Nor­we­gian Mag­nus Carlsen vic­to­ri­ous again at World Cham­pi­onship

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

On a dreary, rainy Man­hat­tan night, a huge, happy roar arose in a crowd of chess fans from around the world.

Two-time world chess cham­pion, Mag­nus Carlsen, had just reached for a fi­nal, vic­to­ri­ous move on Wed­nes­day that crowned him a champ for the third time.

He marked his 26th birth­day by beat­ing Russian 26-year-old grand­mas­ter Sergey Kar­jakin with bold, ag­gres­sive moves in a se­ries of tie-break­ers cap­ping three weeks of the World Chess Cham­pi­onship that was tied af­ter 12 games; 10 draws and one win each.

Carlsen used a queen sac­ri­fice to check­mate his op­po­nent.

The set­ting was a re­fur­bished New York City build­ing over­look­ing the Brook­lyn Bridge that was once the city’s fish mar­ket.

On this night, it be­came a glit­ter­ing gath­er­ing of hun­dreds of fans - adults and chil­dren from Nor­way, Rus­sia, the United States and else­where. They were riv­eted as the two grand­mas­ters leaned into the tense game, barely mov­ing, in to­tal si­lence and deep in thought.

Fans paid $100 to en­ter, feast­ing on snacks and drinks as they kept their eyes glued to flat-screens that beamed close-ups of the chess­board in an in­ner cham­ber. A panel of sound­proof glass shielded the play­ers from on­look­ers, who could see in but whom the play­ers could not see.

Hun­gar­ian grand­mas­ter Ju­dit Pol­gar said the four light­ningquick games played on Wed­nes­day - plus even faster ones that was not needed were “like Russian roulette.”

“To­day, the faster games are a great show even for peo­ple who don’t know the game,” said Pol­gar, con­sid­ered the great­est fe­male player ever.

On Wed­nes­day, the re­quired men­tal strate­gies also played out on chess­boards scat­tered around the spec­ta­tor lounge. Peo­ple hov­ered over them, try­ing out var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions of pieces, mir­ror­ing the mas­ters.

“Mag­nus is my hero be­cause he takes risks, he’s re­ally ex­cit­ing,” said Pippa Mill­stone, a Man­hat­tan 9-year-old who came to watch the tour­na­ment for her fourth time.

“The game is pretty even now, but I feel like Mag­nus is go­ing to start at­tack­ing re­ally soon,” she said in the mid­dle of the third of the four so-called “rapid games,” each about a half-hour long, played as tiebreak­ers.

Carlsen and Kar­jakin reached a draw in two, and the Nor­we­gian won two for the cham­pi­onship.

At cru­cial mo­ments, spec­ta­tors hushed, wait­ing to see what the next move would be. One whis­pered, “no, no” when Kar­jakin’s choice seemed halt­ing, or on the de­fen­sive.

Even the win­ner missed a chance in one game, draw­ing groans and a few happy shrieks, de­pend­ing on loyalties.

Or­gan­is­ers said about 6 mil­lion peo­ple around the world fol­lowed the last games - sort of like sud­den death play in foot­ball.

Most fans were in homes and clubs across the globe. Some spent $15 for a pay-per-view live trans­mis­sion, oth­ers to watch via high-tech gog­gles in 3-D vir­tual re­al­ity or by track­ing moves on var­i­ous free web­sites.

The prize was $1.1 mil­lion di­vided be­tween the two play­ers, with the win­ner get­ting 60 per cent.

The New York cham­pi­onship did not es­cape the shadow of East-West ri­valry dat­ing to the Cold War days when Amer­i­can Bobby Fis­cher beat Russian de­fender Boris Spassky in 1972.

This time, a key fig­ure in chess was ab­sent in New York: Kir­san Ilyumzhi­nov, a Russian mul­ti­mil­lion­aire and long­time pres­i­dent of the govern­ing World Chess Fed­er­a­tion who was ac­cused by the US gov­ern­ment of col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Syr­ian regime.

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