NEW YORK — With two rounds in the books, the 2016 World Chess Championship is currently deadlocked as title-holder Magnus Carlsen of Norway and challenger Sergey Karjakin of Russia enjoy a rest day.
Round 2 concluded on Saturday with a draw; both players now have a point, with ten games remaining to be played. The match will resume on Monday at 2 PM ET.
Thus far, we’ve seen two draws — not a surprising result, considering that this is a long-haul match, and that Carlsen and Karjakin have often played to draws.
Not that Carlsen has been pushing for them. In Game 1, he tried an offbeat opening, the Trompowsky Attack with white. In Game 2, he responded to Karjakin’s Ruy Lopez not with the Berlin Defence, which has obtained a reputation at elite levels for a being a drawing weapon for black, but with the much older Morphy Defence.
I love to play the Morphy — named for the fascinating American 19th-century master, Paul Morphy — and typically see it as a good way for black to either force white to part with the light-square bishop (generally considered to be his or her “better” bishop) or equalise the game by negating white’s “first move” tempo advantage by retreating the bishop, wasting a move.
That said, the so-called “Closed” variation of the Ruy Lopez was one that no less a player than Bobby Fischer enjoyed from the white side. Retreating the bishop enabled Fisher to have precisely the setup he wanted to attack the black king once it castled to the black kingside.
The Morphy isn’t any less inherently draw-ish than other ways black can respond to the main opening line of the Ruy, but at modern Grandmaster-level play, it isn’t as sure a thing as the Berlin.
In any case, Karjakin doesn’t yet seem fazed by Carlsen’s efforts to mess around with opening expectations, although all chess fans should be heartened by the Norwegian champ’s avoidance, thus far, of the most popular Grandmaster openings.
So ultimately not a lot to say about Game 2. It ended in a draw at move 33. Carlsen has the white pieces again for Game 3, so we’ll see what he comes up with. It’s worth noting that if he plays e4 as his first move, he may invite a Sicilian Defence from Karjakin — a fighting response from black, and one that the Russian know well.
Here’s the final position from Game 2:
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