Chess world title match comes down to rapid tiebreakers

Mattias Karen
Associated Press

London – After more than 50 hours of play over nearly three weeks, the chess world championship title will be decided by speedy tiebreaker games on Wednesday.

A 12-game battle of brains between American challenger Fabiano Caruana and reigning champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway has resulted in 12 straight draws – the first time that has happened in a chess world championship match.

That means the match – which is taking place behind soundproof glass on a stage in London – now comes down to a series of rapid games that could even conclude in a sudden-death format known as “Armageddon” if a winner can’t be found.

Caruana, 26, is trying to become the first American since Bobby Fischer to be crowned chess world champion. Still, he remains the underdog against the 27-year-old Carlsen, a former teenage prodigy who has been the world’s top-ranked player since the age of 19 and is considered even more dominant when playing with shorter time controls.

However, Carlsen stunned many commentators when he offered Caruana a draw in the 12th game Monday despite having what experts and computer programs considered to be a better position and a large time advantage on the clocks. That led to suggestions the defending champion may be cracking under the pressure.

“In light of this shocking draw offer from Magnus in a superior position with more time, I reconsider my evaluation of him being the favorite in rapids,” former world champion Garry Kasparov tweeted “Tiebreaks require tremendous nerves and he seems to be losing his.”

Even Caruana acknowledged he was “relieved” to be able to reach the tiebreakers.

The winner will get $621,000, with the runner-up pocketing $508,000.