Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen remains the king of chess.
The World Chess Championship tends to be a very close battle. In his previous title defense against Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, the American challenger proved to be the Norwegian World Champion’s equal after twelve games and twelve draws. It was only after the faster time controls, where Carlsen has an edge over Caruana, that Carlsen retained his title in 2018.
For an even better example of how close a match between the world’s two best chess players can be, Grandmaster Garry Kasparov and Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov played 48 games in their two World Championship matches in 1987 and 1990 and Kasparov proved the better player with a one-point advantage.
Carlsen won in overwhelming fashion in the World Championship match that ended today. It is his most convincing victory in World Championship play, besting even his victory over the Indian Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand in 2013, when Carlsen first won the World Championship.
With criticisms of FIDE’s decision to shift the match which decides the World Championship to faster games after so few rounds, even transitioning into the popular chess variant blitz if a tie is not broken, Carlsen was likely eager to silence critics by winning under traditional time controls.
Carlsen’s World Championship Matches
WC Anand — Carlsen (2013) 3.5–6.5
WC Carlsen — Anand (2014) 6.5–4.5
WC Carlsen — Karjakin (2016) 6.0–6.0 (Rapid 3–1)
WC Carlsen — Caruana (2018) 6.0–6.0 (Rapid 3–0)
WC Carlsen — Nepomniachtchi (2021) 7.5–3.5
Before the match began, we got a bit of international drama. Due to Russia’s history of doping in preparation for international sports like the Olympics, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from officially competing in international competitions.
FIDE, the international governing body of chess, honored the ban in their World Championship match. This meant that Nepo would have to play under a similarly generic flag as was used by Russian athletes during the recent Olympics.
The public shaming of Russia continued as the World Champion Magnus Carlsen from Norway defended his title against Ian Nepomniachtchi from the nation of Chess Federation of Russia.
The challenger, Ian Nepomniachtchi, held his ground in the early rounds, but broke first and never recovered.
Round 1 — Nepo-Carlsen 1/2–1/2
Round 2 — Carlsen-Nepo 1/2–1/2
Round 3 — Nepo-Carlsen 1/2–1/2
Round 4 — Carlsen-Nepo 1/2–1/2
Round 5 — Nepo-Carlsen 1/2–1/2
A single win in a match for the World Championship can decide the victor. When Carlsen took his first win with white in round 6, in the longest game ever played for the world title, the challenger came out the other side wobbly-kneed while the battle-tested Carlsen marched on.
The sixth game played shattered the previous record for the longest World Chess Championship game in history with 136 moves. The game ended with Nepo’s royalty on the board, but black’s king and queen were not capable of stopping Carlsen’s two pawns as they marched toward promotion, supported by a rook and knight.
Round 6 — Carlsen-Nepo 1–0
Round 7 — Nepo-Carlsen 1/2–1/2
Perhaps since Karpov, it is common among grandmasters to attempt victory when playing with the white pieces but aim for a draw as black. This is due to a natural advantage granted to the white pieces, which move first. They decide how the game begins and enjoy half a tempo advantage until it’s lost.
Nepo wanted to win as white in round 7 to get back into the match. Instead, the World Champion held a draw.
What followed was a bloodbath.
Round 8 — Carlsen-Nepo 1–0
Round 9 — Nepo-Carlsen 0–1
Round 10 — Carlsen-Nepo 1/2–1/2
Round 11 — Nepo-Carlsen 0–1
The Russian showed his fighting spirit with a draw in the tenth round as black, but was overwhelmed by the reigning champion.
Astonishingly, Magnus Carlsen has now won twice as black in two separate World Championships, adding to his resume as one of the most ferocious players on either side of the board in the game’s history.
Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen, the world’s chess champion since 2013, has successfully defended his title four times.
Now, he must sit upon his throne and await the next would-be usurper.
Will Caruana make a return? Perhaps China’s Ding Liren or the young fan favorite, Alireza Firouzja.