King Of The Hill

Magnus Carlsen wrapped up his World Championship title defense against Sergey Karjakin today in a series of four rapid-play tiebreakers. It was a fantastic finish that featured some brilliant, beautiful chess.

Each player had 25 minutes for the whole game, with a 10-second increment added for every move.

The first game (you can play through it here) was a Ruy Lopez, with Karjakin playing Black. A draw.

Next came a Giuoco Piano, with Carlsen playing White. In a bloody exchange starting at move 23 Carlsen exchanged a rook and a pawn for two of Karjakin’s pieces. Carlsen pressed ferociously, but apparently missed at least one winning opportunity, and with a tremendous defensive effort by Karjakin the game ended in a stalemate. (Not often you see one of those in a championship match.)

The third game was another Lopez, with Carlsen playing Black. In this game he showed, for perhaps the first time in the whole match, real dominance. He slowly crushed Karjakin, who ended the game in terrible time-pressure. To do so with Black was even more impressive. It was a devastating blow.

Now Karjakin needed a win in the fourth game just to pull even and make it to the next tie-break round. It was a desperate situation for Karjakin, and the champion knew he was now in a commanding position. But Carlsen didn’t just play for the draw, which would have been enough to retain his title. He went for the win, and got it — with a gorgeous sacrificial mating combination at move 50. It was a stunningly beautiful way to end the match, and the spectators roared when he delivered the fatal blow. This game will not soon be forgotten, I think.

What a treat! But don’t take my word for it, readers: have a look for yourselves.

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