Carlsen-Caruana, WCh 2018 – Game 6

A game that shows Caruana’s strategy.

Carlsen chose a sterile line for his first of the two Whites he is getting. He tested Caruana’s preparation and when the latter showed it they entered a symmetrical endgame position. Carlsen probably hoped to slowly outmaneuver his opponent, but then he was met by a resolute reply.

In a position where Karjakin in New York would have sit still and made a draw after suffering for a long time, Caruana pushed forward, not allowing Carlsen to get comfortable with his maneuvers. This to my mind is the clearest sign so far of his strategy – not to allow Carlsen do what he does best.

To make it worse for the Champion, he didn’t manage to switch his thinking mode from strategic to very concrete and started to miss things. Or, to put it another way, he was outplayed by Caruana.

But even an outplayed Champion who misses things is a very strong player and he still managed to find a good enough sequence to liquidate to a drawn endgame (even though he also missed that instead of three he would have only two pawns for the piece). Carlsen’s understanding was correct, he did see a fortress, and the accidental chance he allowed Caruana to win was one neither of them suspected it existed.

I have the impression that Carlsen entered this game in too relaxed a state. He was feeling comfortable in the match, not really feeling pressure by Caruana and this game must have been a shock for him. For the first time he was outplayed, and to make it worse, from a position where he is supposed to excel. For the first time he felt in danger and I think this may change his approach in the following games. Let’s see if his second White will be used differently.

As they have said, there are no easy World Championship matches.

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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