Carlsen’s Bizarre Decision Has Sent The World Chess Championship To Overtime

For hours, the play in Monday’s Game 12 of the World Chess Championship was filthy. Then it was weird. Things did not look drawish! But because of a remarkable decision by the world’s top grandmaster, they ended in a draw anyway.

Over more than two weeks, more than 600 moves, 48 hours of play, one scandalous video and one black eye, the world’s top two grandmasters have now fought to a dozen straight draws. The World Chess Championship match between Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and the U.S.’s Fabiano Caruana remains deadlocked at the end of regulation, and the title will be now be decided by speedy tie-breaking games including, perhaps, a sudden-death format known as Armageddon.

But before the tiebreakers came a wild, oscillating Game 12. Carlsen, with the black pieces, and Caruana, with the white, began with the Sveshnikov Sicilian, just as they had in Game 8 and Game 10. Carlsen was the first to deviate from the earlier contests, perhaps a stratagem to take Caruana out of his seemingly excellent preparation for the championship, and to angle for a decisive result at last. By the 12th move, the two were in uncharted territory, looking at a board that that no two people had created before at this level of chess.1

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“This is going to get really dirty, really soon,” said Levon Aronian, the world No. 11, on a Chess.com broadcast. Sharp, gnarly and double-edged attacks appeared to be arriving soon, and the game was surely bound to be the first decisive result of the match. Surely!

Caruana thought for about 25 minutes before making his 17th move. It’s hard to blame him, as the position on the board was very complicated. Worse for Caruana, it soon became complicated in a way that favored the Norwegian. “It looks like black is having all the fun in the position,” the grandmaster Robert Hess said after Caruana’s 21st move. All of black’s cavalry was mounted and armored and ready to charge. Black had more space in which to prepare its plans, and its bishops would likely soon eye an attack on the kingside.

Undeterred, with his 21st and 22nd moves — rook to h2 and castling on the queenside, readying a heavy battery — Caruana signaled his willingness to fight.

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It was a willingness that led to real trouble. After Caruana’s 25th move, he was down more than 30 minutes on the clock and the equivalent of nearly two pawns, according to a supercomputer analyzing the game. The middlegame became a wild rumpus, and a scary one for fans of the American, one that neither human grandmasters nor chess superengines could make all that much sense of. Swings in advantage were wild, and time pressure was mounting. After Carlsen’s 31st move, Caruana had less than nine minutes remaining and faced this position.

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An attack was coming Caruana’s way, his time was dangerously low, and he was about to make the eight most important moves of his life2 under various flavors of high pressure. But Carlsen reached out his hand before Caruana could move and offered a draw — a pacifistic bolt from the blue. Caruana happily shook it.

I’m not a grandmaster — far from it — but the position above looks nothing like a draw to me. There are, to put it professionally, soooooo many pieces left, including a ton of firepower, plus a pawn rolling down the left flank for black and various pieces that are under attack. And yet, a draw. Another draw.

“I wasn’t in a mood to find the punch,” Carlsen said by way of explanation after the game.

“I should be really happy with a draw,” Caruana said. “My position had no chances to win.”

Caruana said he was surprised by the draw offer. So was everyone else.

Let’s leave a deeper discussion of whether Carlsen’s shocking gesture is good for chess for later (it’s absolutely not) and take a look at how we got here.

Our championship computer analysis chart is now completed, but its contents weren’t enough to determine a winner. According to the match rules, here’s what the grandmasters will do on Wednesday:

  • They’ll play a mini-match of four rapid games, in which each player gets 25 minutes plus 10 bonus seconds after each move. Points will be awarded as they were during regulation: 1 point for a win, half a point each for a draw.
  • If the score is still tied after those four games, they’ll play a mini-match of two blitz games, in which each player gets five minutes plus three bonus seconds after each move. If that’s tied, they’ll play another and another and so on, for up to five mini-matches, or 10 total blitz games.
  • If all of those two-game blitz matches are tied, they’ll play a single game of Armageddon. In this format, white gets five minutes, black gets four minutes, and a draw counts as a win for black. Lots are drawn (no pun intended) to determine who gets which color.

For the risk averse grandmaster, there was an incentive to head to tiebreakers: The 1 million pound prize fund is divided 60-40 to the winner, unless the match is decided in tiebreakers, in which case, it’s 55-45.

But who will win 55 percent of the money? Probably Carlsen, and the faster the tiebreakers get, the bigger Carlsen’s advantage.

To see why, let’s do a little math to calculate each player’s win probability in each potential round of tiebreakers. First, we need some measure of the players’ strengths in the speedier formats — I’ll use FIDE’s Elo ratings. Carlsen’s rapid rating is 2880, and his blitz rating is 2939; Caruana’s rapid rating is 2789, and his blitz rating is 2767. We also need a measure of how likely draws are in these faster formats. I’ll use historical data. In last year’s World Rapid Championship, for example, about 30 percent of the games were draws. In last year’s World Blitz Championship (which Carlsen won), about 20 percent of the games were draws.

Combining those facts and running a bunch of simulations give the following probabilistic picture of the world championship tiebreakers. Carlsen is a roughly 80 percent favorite — again, based only on the quantitative factors mentioned above. These simulations do not care about Caruana’s strong form in the 12 lengthy games that have been played so far or his confident utterances during recent post-game press conferences. (In real life, the two have played 23 speedier games against each other, according to Chessgames.com — Carlsen won 13, Caruana won six and four were draws.)

When will the chess end? And will it end in Armageddon?
Cumulative chance of winning championship
Tiebreak Round Chances of playing Carlsen 🇳🇴
Caruana 🇺🇸
Rapid game 1 100.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Rapid game 2 100.0 0.0 0.0
Rapid game 3 100.0 31.6 5.5
Rapid game 4 62.9 63.8 17.1
Blitz match 1 19.1 76.2 19.0
Blitz match 2 4.8 79.3 19.5
Blitz match 3 1.2 80.1 19.6
Blitz match 4 0.3 80.3 19.6
Blitz match 5 0.1 80.4 19.6
Armageddon 🔥
0.0 80.4 19.6

While I hate to disappoint, these somewhat crude calculations suggest only a 0.02 percent — or 1-in-5,000 — chance of Armageddon at the World Chess Championship.

Then again, maybe the conventional wisdom is all wrong. For what it’s worth, the longtime world champion Garry Kasparov reassessed his own prediction of the tiebreakers following Monday’s draw.

The tie-breaking games begin Wednesday at 10 a.m. Eastern, and a world champion will be crowned. I’ll be covering them here and on Twitter.

Chess World Celebrates A ‘Sensational’ Move … That Leads To A Championship Draw

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, the world’s top two grandmasters, spent Thanksgiving in London in a soundproof glass box, staring at a small table, guzzling bottled water and continuing their deadlocked battle for the World Chess Championship.

The match was already a record-breaker, having started with more consecutive draws than any championship on the books. As the holiday began, the best-of-12 race for the title sat level 4.5-4.5. Tensions ran high. #LooksDrawish was trending on Twitter (I assume/dream).

I awoke in my Brooklyn apartment early Thursday morning, put on some heavy-duty coffee and watched as the grandmasters opened Game 10 with another Sveshnikov Sicilian, just as they’d done in Game 8. Caruana steered out of Game 8’s lane on his 12th move, with a novel “pawn to b4,” and they were left with the position below.

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“It’s going to be a complicated game,” said the grandmaster Judit Polgár, providing the official match commentary.

And indeed it was going to be — for the players and your humble chess correspondent. My parents were in town, my sister was sweating over an oven, and forgotten provisions had to be procured. A table had to be set. Mashed potatoes had to be eaten. I tore away from the match and headed into the city.

Having nervously missed a handful of moves on my train ride, I ascended from the serviceless subway station in time to witness something special from Carlsen, the defending world champion who had yet to do much special at all. One grandmaster told me his move was “phenomenal.” Another tweeted that it was “incredible.” A chess writer called it “sensational.” A chess instructor called it “fascinating.”

So just what was it that Carlsen did with the black pieces here?

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It was pawn to b5.

Erwin l’Ami, the grandmaster who called it “incredible,” described the idea behind the move, which ostensibly loses a pawn for Carlsen, as follows: Once Carlsen pushes that pawn to b5, Caruana can win it by moving his pawn to b6. (That may not appear to be a legal move, but it’s a special capture known as en passant, in which a pawn can diagonally capture another pawn that has just hopped up two squares next to it.) Carlsen could then take the rook on a3 with his rook, and Caruana could take that rook with his knight. Carlsen could then push his pawn to f3, encroaching further into white’s territory. Two pawn captures then ensue on that same square, followed by Caruana capturing there with his bishop. And then Carlsen could bring his knight into the action on e5. The result of that hypothetical line would have looked like this — a “huge attack” on Caruana’s king.

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After snacking nervously with this chess idea in our heads, my parents and I emerged from a serviceless restaurant worried (or at least I was) that we may have missed the final Norwegian triumph and the de facto end of the world championship. Someone may have won! We found instead that we hadn’t missed many moves and that Caruana hadn’t bit on Carlsen’s aggressive pawn sacrifice. No devastating attack had come. The position (my phone told me) was once again level. It looked drawish.

Wine store: drawish. Whole Foods: drawish. Elevator: drawish.

When we arrived at last at my sister’s apartment, her boyfriend already had both the chess game and the football game on large screens, thereby forever cementing his value to the family. He’s not much of a chess player, but he did have some interesting thoughts on rook endgames. Lucky thing, too, because by that point the game looked like this.

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With my attention divided between how-to-carve-a-turkey videos on YouTube, a glass of Cabernet, and the soundproof glass box in London, I was nevertheless unsurprised to see Carlsen and Caruana shake hands for the 10th game in a row, agreeing to a draw on the 54th move. The match — needless to say — sits level at 5-5 with two games to go.

Brin-Jonathan Butler, a Canadian journalist who was therefore presumably unencumbered by Thanksgiving, had been keeping a close eye on the match and called me to say that it has been “as eventful as a bus keeping its schedule.” And indeed, that schedule continues: Game 11 begins Saturday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

It Was Finally Fabiano Caruana’s Turn To Survive At The World Chess Championship

Magnus Carlsen got a black eye before Game 9 of the World Chess Championship. But it didn’t hinder his vision of the board as Wednesday’s play began.

For the first time in nearly two weeks of play, Carlsen, the defending champion, was able to successfully command the white pieces to an attacking advantage. Throughout much of Game 9, Carlsen outdueled his challenger, Fabiano Caruana. Caruana, the world No. 2, appeared to reel at points, and his allocated time melted off his clock as he pondered his defense.

But Carlsen’s advantage melted, too. The game was drawn after 56 moves over 3.5 hours of play. It was the ninth consecutive draw and the best-of-12 match sits level at 4.5-4.5.

Before the game Wednesday, the list of colorful stories orbiting the match ballooned to two. First came the infamous deleted YouTube video appearing to show elements of Caruana’s pre-match strategic preparation. Now we had the black eye.

Instagram Photo

NRK, the Norwegian broadcaster, reported that Carlsen collided — excuse me, “kolliderte” — with one of its own journalists while playing soccer on Tuesday, a rest day from the chess. Questions were raised about Carlsen’s mental soundness — a grandmaster should do nothing but grandmastering, apparently. Per Google’s translation of NRK, he was reportedly “dumbfounded” after the crash. “If he has to use pain relief, there may be a potential problem,” NRK wrote.

But those neurological questions seemed quickly answered at the board and Carlsen said he felt no pain while playing.

The first eight moves on Wednesday exactly matched the first eight from Game 4 — their name sounds like something out of Tolkien, an English opening that became a Reverse Dragon. But the game took a radical and aggressive turn on move 9, when Carlsen scrambled his bishop to the g5 square, into enemy territory and with its mitre directly pointed at Caruana’s queen.

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This specific position has only ever materialized on a tournament chessboard once before, according to the ChessBase database, in an otherwise uncelebrated game in 2008 between two Croatian non-grandmasters. (Though black won that one.) The attack was on, and Caruana contributed with a misstep on his 17th move, capturing a knight in Carlsen’s territory that he oughtn’t have. That capture sparked a series of moves that eventually allowed Carlsen’s bishop to escape, flying across the board to capture the black pawn on b7.

As deep into the game as the 18th move, Carlsen hadn’t spent more than a minute on any one move and quickly opened up a 40-minute advantage on the clock. One knock against the champ in this match has been his apparently lackadaisical preparation. But he was solidly prepared for his aggressive line on Wednesday, sailing through his moves. Caruana, meanwhile, took 9 minutes to make his 12th move, 21 minutes on his 13th, 8 on his 14th and 13 on his 17th.

The fruits of the Norwegian’s preparation appeared to be a comfortable position: Either he would win or he would draw. Before Carlsen’s 24th move, the position looked like this.

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“I think there are some long-term dangers here for black,” said Hikaru Nakamura, a top American grandmaster commentating for Chess.com. Carlsen’s white bishop, for example, was far more active than Caruana’s. “If Caruana doesn’t find the right moves, he will lose.”

It appeared to all the world that the Norwegian chess superstar would finally make real progress in the match, and indeed that a victory in the moves to come would effectively decide the match — and the world title — itself. “There are certain types of positions where Magnus is stronger than a computer,” said Anish Giri, the world No. 5, on a chess24 broadcast.

It’s an evocative claim, but it was not true on Wednesday. Carlsen may have rushed his attack on move 25, shortly after the position above. He pushed his pawn up the flank on the edge of the board, to h4 and toward Caruana’s king. He then pushed it again, to h5. It may have been a square too far, or at least too soon. (The computer engine Stockfish preferred involving that active white bishop instead.)

“He’s just not playing his best chess,” added Peter Svidler, the world No. 19, on that very same broadcast. The position simplified dramatically and the two shook hands — which they must be getting very good at — after 56 moves.

Ah, chess is cruel. Here’s a chart to quantify that cruelty — and we’ll keep it updated throughout the rest of the match. There are three regular games left, and speedier tiebreaker games will follow on Nov. 27, if necessary.

This match has been different for Carlsen than his 2016 World Chess Championship encounter against Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin, which began with seven consecutive draws. Many of those found Karjakin on the backfoot, escaping like Houdini from the shackles of the world champion. Caruana, however, has rarely been in real trouble until Wednesday, and this year Carlsen has been forced to play the part of escape artist.

Carlsen would, however, be an enormous favorite should the tiebreakers become necessary.

“I’m really not thinking about the tiebreak now,” Caruana said after the game. “I really don’t agree with most people about my chances in the tiebreak.”

Game 10 begins Thursday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. But that’s also Thanksgiving. As a result, our next dispatch will come on Friday. Chess waits for no turkey, but FiveThirtyEight does. I’ll be covering the rest of the match here and on Twitter.

The Biggest Blunder Of The World Chess Championship Is A Deleted YouTube Video

Game 4 of the World Chess Championship in London began with a fitting surprise: the “English Opening.”

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the three-time defending world champion and world No. 1, began the game by pushing the white pawn in front of his left bishop to the c4 square — a relatively rare move at the game’s highest levels. Fabiano Caruana, the U.S. challenger and world No. 2 trying to become the first American world champion since Bobby Fischer in 1972, pushed a black pawn to e5. And with that, the English had come. Few bells would be rung for the rest of the game.

Game 4 ended in a draw, just as the three previous games had. It was an uninspired 34-move, 2.5-hour episode. The match for the game’s highest prize remains level, at 2 points apiece in a race to 6.5.1 The boring result failed to overshadow the real drama of the day: the Zapruder film of this world championship.

But first, the chess.

“Carlsen is trying to avoid that really annoying Petroff,” Robert Hess, a grandmaster, said during a broadcast on Twitch. The Petroff Defence is one of Caruana’s favorite chess tools when he has the black pieces, but he can deploy it only when white cooperates by opening with a pawn to e4. Carlsen’s opening move, therefore, was preventive — or “prophylactic,” as chess players like to say. (Bards of the game, one and all.)

The pattern of pieces that developed on the board is called, rather delightfully, a “Reverse Dragon.” The Sicilian Defence has a variation called the Dragon — named after the resemblance of the pawns to the constellation Draco — except in this case its colors were reversed. But the position breathed no fire on Tuesday.

After 10 moves, the game was an exact match of a game that Caruana played against Wesley So, another top American grandmaster, earlier this year — the only such game that had ever featured this position, according to ChessBase. Given how recent and high-profile it was, this was a game that Caruana and Carlsen almost certainly both remembered well.

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After that, the two entered previously unseen territory. But the uncharted wilderness did not provide much in the way of excitement. Carlsen and Caruana agreed to a draw after 34 moves, in the position below. Despite the many pieces on the board, the grandmasters’ expertise told them that there was only one way this was likely to go.

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Here’s how things have gone on the chessboard thus far, and we’ll keep the chart below updated throughout the match.

The day’s humdrum play was overshadowed by some excitement off the board, though. A chess-world controversy — or at least what qualifies as one — erupted. Before the game, the posh Saint Louis Chess Club posted, and quickly deleted, a YouTube video appearing to show aspects of Caruana’s pre-championship preparation sessions. The club is Caruana’s de facto office and was founded by the billionaire retired financier Rex Sinquefield, who also helps fund Caruana’s chess career — both the club and Caruana are totems of Sinquefield’s deep pockets and deep love of chess. A chess columnist named John Hartmann tweeted this screenshot from the video.

It shows a laptop screen, complete with chess ideas in progress — a “Fianchetto Grunfeld,” various Queen’s Gambits Declined (an opening that was played in Game 2), and a number of ideas related to the favorite Petroff. It also shows a number of games from the 2016 world championship, to which Caruana was surely paying close attention.

A clip of the video shows Caruana leafing through a book of Carlsen’s past championship games and then handing it across a chessboard to his grandmaster coach and “second,” Rustam Kasimdzhanov, while grandmaster Alejandro Ramírez sits nearby.

Scandalous, I know.

Some chess commentators suggested that it was a huge blunder; others suggested that it was a deft piece of a disinformation campaign. The Saint Louis Chess Club did not respond to my emailed requests for comment, and Caruana’s manager declined to comment. Caruana himself declined to comment at a post-game news conference, and Carlsen claimed that he hadn’t seen it but was aware of its existence.

World Chess Championship preparation is always closely guarded. Kasimdzhanov warned me last spring that anything I might write about Caruana’s prep would be pored over by his Norwegian opponent and his team of hired chess guns for any shred of usable information. A player readying for a championship match typically enters seclusion with a small, handpicked crew of grandmaster aides and other associates. Even revealing their identities could be risky, I was told, because different grandmasters have different chess tendencies, and revealing the grandmasters might signal a game plan to the opponent. When Fischer was readying for his championship match, at a resort in upstate New York where prizefighters trained, he told an interloping New York Times reporter to “shove off” and stopped answering the phone.

In April, FiveThirtyEight was promised access to Caruana’s training camp by Caruana’s managers — a promise that was rescinded in July. That change of heart was not unique to this website. At least one other major online outlet was promised exclusive access to his training camps — another promise that was rescinded in July.

But the players will have to play their moves in public eventually. Perhaps one of them will even win a game of chess.

The match rests on Wednesday, but Game 5 begins Thursday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

The World Chess Championship Is Deadlocked After Game 2

Heavy rain showers, a gentle breeze and 57 degrees in London, the BBC reported this morning. The top American grandmaster Fabiano Caruana was unprepared for such weather, arriving for Game 2 of the World Chess Championship sporting a wet blazer.

Never mind the sartorial dampness, however. He arrived excellently prepared for the chess.

His opponent is Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the three-time defending world champion and world No. 1. Caruana, the world No. 2, is vying to become the first American world champ since Bobby Fischer won the title in 1972. The pair had already played an epic, 7-hour, 115-move draw in Game 1 on Friday, and the best-of-12-game match sat level, 0.5 points apiece.1

The result in Game 2 on Saturday was the same — but the path to it was much shorter. After a 49-move, three-hour draw, the grandmasters are level at 1 point apiece, and the championship remains deadlocked.

Carlsen and Caruana began Game 2 — Carlsen with the white pieces, Caruana with the black — in an opening called the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Everything went according to well-established chess theory until Caruana’s 10th move, which can be rendered in chess notation as “10…Rd8!?”

The “!?” denotes an “interesting move.” (The “10” means it’s the 10th move, the “…” means we’re talking about the black pieces, the “R” means the rook, and the “d8” indicates the square the piece is bound for.)

“Surprise is very important,” said Judit Polgar, a grandmaster commentating the match.

The surprise appeared to pay off, as Carlsen, playing the white pieces, thought for 17 minutes, head in his hand, looking rather perturbed. This is what he saw:

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Tick tock.

Tick tock.

“Magnus almost touched a piece!” yelled Anna Rudolf, another match commentator, capturing quite faithfully the causes of — and level of — excitement that accompanied Game 2 of the World Chess Championship.

Carlsen eventually did actually touch a piece, breaking the unbearable tension, moving his bishop to e2. And by this point, this particular chess position had only ever been seen once before in a competitive game according to ChessBase — in an obscure contest between two English players in 2014 in Aberystwyth, Wales.

Nevertheless, Caruana appeared ready for everything, moving quickly through the novelty. He was prepared for the chess, if not the rain.

This trend continued. Carlsen thought for another 12 minutes before making his 12th move, 9 minutes for his 15th move, 15.5 minutes for his 16th move, 9 minutes for his 19th move and, well, you get the idea. In many ways, the roles were reversed from the first game. Caruana, whose own time had ticked down to mere seconds in Game 1, opened up an hour advantage on the clock in Game 2, and looked rather comfortable.

Carlsen faced another ?! — er, I mean interesting — position while contemplating his 17th move, shown below.

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The chess computer engine that keeps me warm during the games suggested a rather dramatic sacrifice: taking black’s pawn on f7 with the white knight. Black’s king would take the white knight, but white would gain exciting but complex attacking chances. Carlsen opted against the gambit — instead developing a bishop to f3 — perhaps because his clock was loudly ticking in his ear.

Caruana started scratching his own head at this point — but the tension soon slackened. By move 26, the queens and remaining bishops had been traded off the board, leaving the two in another endgame involving only rooks and pawns, just like they had on Friday. This version, however, ended much more quickly than the marathon that came before.

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Carlsen and Caruana played around here for a bit, but shook hands and agreed to draw after 49 moves.

The match now sits at 1-1 in this race to 6.5, and will likely stretch to the end of the month. We’ll be keeping the chart below updated throughout.

Sunday is a rest day, and Game 3 begins Monday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

The World Chess Championship Opened With A Wild Draw

It was 55 degrees and lightly raining in London, just as I imagine it always is, as the grandmasters Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Fabiano Caruana of the United States sat down to begin playing for the 2018 World Chess Championship. The gray meteorology belied the volcanic and lengthy chess on Day 1 of the World Chess Championship. Over seven hours and 115 moves, the players fought a fiery and oscillating battle to open the match, which will likely stretch to the end of the month. The American was lucky to emerge, largely unscathed, with a draw.

The players’ venue is in central London, in a place called The College, about a 15-minute walk north of the Thames. Carlsen, 27, and Caruana, 26, are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively. Carlsen is the three-time defending world champion. Caruana is vying for the first American title since Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky in 1972.

Following a drawing of lots, Carlsen chose to begin the best-of-12-game match on defense with the black pieces. Wins here are worth 1 point, draws a half-point for each, and losses zero points. If the 12th game ends with each player having 6 points, a series of tiebreaker games will ensue. And that’s exactly what happened at the last world championship, in 2016, when Carlsen edged out Sergey Karjakin of Russia. There may still be a lot of chess left.

But there was a lot of chess Friday, too. Carlsen began with the combative Sicilian Defence, and the two entered into something called its Rossolimo Variation. Carlsen was likely pleased — he had beaten Caruana in this very variation in an attacking game in 2015.

After move 9, Caruana went into what the official match broadcast called the first “deep think” of the match, and the game ground to a near-halt as the position ventured into uncharted territory. By Caruana’s 11th move, a board like this had never been seen before at the game’s high levels, according to ChessBase’s database.

Carlsen donned a puffy jacket. Caruana removed his blazer.

Time soon became an issue. The players each get 100 minutes for their first 40 moves, with 30 bonus seconds after each move. After that, they get 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and 15 minutes for any moves after that. Nevertheless, while contemplating his 22nd move, Caruana’s clock ticked down to less than 10 minutes. Carlsen, across the board, moved quickly. With his 25th move, Caruana’s clock had dropped to six minutes. On his 32nd move, less than two minutes. On his 34th move, 6 seconds. If his clock had hit zero, he would have forfeited the game instantly.

Forestalling the end, Caruana fought for his life in the lower right corner of the board. The time pressure — and the pressure from the powerful pieces controlled by the best player in the world — were obviously too much to handle. It was over, and the players would surely head to an early dinner. The computer engines and the chess cognoscenti assessed Carlsen’s position as “surely winning” and Caruana’s as “sad.”

Carlsen’s troops were standing over Caruana’s king, ready to kill and take a devastating early lead in the championship.

But black slipped. The Norwegian champ captured a juicy-looking pawn he oughtn’t have, giving the American a chance to scurry to safety with seconds to spare. You can see what happened below. Carlsen, playing black, captured the pawn on c3 with his bishop. The better move, according to a chess engine whirring on my laptop, would have been to venture deep into the American’s territory, moving the black queen to g1. Carlsen’s advantage, according to the computer, dropped from roughly three pawns to roughly nothing.

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By the 43rd move, the two grandmasters had traded queens, clearing the board significantly, and they entered an intricate endgame that stretched on — for hours.

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The rooks and kings traveled around for what seemed like an eternity. But the lava that had flowed over the game earlier in the day had finally cooled — and finally (finally!) hardened into a draw. Here’s the whole dang thing, compressed into less than a minute:

Despite the draw, Robert Hess, an American grandmaster, called it a “dominant start for Magnus.”

The championship is level at a half-point each in this race to 6.5. We’ll keep the chart below updated throughout the match.

Game 2 begins tomorrow at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

Read more: The American Grandmaster Who Could Become World Champion