For those who watched “The Matrix”, you would remember this saying towards the end of “Revolution” – “Whatever has a beginning, has an end”.
That is the point we have gotten to right now, as the World Chess Championship Match kicks off today at 15:00 GMT between the current World Chess Champion, Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen of Norway and his challenger, the world Number 2 chess player, Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana of the USA.
This year has had somewhat contrasting fortunes for both players, as virtually every tournament GM Fabiano Caruana has played in, he has won (even with the champion present), and the only tournament GM Magnus Carlsen would have probably won on tie breaks (if it had been allowed), the sponsors compelled the players to agree to a tie. GM Fabiano Caruana however did lose out to Ding Liren, in the battle for board 1 Gold Medal, at the Batumi Chess Olympiad (and the Chinese has gone on to break Mikhail Tal’s record of unbeaten games, and currently sits on 97 games unbeaten and hoping to reach the 100 game mark)
But one thing would be keeping the champ, Magnus Carlsen going in this match; which is the fact that even though Caruana has won the tournaments they have both played in, Magnus has had the better head to head as far as this year is concerned (even though generally speaking, Carlsen leads 22-12 with 22 draws in ALL events), and at the same time, Carlsen has the World Chess Championship Match experience from playing both GM Viswanathan Anand (twice) and GM Sergey Karjakin (once). But this will be his toughest challenge yet, and if he is successful in overcoming this, it will only get tougher as the years go on.
Carlsen noted in his recent interview with NRK heading into this match, that he was jittery in his first match with Anand, and that if Anand had taken his chances, then we might be saying something different right now (or at least until a few years after the first championship match). The question remains, will Caruana be feeling the pressure going into this match? Or has he been able to develop the thick skin needed to become the next World Champion? Is Caruana a better Number 2, or would he take the reins from Carlsen?
The next few days would tell us the answers to the questions above and it will indeed reveal a lot about both the Champion and the Challenger, as it revealed during the previous two World Championship Matches.
As far as Africa is concerned, there are a lot of chess pundits rooting for Carlsen, probably because he is the face they know and can easily relate with, or maybe because he is the most popular name they have heard after the renowned GM Garry Kasparov, who can tell the reason anyone supports another? While a lot of chess players are drumming their support for Caruana, because of obvious reasons, as loving the underdog, or just tired of Carlsen and want to see a change in power, or maybe just because they were fans of Vishy Anand and they want penance for what Carlsen did to their idol in the second match, but who knows why, really? Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
But then, top players who understand the act of “doing nothing”, have continued to point out reasons why they believe this would be a tough encounter, but that Carlsen would eventually retain the crown. When a few of the top players were gathered in Cote D’Ivoire, and were asked before the tournament kicked off, who they thought would win the World Chess Championship, most of them went for GM Magnus Carlsen (you can find the interviews on the Kasparov Chess Africa YouTube Channel). Even though the match is not about what people are saying, what people are saying gives an inclination into how the human mind works and who they would prefer as their World Champion for the next 2 years.
One thing is certain though, the world would see a World Chess Championship like never before, because both players understand their strengths and weaknesses, both players have been working to develop their strengths and overcome their weaknesses, and both players will leave their all in London, as one man would be crowned the World Champion and the other would have to go prepare to challenge at the next Candidates Tournament in 2020.
As the first match kicks off today, the top 2 players in the world, separated by only 3 rating points, would be facing off against each other, for the right to be called the World Chess Champion for the next 2 years, and it would be the birth of a legend or the end of a Cinderella story, the stamp of authority or the loss of power.
This will also be the beginning of a new era, as the new FIDE President, Arkady Dvorkovich, is billed to change the way chess is seen globally, and what better time to be a World Champion “of the life changing sport” than NOW!?
Have you also noticed that Garry Kasparov has not said a word about the match, the players, and the future of chess with either player at the helm? Get ready folks, because Garry will be the first analyst for the World Chess Championship Match.
Who do you think will win in London to become the 2018 World Chess Champion and why?
Feattured image courtesy: The World Chess