Carlsen crowned king in chess’s golden era

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - COMMENT -

CHESS is hardly renowned for quick­fire ac­tion but there was plenty of it on Wed­nes­day in Lon­don when Nor­way’s Mag­nus Carlsen re­tained his world ti­tle by de­feat­ing Fabi­ano Caru­ana 3-0 in a se­ries of tie-breaker matches where each player was only given 25 min­utes to make all their moves.

The 27-year-old Carlsen is re­garded as per­haps the finest chess player of all­time (his peak Grand Mas­ter Rat­ing of 2882 is the high­est in his­tory) yet he was pushed all the way by Caru­ana in what was the first world cham­pi­onship se­ries to see noth­ing but draws, thus forc­ing the tie-breaker.

Caru­ana, who’s a year younger, was the first Amer­i­can to com­pete for the ti­tle since the leg­endary Bobby Fis­cher in 1972. Mi­ami-born, he’d pre­vi­ously played for his par­ents’ home coun­try of Italy be­fore switch­ing allegiance two years ago. Chess has never been stronger with 17 of the 18 all-time high­est rat­ings hav­ing been achieved in the last ten years. It seems a pity the reign­ing world cham­pion is only chal­lenged bi­en­ni­ally.

SPURS and Arse­nal both face into to­day’s North Lon­don derby in much bet­ter shape than you’d have imag­ined at the start of the sea­son. It’s not the first time Spurs have de­fied the prophets of rel­a­tive doom un­der Mauri­cio Pochet­tino who re­ally seemed up against it when heav­ily out­spent in the close sea­son by all his ri­vals for a place in the top four.

But a week when Spurs ended Chelsea’s un­beaten record with a 3-1 win and then kept their Cham­pi­ons League hopes alive with a win over In­ter Mi­lan has shown how fool­ish it is to un­der­es­ti­mate the Ar­gen­tinian and his play­ers.

Unai Emery has also ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions at Arse­nal. When the Gun­ners lost their first two Premier League games it sug­gested that a dif­fi­cult re­build­ing process lay ahead of the former Paris Saint-Ger­main man­ager. Yet Arse­nal bring an 18-match un­beaten run in all com­pe­ti­tions into to­day’s match and look strong con­tenders for a re­turn to the Cham­pi­ons League next sea­son.

Bet they wish Arsene Wenger had re­tired a bit sooner.

PORT­LAOISE have en­dured some agony in the Le­in­ster club foot­ball cham­pi­onship. Three years ago they missed a string of chances and lost the fi­nal to a last-minute point by a Bally­bo­den St Enda’s team which later won the All-Ire­land. Last year they were three points up with ten min­utes to go in the semi-fi­nal against Moore­field but lost to a point in the fourth minute of in­jury-time.

Last Sun­day Port­laoise were three points down in a ter­rific semi against Kil­macud Crokes when awarded a penalty in the first minute of in­jury-time. Craig Rogers’ shot was saved by Crokes ’keeper David Nestor. Port­laoise’s late suf­fer­ing hasn’t been con­fined to the Le­in­ster Cham­pi­onship. Two years ago they were beaten in their county fi­nal by a last-minute Strad­bally goal.

Con­sis­tently one of the coun­try’s most at­trac­tive teams, they must sus­pect some­body up there has it in for them.

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