Nigel Short believes Magnus Carlsen can become one of the best players in history if he takes his third straight world title.
by Tarjei J. Svensen & Jonathan Tisdall
Close, but clear
The British chess icon and former world championship challenger believes the contest versus Sergey Karjakin in New York will be close, but thinks Carlsen will improve his record with a new match victory.
Tomorrow at 8 pm CET – 2 pm local time – battle will finally commence between Norway’s Magnus Carlsen (25) and Russian Sergey Karjakin (26). The 12-game duel will take place over the following three weeks, in a glass cage at Fulton Market in South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan, for a 60% share of a roughly 1 million Euro purse, and an even more coveted title.
According to Norwegian daily Aftenposten, the players had their first encounter on US soil yesterday, on November 9. The ‘meeting’ occurred during the official inspection of the playing conditions.
«They greeted each other, but didn’t have a conversation,» Carlsen manager Espen Agdestein told the newspaper.
On Thursday the curtain rises with the first press conference and drawing of colors, before a gala and celebrity-studded opening at the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. Entourage star Adrian Grenier will host and Hollywood stars Woody Harrelson and Sienna Miller are expected to turn up.
An experienced viewpoint
Matt og Patt decided to quiz someone with first-hand experience of a title match. The numbers – four wins for Carlsen, one for Karjakin, and 16 draws in their previous meetings – and an 81 point Elo rating gap make the champion the favorite – but how much of one?
«I expect Magnus to win, but not overwhelmingly. I am expecting him to edge him, that would be my guess,» Short says.
The 51-year-old Englishman is the oldest player on the current world top 100 list, and has been the world number three. In 1993 he challenged legend Garry Kasparov in a breakaway match that long split world federation FIDE’s clear grip on defining the title.
«I am not excited to be honest. I think I ought to be excited, the chess should be interesting. It will be a tough fight I think. Actually when Magnus played previously, it was interesting to see this battle of generations, particularly in the first match when Magnus was overwhelmingly favorite. Now he is up against someone of his age. I think that will make it a lot tougher,» Short continues.
Magnus dominated the 2013 match, while the Sochi 2014 rematch was less clear. What kind of a match do you think we will see this time?
«You have got to look at the strengths at the various players. Sergey Karjakin, I think he is theoretically well prepared and he is also quite tough. He has quite good nerves, that is very important in a match. But Magnus is just a better player. There is no question about that. It’s a question of Magnus pushing the match in the direction he would like it to go, away from Karjakin’s strengths.»
If you were part of Karjakin’s team, what advice would you give him?
«He just has to go with his strengths, and hope for the best. That’s what I would say. And hope that Magnus cracks first. It’s not that there is much sign that Magnus is a weak personality, he isn’t. But if Sergey can take the match deep, then this improves his chances greatly. If they are tied after 8 or 10 games … I’m not saying Magnus is vulnerable. But things can go wrong. That’s his best chance in my view.»
And if you had to predict a result?
«Maybe a couple of points for Magnus. If it ended 6.5 – 5.5 I wouldn’t be surprised. There will be a number of draws,» Short says. «If Magnus wins I think he is well on his way to becoming one of the all time greats. The real question is what he has achieved at 35. He could have several more titles.»
Short has some fairly unique insight into the challenger’s development. He invited the then Ukrainian 15-year-old to a training session at his home in Greece in 2005.
«He was very, very good indeed. I am not surprised that he is now playing a world title match at all. I think he’s a bit more predictable now,» Short explains. «Magnus is a much more versatile player. I wouldn’t say that Sergey is limited, but he is more limited than Magnus.»
The training session ended in fright and drama, when the Englishman was driving Karjakin and his mother Tatiana to the airport.
«We were almost killed. It was pretty unpleasant. This woman lost control in the wet weather, she skidded and came into our lane. If I hadn’t managed to swing into the opposite lane it would have gone very, very badly.»
All games in the New York title match are scheduled to begin at 20:00 CET. Despite a new round of legal threats about exclusive rights, live coverage is expected at a range of the usual web sites. Those interested in ‘sanctioned’ Norwegian coverage can look to newspaper VG online, who have ex-Carlsen second Jon Ludvig Hammer commentating, or state broadcaster NRK .