the game takes place in increasingly shorter time frames.

The faster game should work in Carlsen’s favor. It ranks higher in chess styles with stricter time rules.

The first four tiebreaker games start with 25 minutes each on the clock and an additional 10 seconds after each shot.

After these four games, if the scores are still tied, he moves on to even faster rounds called “blitz games”.

First, players play two matches of five minutes each plus three seconds after each move. If they’re still tied, they’ll play two more games, and that could go on for up to 10 games in total.

And if it’s still even after the blitzkriegs are over, they’ll go to a round called “Armageddon.”

The player with white pieces has five minutes on their clock, one minute more than the player with black pieces. But if the game ends in a draw, the player with the black pieces is automatically the winner.

And unless the referee decides otherwise, according to the rules, players will only have 10 minutes between each of these tiebreaks.

Besides the coveted title of world champion, there is a lot of money at stake. Players compete for a prize of 1 million euros ($1.1 million). If it had been decided in regular games, the winner would get 60% and the loser 40% – now, as these are tie-breaker games, the winner will get 55% and the loser 45%.

It should be noted that matches are highly unlikely to result in an epic conclusion to a round of sudden death.

In fact, according to calculations by FiveThirtyEight, there is a 0.02% chance that this World Chess Championship will end in Armageddon.

We’ll just have to watch to find out. Games begin Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET.

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