Game 8: Magnus survives a difficult situation

By Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen

So far, all games at the 2018 World Chess Championship have been hard fought, but the eighth game was even spicier than the others. Fabiano Caruana played a strategically risky opening and was rewarded with a promising position.

We have seen eight draws in a row. Are the players getting frustrated and will they take more risks? Or perhaps they have already started thinking of the playoff with shorter time control?

I‘m more into chess than the ordinary guy on the street, which means I find every little move interesting. However, I can’t help but think about all the new chess fans out there who are watching their first World Championship. Every game is a tense and nervous fight, and every day they imagine their hero break the other player. But what if it doesn’t happen? Imagine the disappointment if all games are drawn. It’s like they won't be rewarded for their patient support.

A playoff is, of course, a lot of fun, but before we get that far, I think we should see the players exchange victories. It reminds me of a penalty shootout in a soccer match. I want to see goals, so let’s hope for at least one win in the next four games.

One of the most challenging things in chess is to understand when to play aggressively and when to play slowly. I have looked at many games by amateurs, and to me, this seems like the area where they struggle the most. Except for the frequency of blunders, this is probably one of the easiest ways to separate an intermediate player from an expert. The lower level, the more they struggle with sensing the tempo in the middle game positions.

This topic is extremely complex, and even at the highest level players fail to understand how much energy is needed in different positions. In the eighth game of the match, Caruana was about to outplay Magnus after energetic play, but only to hesitate when he had the chance to turn up the heat.

By analyzing the game while it's being played, you will learn a lot. I suggest you pair up with someone for the next game and try to figure out what's going on, preferably without using a chess engine. Your game will improve!

I was doing live commentary at The Good Knight, the chess bar in Oslo, and an enthusiastic and nervous audience helped me realize that Magnus was in big trouble. Together we found Caruana's 21.c5 and we were even on the right track on the critical 24th move.

Fabiano Caruana - Magnus Carlsen
2018 World Championship, Game 8

In this game, the players ended up with bishops moving on opposite colors. The presence of opposite-colored bishops typically favors the attacker, which means that Caruana had every reason to play more aggressively. To learn more about this topic I recommend you check out the lesson called A Crushing Attack in the MagnusTrainer. There you can find a beautiful attack by Victor Bologan.

Photo by David Llada