Norwegian Magnus Carlsen has retained his World Chess Championship title, having beaten challenger Fabiano Caruana 3-0 in a best of four tiebreaker.
Wednesday’s decisive result came after all 12 of the pair’s classical games ended in draws — a result unprecedented in world championship history. In a tie break, players have just 25 minutes on their timers, with 10 seconds added on after every move. In classical games, each player begins with 100 minutes.
Carlsen, a 26-year-old who has been the highest ranked player in the world for eight consecutive years, seemed to have let Caruana off the hook in the last of the 12 classical games on Monday. In a strong position, he chose to offer Caruana, 26, a draw.
But Carlsen was ruthless on Wednesday, winning convincingly in front of a packed crowd in London. Over the last month, the pair have spent close to 50 hours, and played over 750 moves, in a small room in Holborn, London, separated from a deferential audience by a sheet of unidirectional, soundproof glass.
“I’m really happy. I felt like I had a very good day at work today,” Carlsen said following his victory.
The Norwegian, two years older than his rival, is the more animated of the combatants. He slouches, rolls his eyes, fidgets and scrunches his face up when things don’t go according to plan. Like an ace poker player, Caruana rarely gives much away; his eyes remain locked on the board, his hands tucked under his chin. At the end of the final tie break match, there were no wild celebrations or tears. It ended it as it began: with a handshake.
The 2018 World Chess Championship was the first title showdown between the world’s top ranked players since 1990, when Garry Kasparov beat Anatoly Karpov. Carlsen and Caruana are separated by just three ranking points; Carlsen on 2835 and Caruana just behind on 2832. But Carlsen is ranked number one in the world for fast-paced games; Caruana is ranked at number 18.
Having taken a two match lead, Carlsen needed just a draw in the third to seal his victory. When Caruana resigned, the championship went to the world’s number one. Caruana had been aiming to become the first American to win the championship since Bobby Fischer in 1972.
“Obviously I’m disappointed. The idea is to win world championships, not just play in them,” Caruana said during a press conference after the match.
Carlsen has now won all four world championship matches he has played in, having claimed the title for the first time in 2013. He will now hold the title for at least another two years. A grandmaster at just 13 years old, Carlsen is widely considered to be one of the game’s all-time greats.