12th and last classical game in the ongoing World Chess Championship turned out to be about the most boring for spectators. After 11 hard-fought games, the onlookers expected that the 12th would be played for the kill. That didn’t happen because of the identical strategic viewpoints of the champion and the challenger. They felt there was no need to rush through and settled for a draw after 30 moves played over a mere 45 minutes. Playing with White pieces, the Norwegian reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen invited the Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin to play the drawish Berlin Defense and Karjakin duly obliged. Now the two contenders wait for Wednesday’s rapid-fire games that will decide the championship.
Contrary to the expectations of a long hard-fought last game, the proceedings were far simpler with an anti-climax. While Carlsen wanted to hold on to his championship status, Karjakin playing with Blacks wouldn’t have wanted to throw away a career defining moment by showing any undue aggression. Carlsen had the advantage of Whites but he would have considered the 2010 championship game that featured India’s Viswanathan Anand and Bulgarian Vaselin Topalov. Just as in Carlsen’s case on Monday, Topalov had Whites in the last game. He went all out for a win in that game and lost. Anand had chosen the Lasker Defense of the Queen’s Gambit but in his effort to create winning chances, Topalov captured the pawn offered by Anand. That gave Anand a chance to attack and Topalov lost. Anand retained his championship without the need for tiebreaks. Magnus Carlsen had been one of Vishy’s advisors along with Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik so he knew the pitfalls of over-eagerness. Therefore, the defending champion might have decided to charge his batteries for the tiebreakers on November 30, rather than attempting any risky venture. Moreover, the champion has an edge over the Russian in rapid-fire games as he is the current no.1 in rapids and second to China’s Ding Liren in blitz.
Carlsen opened with 1.e4 and Karjakin responded with the expected 1…e5. The next three moves were 2.Nf3 Nc6; 3.Bb5 Nf6; 4.0-o Nxe4. It was instantly clear that the decisive game wasn’t going to be so decisive after all. The second indication of the game fizzling out came with 5.Re1 Nd6; 6.Nxe5 Be7; 7.Bf1 Nxe5; 8.Rxe5 0-0; 9.d4 Bf6 and 10.Re1 Re8. Now the open e-file became a chopping block for major pieces on the board. By move 21, the board was nearly empty. With all the power gone on either side, they played another 9 moves and signed the peace treaty after the 30th move. The whole game had lasted merely 45 minutes. Besides being disappointing to chess fans, the tepid 12th game also elicited wry comment from a former British challenger Nigel Short, who said that if the 12th game of the World Chess Championship were a restaurant dish, he would send it back to the chef. But from the players’ angle, neither of them wanted to take chances. While Karjakin didn’t want to throw away all the hard work, Carlsen avoided the craziness of going for a push.
The World Championship will now be decided on tiebreakers, beginning with 4 rapid games of 25 minutes each and if there is still no result, they will play 2 blitz games of 5 minutes each. If there is still no result, they will repeat the blitz games up to a total of 10 games. If the stalemate still continues after these 14 games, 25-year old Carlsen and 26-year old Karjakin will play the Armageddon. It is a format that gives White five minutes and Black only four. But it will guarantee the result since the draw is counted as a win for Black.