Wow, what a game! Action and fireworks all over the place; sacrifices to the left, sacrifices to the right…
Just kidding. Game N°2 of the World Championship Match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin didn’t offer too much excitement, to say the least. Sergey didn’t manage to put real pressure on the World Champion, such that the game remained balanced for the whole time until it finally ended peacefully after 33 moves (basically with a repetition).

Unlike Irene, who is following the action live at the venue in New York, I was sitting in my armchair at home watching the official broadcast and occasionally the commentary on chess24. In hindsight, it was a good thing that Irene did the recap of game 1 yesterday, since I probably would have been pretty harsh concerning the web-appearance by AGON. Not only was the English broadcast not working, but also the web-interface for the game had huge technical issues at the beginning. All this for 15$ (and upwards) was quite a disappointment, especially since the organisers have the self-proclaimed goal of bringing chess to the wide public. Anyways, this was yesterday.
Today I found an e-mail in my mailbox where the “World Chess Team” apologised for the “experienced technical glitches”, the broadcast was perfectly fine, and the commentators even addressed the problem of the crowded spectator’s room that Irene mentioned. I also particularly like the 360°-view, which can be used on the smartphone for example. It feels like sitting right next to the contenders.

Both players arrived quite early and right after another. Apparently there are cameras everywhere, such that the spectators could witness live the truly important aspects of today’s encounter: how Sergey (absorbed in thought) forgot to take off his jacket at the security check, how Magnus impatiently waited for his check (without jacket) and how they spent their time right before the start of the game. Magnus headed directly for his seat, while we (the Big Brothers) could observe a nervous Karjakin rummaging around in a paper bag in order to find something to eat. The sportscasters (mainly Judit Polgar) elaborated on the fact, that he surprisingly seemed to be more jittery than yesterday. Indeed this was surprising, as he had the White pieces today. Maybe he just forgot his first move. Maybe not.

The game started with a surprise for Judit, namely 1.e4 from Sergey, but not for our dear readers, who remembered of course the last chart in this post here. Obviously Judit is aware that Sergey has traditionally been a 1.e4-player, but she was betting on the more recent history. I’m fully able to relate to Sergey’s choice, though. On the one hand it makes sense to broaden your opening horizon both for being less predictable, and for getting to know new types of positions and endgames which eventually increase your overall skill. On the other hand, playing such an immensely important match, you really want to play something, that you feel comfortable with. Maybe he knows the theory for 1.d4 just as well nowadays, but his experience in certain positions is much higher for his main repertoire. That being said, it’s still totally possible for him to mix it up during the match.

Yes, this position deserves a diagram!

Yes, this position deserves a diagram! 1.e4 in Game 2

Carlsen replied with 1….e5 and we got a Ruy Lopez opening. Fortunately for the audience (or so we thought at the start) we did not get a Berlin, though. Instead, Carlsen opted for 3….a6 and Karjakin replied with a somewhat trendy line (6.d3 and 8.a3) which was recently featured in one of Peter Svidler’s great video-series on chess24. Between the two contenders, 8.a3 happened for the first time (Carlsen chose 8.a4 with White against Karjakin during the Amber-rapid 2011), whereas Karjakin used to prefer the main line (6.Re1) before. Several decent responses are possible for the Black side, but Carlsen followed the main approach (playing 9….Na5 and directly 10….Be6), which has a solid reputation. The next little surprise occured when Karjakin played the sideline 11.d4 instead of the thematic 11.Bxe6, which at least weakens Black’s pawn structure.

White to play 11.d3-d4

White to play 11.d3-d4

The text move didn’t pose any serious problems to the World Champion. Officially the novelty was 13.Ra1 by Karjakin, the game Paravyan (2506) – Harutyunian (2426), Aeroflot Open-B 2016, saw the move 13.Qd3 instead. But in such a calm positon, there exist a lot of sensible moves. Later on, after some manoeuvres by Carlsen, Judit claimed that Karjakin had a nice position, but in my opinion she was overestimating White’s chances, really.  Soon enough, the d-pawns traded off, as well as the Queens and the game faded into a rather uneventful draw in the following position.

Final position of game 2. Black can play Rc1+ and Rc2 back.

Final position of game 2. Black can play Rc1+ and Rc2 back.

It is natural that both players didn’t take big risks in the first games, but I’m pretty certain that this will change eventually. Not tomorrow, though. Tomorrow is the first rest day, of which Carlsen is not too fond of, as he made clear in the press conference afterwards.

See below what Niclas thinks about the game.

Find all videos on the event here.