The story of the day for me is “Magnus Carlsen defeats Sergey Karjakin to retain World Chess Championship“, thus retaining his world title. He did so by winning yesterday’s best of four game tie break, against his opponent, Sergey Karjakin, after the best of 12 classical chess games that preceded it ended in a tie. While some would argue (not me) it is not a sport, when it comes to skill, excitement, anticipation and entertainment (despite most games drawn) it ranks among the best when it comes to sporting events.
As some will know, I am a chess fan, although I don’t usually follow other people’s games or follow the theory that much. Interestingly, yesterday I got asked to play for the first team of my local chess club, at short notice, and I found myself pitted against an old friend. Things looked okish for me until I did what all chess players fear and all do (the better you are the less you do it) and that was to blunder, thereby losing a piece. I realized as soon as I touched my piece this was the case but it was too late, and such is the game’s etiquette I had to continue with my move, but it was all downhill after that. The main comfort I could take away, was in the words of Kipling: to treat triumph and disaster both the same, i.e. as imposters. I also play chess online with chess.com and have done so for six years. As I write, I am about to complete my 1000th game (W462, L331, D205).
But back to World Chess Championship, while this could be followed live, because of the time difference meaning it would be late nights, I tended to check out the games early the next day. I found, thanks to the Internet, there was a lot of coverage, along with expert analysis and opinion, and I enjoyed the interviews afterward too. Even though 10 of the 12 classical games ended in draws, I was fascinated. These were the two top exponents of the game I love, after all, and their play showed both brilliance and the human side, including human weakness given the moves made, according to the all-knowing computer anyway, were not always the best choice.
When the young prodigy, Carlsen, first won the world title, I was not too keen on him, putting him in the precocious brat category, but by the brilliance of his play and the way he conducted himself, on and off the board, he has won me over. I was also impressed with his opponent this time, Karjakin, who played great chess and defended outstandingly, and with calm dignity when being interviewed. But for two blunders at key points in the match (partly brought on by the relentless pressure being put on him by his brilliant opponent), things could have turned out differently. But give the two players their deserved due: they played well and gave chess lovers like me much pleasure while we were eagerly following their match.