World C'ship: Carlsen keeps his crown in style

On the day he turned 26, Norway's Magnus Carlsen won his third world title by defeating Sergey Karjakin in the tie-breakers on Wednesday.

Magnus Carlsen won two of the four tie-breaking 'rapid games'.   -  Getty Images

Magnus Carlsen showed in New York on Wednesday why he is the undisputed king of world chess. He did that in stunning style, too, on his 26th birthday.

The Norwegian retained his World title beating Sergey Karjakin of Russia, with a queen sacrifice, in the fourth game of the tie-breaker. He won the play-off of four rapid games 3-1.

The 12 games played in the classical time control had failed to produce a decisive result: the score was tied at 6-6, with both the men winning one game apiece and drawing all the other 10. Carlsen had shown that he was willing to risk his crown by going for the tie-breakers, as he settled for a quick draw in the 12th game, despite playing with white pieces.

The first two games in the rapid time control were drawn, too. Carlsen had excellent chances of going ahead in the second game, which lasted 84 moves, but he failed to capitalise and Karjakin defended stoutly, as he so often did in this match.

In the third game, which featured the Ruy Lopez opening for the tenth time in the match, Carlsen scored a crucial win with black pieces. He sacrificed a pawn on the 30th move and romped home another eight moves later. Karjakin’s 38th move with his rook was a blunder; it proved his last move of the game.

Under pressure

The Russian was thus in a must-win situation in the fourth rapid game. So he chose Sicilian Defence, the best option for Black in such circumstances, though it was making its appearance for the first time in the match.

Carlsen only required a draw and allowed Karjakin to attack him. But the World No. 1 played solidly and before long moved into a position from where could force a win. And he won in 50 moves, sacrificing his queen. Karjakin resigned straightaway, with checkmate just a move away.

He could, however, take heart from the fact that he stretched the world’s best player longer than India’s Viswanathan Anand did in the last two World title matches, neither of which had gone the full distance.

“I felt it was an advantage for me that I didn’t really have to think so much about Game 12 and he did,” said Carlsen. “I also felt my head was working better than it was a few days ago and he was playing a bit worse, so in that sense I thought playing four games instead of one seemed a very good idea. Besides, it was very refreshing to play a bit faster after all these weeks.”

Karjakin admitted he had spent a lot of time to prepare for Carlsen. “But it didn’t work as he was jumping to different openings and I didn’t really use my preparation,” he said. “I can admit a few times I completely forgot my preparation and I mixed up my preparation – in the classical games, but also in the rapid. There were so many things to prepare that I didn’t manage to remember everything. Maybe it was better to have a fresh head and not to repeat so much.”