Boardgames in the News: Drawing Out the 2018 World Chess Championship

The World Chess Championship is run by the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), and in recent years has been settled on a two year cycle with the reigning champion playing against the winner of the Candidates Tournament.  The Candidates Tournament is an eight player double round-robin tournament and this year was won by Fabiano Luigi Caruana, an Italian-American Chess prodigy.  Currently number two in the world rankings, Caruana become the youngest ever Italian or American Grandmaster, earning the title in 2007 at the age of 14 years and eleven months.  Caruana is playing Sven Magnus Øen Carlsen (known as Magnus), a Norwegian Chess Grandmaster.  Carlsen is currently number one in the world rankings, a position he has held since 2010, when the became the youngest person to achieve the highest rank at just nineteen.  In 2013 Carlsen won the World Championships for the first time, retaining the title in 2014 and 2016.

– Image by Unsplash contributor sk

This year the protagonists are very evenly matched, ranking one and two in the world and separated by just eighteen months.  What is remarkable though is just how evenly matched their Chess has been:  the World Chess Championship is a twelve match game played over three weeks, and for the first time in history, all twelve matches have ended in a draw.  Each of these matches was played against the clock with a maximum possible time of over three hours.  Since these ended in a tie, the players will be challenged further by increasing the speed of play, increasing the chance of errors.  Thus a series of four “speed chess” tie-breaks will initially be used to decide the match each taking approximately half an hour.  If this fails to separate the combatants, there will be up to five mini-matches of best-of-two blitz games (five to ten minutes each).  If the match is still tied, this will be followed by an an “Armageddon” game where White starts with five minutes on the clock and Black with four minutes, with both players receiving a three second increment after sixty moves.  In the case of a draw, Black wins.

– Image by Unsplash contributor Felix Mittermeier

The tie-breaks will be played on Wednesday 28th November, with the winner taking 55% of the €1,000,000 prize pot, and of course, the title of “World Chess Champion”.