This Christmas we’ve got a real treat for you, as three members of Magnus Carlsen’s team take us through all 15 games of the London World Championship match. In almost 11 hours of video Jan Gustafsson, Laurent Fressinet and Peter Heine Nielsen give us an inside look at the match. How did Fabiano Caruana and his team surprise them, why can no-one get an advantage with White and what did they think of the “videogate” leak? Those are just some of the topics covered in a lively and enjoyable discussion of the games.
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Danish Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen has the Midas touch when it comes to the chess World Championship. He was on Team Anand as Vishy won the World Championship in Mexico in 2007 and then defended it in matches against Vladimir Kramnik (2008), Veselin Topalov (2010) and Boris Gelfand (2012). He then switched to the team of his Scandinavian colleague Magnus Carlsen, as Magnus beat Vishy in Chennai (2013), Sochi (2014) and then overcame Sergey Karjakin in New York (2016).
For the London match he was the only chess member of the team on site:
Magnus brought actually quite a bunch of people to London. There was both his parents, I think his three sisters were there at some times, and probably a cook, a doctor also, even someone taking care of some practical problems, his managers, and then one chess guy – that was me.
The rest of the team turned out to be 10,000 kilometres and 7 time zones away in Thailand – an inspired idea of our very own Jan Gustafsson, who had liked the situation for the New York match where the team could work during the day in Norway while Magnus slept in New York. We learn from the videos that Jan showed his total devotion to the cause by arriving in Thailand a week early to make absolutely sure everything was ready.
Only Jan's eloquent congratulatory tweet revealed the location of the team...
Our third author, Laurent Fressinet, is a 2-time French Champion and also a veteran of World Championship matches. He’s seconded Magnus for all his matches, and also worked as a second for Vladimir Kramnik .
It says all you need to know about the first game of the match that the first video in the series is 1 hour and 20 minutes long! Magnus would go on to miss a big chance, but as always in the first game of a World Championship match there was a lot of information for the teams. Peter explained that Fabiano in a way surprised them by not surprising them – by playing his “completely normal repertoire”, even to the extent that he went for the same Sicilian line he’d played against Boris Gelfand a few weeks earlier at the Batumi Olympiad.
He just thought, I have good openings, I’m going to repeat them… I’m going to play good things and I’m probably going to be better prepared than Magnus, and this is going to be my strategy... You play a line with Gelfand, and you’re actually willing to repeat it in a World Championship match when you’ve had a long time to prepare it. It shows a lot of faith.
In the first game that wasn’t a great success, but after Caruana escaped and the match wore on the opening battle would more often than not be won by the challenger, so that in the wrap-up Jan asks:
How bad were we in the openings? Why did White never get anything? What’s happening in modern chess, Peter Heine Nielsen? Or are we just idiots? Or both?
On the other hand, as Peter pointed out, some of the opening “victories” for Fabiano were very double-edged, since they led to positions Magnus was happy to play in which all three results were a possibility. Peter asks at one point, comparing Fabiano’s approach to that of Sergey Karjakin, “do you want to show ideas or do you want to maximise your chances in the match?”
It was a fascinating battle, with AlphaZero weighing in with some ideas that our authors discuss. They also tackle the leak from Team Caruana during the match, which Jan and Laurent felt was 100% genuine, while Peter wasn’t quite so sure. Why was Laurent so confident? “The main reason is that we almost made the same mistake!” Peter countered,“Just because we are stupid doesn’t mean that others necessarily are!”, while Jan in turn wondered if they would have been able to bust the Petroff even if they’d got the actual files and not just seen the filename.
In short, don’t miss this long look back at the chess event of 2018!
All that’s left for now is to wish everyone who celebrates it a very Merry Christmas! There won’t be long to relax, though, since already on the 26th December the World Rapid Championship starts in St. Petersburg, with Vishy Anand aiming to defend the title he won a year ago in Riyadh.
Magnus, meanwhile, will try to repeat what he did in 2014 and hold the classical, rapid and blitz World Championship titles simultaneously. As he told Jan in an earlier video:
I’m going to take back the triple throne. No usurpers are going to be left alive!
He's taking his preparations seriously!
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