Game two of the Carlsen-Karjakin clash ended in a solid splitting of the point after minimal excitement. There is something about Magnus’ body language in the opening that says ‘well prepared’ – not just that he is playing quickly, but his intensity. Karjakin meanwhile, gives off an air of utter calm. Considering he is a world championship debutant, this is also encouraging. They both look imposing.
by Jonathan Tisdall
There were hints of game action – the pieces stayed on the board a bit longer, Magnus visibly began to gear up for a patented ‘now-that-it’s-dead-equal-I’m-going-to-start-grinding’ session – but the amount of Karjakin care needed to prevent that did not register on the caloric scale. The rivals shook hands and headed off for another even-tempered press conference.
The event was teeming with spectators since it was a Saturday, but the game was likely not great public entertainment. At the press conference Sergey was quick to tell spectators – who had the treat of being able to pose questions at the end – that there would be ‘more fun’ later. Magnus also thanked the crowd for turning out, and asked for their understanding about the games so far.
Asked about tomorrow’s rest day, Magnus admitted that he was not yet sure what he would do. «I would prefer to play tomorrow,» he said, adding that it would be a Sunday and easier to attract a crowd. Karjakin seemed slightly incredulous, and grinned «I prefer to have a free day of course!»
In the Twittersphere, former champ Garry Kasparov chastised comments about the lack of excitement.
Often one of the best indicators that a chess game is interesting is that amateurs think it isn't! https://t.co/cfjVfsDe09
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) November 12, 2016
However, one of his title challengers had a different view.
If the British Foreign Secretary can use the word "whingeorama", I can use the word "yawnathon" #CarlsenKarjakin
— Nigel Short (@nigelshortchess) November 12, 2016
My advice – the more things you find interesting, the stronger a player you will become. But we all like to see punching.
The daily curtain
The media drumbeat after game one sought out expert reaction and insider tips. The restless Norwegian press tracked down their usual suspects to keep the match in headline focus.
Magnus’s manager Espen Agdestein was pinned down about his man’s ‘true’ reactions to the first result. He assessed game one as ‘typical’ for the start of a match, but admitted that Magnus had not been 100% satisfied with the result – «He never is if he doesn’t win. He felt he let Karjakin off a bit lightly. But it is a fine start.»
Norwegian newspapers reassured their readers that the usual concerns about defending could be relaxed a bit – VG trumpeting that Magnus had never lost to Karjakin with black – the link is worth visiting for the top photo, which shows both players in fine mood. And it is precisely this which I would make the centerpiece of a reaction to game one. Karjakin didn’t just draw with black, he seemed to have fully grown into his terribly demanding role by the end of the evening.
Considering how visibly and painfully nervous the challenger was at the opening press meeting, and remembering how wobbly Magnus was in Chennai for the first three games, the task of adjusting to these heights was foremost in mind for me, and many other people playing pundit. To some, accustomed to milking the hostility angles, the sight of the two young combatants in what appeared to be friendly banter with the press might have been the day’s surprise. But it was more than the tone. Karjakin was already looking at home. If one session is all he needs to settle in and gain the sense that it is here he has always belonged, he will have accomplished an essential – and usually difficult – task in record time.
Newspaper Dagbladet got some similar reactions from Norwegian IM Atle Grønn, who is also a Russian professor. He too was struck by Karjakin’s visible cool. «He feels that he can compete as a complete equal with Magnus,» Atle said. «What Karjakin says shows that he wants to appear as an equal. Karjakin has surely worked on psychology. It is important for him not to appear as the underdog.» Grønn also noted that Karjakin described the good result of holding with black in his title debut as ‘completely normal’.
«I’d hoped that he would have opening nerves, but Karjakin has settled in at once. I do think he’s playing a bit tough by not saying it was a very good day, just normal. Really he’s bubbling over with happiness and relief,» Grønn told Dagbladet.
Game three, and four …
Looking ahead to game three, Magnus supporters have to hope for some real sustained pressure on the board. Karjakin backers can be happy with what they have seen so far, and hope for impatience from the champ. Their headlines will note that the challenger’s only classic win against Carlsen came with the black pieces…
And for game four, thinking about Karjakin’s whites, two big questions must be answered: One – Where are Team K’s big opening bombshells hidden? Early games are often info gathering probes, but this first one was timid. Two – Is it possible to have a bombshell vs the Berlin?
RadioJan says what chess gangsters are thinking, and more, about the excitement levels so far.
And local chess interest knows no bounds – online viewer question to VG’s live chess studio:
Christoffer: Finnes det en flørtende måte å spille på? Hvis en gutt og en jente spiller mot hverandre, kan visse trekk oppfattes som flørt på noen måte? :p
(Christoffer asks: Is there a way to play flirtatiously? If a boy and a girl are playing against each other, can certain moves be taken as a flirt in any way? :p)