Twelve draws – it’s time for tiebreaks!

By Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen

It will all be decided today. Will Magnus manage to defend his title successfully with less time on the clock, or will Caruana manage to outsmart him? Either way, we are in for a real treat!

I admit it - I was one of the “experts” who predicted many decisive games. Well, the match was closer than I expected and although we saw both players pushing, they never managed to score a win.

The tiebreak will contain a lot of action. I am sure we will see time troubles, big blunders, and brilliant moves. With shorter time, the drawing tendencies are much lower than in the ordinary games.

It all starts with four rapid games where the players have 25 minutes to think, with an increment on 10 seconds on every move. In case of a tie, the players will continue with blitz games. It’s unlikely, but there is a chance it will all boil down to an Armageddon game, a blitz game where Black wins in case of a draw.

If you have other plans today – cancel them!

Magnus' decision to offer a draw in the 12th game has been discussed in great detail. People clearly wanted to see more chess, and it ended abruptly yesterday. However, I think it's important to remember that Magnus did something similar in the match against Karjakin in 2016. In the final game, he went for a quick draw with the white pieces: a decision most chess fans didn’t like. However, when they saw how Magnus dominated the playoff, they all realized it was the right choice by the Champion.

Magnus' last move was 31…Rc8-a8 followed by a draw offer.

I believe his decision can be explained in different ways.

  • It’s hard to argue with the World Champion. If he says this is easy to hold for Caruana, he is probably right.
  • Magnus has great belief in his abilities with shorter time control. It’s like math – he considers his chances in the playoff so high that it would be unwise to make any unnecessary risks in the last round.
  • It’s been a hard-fought and tiring match. After twelve draws I am sure he looks at the rapid and Blitz as something refreshing. It’s like they start all over again, but this time it will be over quickly.
  • Twelve games are tiring, both physically and psychologically. It would be crazy not to be exhausted and nervous in a game like that.
  • Finally, I believe the color of the pieces played a role when he decided to offer a draw. As he was Black in the last game, he was probably aiming for a draw from the very beginning, and it was difficult to adjust to a different mindset.

The first four points are relatively obvious, but the fifth is a fascinating psychological case. When you play White, you usually try to exploit your slight initiative, while with Black you typically try to neutralize White. You will probably expect this attitude in the opening, but I believe this is something that can haunt you the whole game.

A few years ago, I realized I played middlegames completely differently depending on the color of my pieces. With White, I showed a lot of aggression, while I played more patiently with the Black pieces. It’s like a psychological trick – the color of the pieces gives you a certain state of mind.

Look at these positions. The positions are exactly the same, but I have switched colors.

Imagine you are playing Black in the diagram to the left, and you are playing White in the diagram to the right. Would you have treated the positions differently?

Magnus probably has the best understanding of chess in the world. In the Magnus Trainer you can find 18 lessons under Strategy and the chapter called Understanding the Position. There is a lot to learn from Magnus' games! Give it a go!

Photo by World Chess