Posts Tagged ‘Judit Polgar’

I once worked at an ad agency with an artistic gentleman who brought more flair to his life than everyone working for Paper Mate. J5 was never at a loss for something to say. If he was at a loss, he would fall back on a Swiss army knife catchphrase, good for the office, the opera, the 50-yard line, or a chess match:

WHAT the FUCK is UP with THAT?!

Today, in the final round of regulation chess, Magnus Carlsen, playing black, built up an enormous advantage against Fabiano Caruana — and then offered the challenger a draw.

WHAT the FUCK is UP with THAT?!

I’ll tell you what the fuck is up with that. Carlsen, the world champion of tournament chess, rapid chess, and blitz chess, decided ahead of time that he would bluff. He would force a draw and take his chances in the playoffs, where he and Caruana will decide the title by playing rapid and, if necessary, blitz.

Caruana, looking down the barrel of an attack that even I might have been able to bring home, was surprised. He accepted the offer.

Hungarian Grandmaster Judit Polgár, the World Chess commentator for the games, the former #1 woman chess player in the world and the only woman to defeat a ruling men’s world champion, had a different explanation for the draw offer: “Carlsen was afraid.”

Garry Kasparov, the world champion Polgár defeated and the man who once compared women chess players unfavorably to “circus puppets,” agreed with her:

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. Tiebreaks require tremendous nerves and he seems to be losing his.

This result makes this championship the first championship in the history of chess where every game was tied. This result lowers chess to the level of checkers, where the 1863 world checkers championship ended with all 40 games drawn. Most games of checkers at the master level are drawn because CHECKERS IS A SOLVED GAME, like Tic-Tac-Toe. This result makes chess look STUPID and BORING. And possibly FIXED, as the players make more money if the match goes into tie-breaks.

At the postgame press conference, a writer from ChessBase asked about that difference, “more money than a journalist makes in a year,” he added, to laughter. Mag Wheels, who looked grumpy and defensive, deflected the question. Fabio said, quietly, “I don’t care about the money.” You tell me who really wants this title.

On Wednesday, Carlsen and Caruana will play four games of rapid chess, with 25 minutes per side per game. If that doesn’t produce a winner, they’ll play two games of blitz, 5 minutes each.

If they still haven’t gotten anywhere after all that, they’ll go to something called Armageddon.

When I first heard about Armageddon, I imagined the players fighting with meat cleavers in scuba gear. Nope. It’s one game, no weapons or costumes. Mag Wheels, playing white, would get 5 minutes. Fabio would get 4, but he would only have to draw to win. The odds of the match going to Armageddon, as calculated by Oliver Roeder, chess correspondent for Fivethirtyeight.com, are about the same as the soundproof booth where they play being invaded by a sharknado.

If I had known how this match was going to go, I would’ve written about the women’s world chess championship, a knock-out tournament that began earlier this month with 64 circus puppets and ended in an exciting four-game match with the reigning champ, Ju Wenjun of China, defeating Kateryna Lagno of the Ukraine. But I thought Carlsen-Caruana was where the action was. I fucked up. I trusted them.

Even if Carlsen wins, his reputation will be forever tarnished. He’ll be the champion who was too afraid of losing his celebrity and his clothing line to fight like a champion. You think Ju Wenjun would pull a stunt like this? How about hell no?

Enough grumbling. Let’s look at two chess players who aren’t afraid of whaling on each other. R. Praggnanandhaa is 13. He was a grandmaster before he was a teenager. Here he plays blitz against former world champion Viswanathan Anand. Pragg and Vishy fight like they’re on a tightrope, with both sides ready to topple on every move.


I have never seen such composure from a boy this age.

See you Wednesday. Watch out for sharks.