Game 12: Title to Be Decided in Tie-breaks

The identity of the next World Champion will have to wait until Wednesday.

Monday, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana drew Game 12 of their title match in London, leaving the score tied at the end of regulation.
The players will go to a series of tie-breaker games on Wednesday to determine the champion.

The match has made history, though of an ignoble kind, as all 12 games have ended in draws. It is the first title match with no victories in regulation.

Carlsen, 27, the defending champion, who is from Norway, perhaps had a chance to put an end to that streak on Monday as he held a slight advantage against Caruana, 26, who is American, when the players agreed to a draw. The decision was criticized by some fans on the Internet, but Carlsen may have had practical considerations.

The position in which the draw was agreed was still quite complicated and, in the tie-breakers, where the players will have less time, Carlsen will have a distinct advantage as he plays better, and is more highly ranked, than Caruana at faster time controls.

The first tie-breakers will be four rapid games, which will have time controls of 25 minutes per player per game, with 10 seconds added to the time after each move. Carlsen is ranked No. 1 in the world at rapid time controls and Caruana is No. 10.
If there is still no winner after the rapid games, the players will continue with two blitz games (five minutes per player per game, with three seconds added after each move).

Carlsen is also ranked No. 1 in blitz, while Caruana is No. 18.
If there is still no winner after the first two blitz games, they will play two more.

If that still does not produce a winner, there will be an Armageddon game in which White will start with one more minute on his clock, but Black will only have to draw to win the championship.
The match has a prize fund of a million euros (about $1.1 million), with 60 percent for the winner, or 55 percent, if the winner is decided by the tie-breakers.

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, 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.

In Game 12, Caruana had White and, as he has throughout the match, he opened with 1 e4. Carlsen countered as he has had in the previous five games in which he had Black – with the Sicilian Defense (1 … c5). He also once again chose the Sveshnikov or Pelikan Variation.
Carlsen was the first to vary from previous games when he played 8 … Ne7. The move is considered inferior to 8 … Nb8, which Carlsen had played twice before. In both of those games, however, he had some problems.

Caruana continued energetically with 9 c4 and 10 Qa4, but Carlsen countered successfully and seemed to be tacitly offering to repeat the position, which would lead to a draw by repetition, as he shuttled his bishop back and forth between d7 and f5 in response to threats by Caruana.
Caruana avoided the repetition, which allowed Carlsen to complete his development. After 23 moves, computers evaluated the chances as roughly equal. But Caruana then played 24 Nf2 and 25 f4, which allowed Carlsen to gain a protected, passed e pawn. The computers now gave Carlsen a slight edge, but 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.
For whatever reason, he chose not to invest the energy and, instead, proposed a draw after 31 moves, which Caruana accepted.
This will be the second consecutive World Championship that will be decided in tie-breakers. Carlsen beat Sergey Karjakin of Russia in 2016 in New York City by a score of 3-1 in the rapid games, concluding the match with a beautiful queen sacrifice.

Can the 2018 championship equal such drama? The world will have the answer in two days, when the games begin at 3 PM local, or GMT, time.

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