Game 10 of the World Championship ended in a draw, but it was not for lack of effort on the part of Magnus Carlsen, 27, the World Champion from Norway, or Fabiano Caruana, 26, the American challenger.
For hours, the players waged an intense battle, walking a razor’s edge between success and ruin. In the end, however, after 54 moves and more than five hours, neither player could deliver a knockout blow. The match score stands at five points apiece.
All the games in the match have been drawn. It is the most consecutive draws to start a title match in history. The best-of-12 game match has a prize fund of a million euros (about $1.1 million), with 60 percent for the winner. Each win is worth a point and each draw a half point. The first player to reach 6.5 points is declared the winner. (If the match should be tied after 12 games, the players will proceed to a series of tie-breakers and the winner of the match would receive 55 percent of the prize fund.)
The match is organized under the auspices of the World Chess Federation, or FIDE, the game’s governing body, and World Chess, the official organizer of the World Championship cycle. The venue for the event is in central London at The College in Holborn, an historic, Victorian-style building. Fans can watch online at Worldchess.com, the official site of the championship.
The match’s sponsors include PhosAgro, a giant, Russian-based international fertilizer company; Kaspersky Lab, one of the world’s top information security companies; S.T. Dupont, a leading French luxury goods manufacturer; Prytek, a Russian venture capital company specializing in technology and financial services; and Unibet, an online gambling operator that operates in more than 100 countries.
Those who may not have watched the match carefully might think that all the draws are a sign that the match has been dull. It has not been. Game 10 was an excellent example Caruana had White and, as he has throughout the match, he opened with 1 e4. Carlsen stuck with the Sicilian Defense (1 … c5) as he has played in each game that he has had Black.
As in Game 8, Caruana went into the Open Sicilian and Carlsen responded with the Sveshnikov or Pelikan Variation. The game was identical through Move 11. Caruana then varied with 12 b4, launching an attack on the queenside. Carlsen responded energetically and by Move 20, his initiative on the kingside offered him equal chances. Three moves later, however, Carlsen made a small error with 23 … Qg5. If Caruana had replied 24 Qd4, it would have forced Carlsen to defend his e pawn, slowing his attack.
Instead, Caruana erred with 24 g3, creating severe light-squared weaknesses in his kingside. With time growing short as the players approached the first time control at Move 40, the pace of the game picked up. Light-squared bishops were exchanged, slightly easing Caruana’s defensive task, but Carlsen retained a formidable pawn center, which counter balanced a strong White passed pawn on the queen side.
The position remained dynamically balanced until just after the first time control, when Carlsen made another small error with 45… Kd4. That miscalculation allowed Caruana to win a pawn, but it also led to simplification of the position. In the end, Caruana had no chance to win and the players agreed to a draw.
The match will now certainly go the distance in regulation. But it seems more and more likely that it will be decided in tie-breaker games. Game 11 is Saturday at 3 PM local, or GMT, time.