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Magnus Carlsen Beats Fabiano Caruana to Win World Chess Championship (nytimes.com)
569 points by tosh 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 215 comments

In the end, Carlsen is the man who knows the best how to win in chess. Regardless of all critics.

He played the 12th game safe knowing he's a huge favourite in rapid and blitz. Like Kasparov and Grischuk pointed out today, every other chess player gets worse playing rapid/blitz but Carlsen is the only one who actually improves.

Under these conditions it's more than sensible to move into the terrain where you have an advantage, if thinking strategically.

I would argue the problem is that most of the fans have become conditioned to expect entertainment, drama and bold moves in sports like we see in overly dramatic movies.

But historically, if you consider generals or even have a look into Sun Tzu's art of war, the strategists and generals that were most regarded were the ones who were able to win in a manner that it seemed easy, unimpressive, without drama or heavy losses or huge risks involved.

That's what a great strategy is about taking battle where the outcome is decided beforehand. And that's what Carlsen did.

The downside is it cost him €50k as the money distribution goes to 550/450 in tiebreak from 600/400 if decided in classical.

So he exchanged a potential loss of €200k at a favourable odds for a sure loss of €50k with potential loss of €150k at a much better odds. Now here's where we could question his decision speculating what the actual odds were, but who knows if he cares about the money.

I enjoyed this final a lot.

I can't argue with your first premise. Your following points, however, are less convincing.

"Like Kasparov and Grischuk pointed out today, every other chess player gets worse playing rapid/blitz but Carlsen is the only one who actually improves."

Even if Kasparov and Grischuk said this today (citation please?), it doesn't make it true. There are many players who get better playing rapid and blitz. Look at the trajectory of the Bay Area's own GM Daniel Naroditsky. Nakamura.

I suspect most of the blitz haters are people who simply haven't spent enough time to get good at it.

"Regardless of all critics."

To your main point, the critics weren't saying that Carlsen isn't the best. They were complaining because he is not acting with respect to the purity and beauty of the game. There is simply an aesthetic ugliness to offering a draw with such a crushing time advantage in a better position.

I'm not arguing that this may not have been good strategy, lose the battle, win the war, etc etc.

What I'm saying is that there is a war to be won that is different than a 1 or 0 point. It's the battle for hearts and minds, which is won not just through victory but through integrity and courage. You win hearts by showing hearts.

Magnus didn't win hearts with his mercilessly pragmatic approach to winning the world championship title. I still respect him as the rightful owner of the title of best chess player in the world.

But if we're going to employ the "good by association" logical fallacy with whatever Kasparov and Grischuk may have said today, why not actually just quote the champion Magnus himself?

In the press conference, he came out and told everyone that Fabiano earned the right to share the crown of world's best player in classical chess with him.

Who am I, who are you, who are any of us to disagree with that?

I also enjoyed the final a lot. But the fact remains that the beauty and spectacle 2018 World Championships of the world's most beautiful mind game was marred by a decidedly un-beautiful game in round 12.

You make a good point, but I don't think he's playing for hearts. They play for money and recognition in the first place. Every sportsman who experienced a failure (and we all have) knows very well that while you're applauded at the top the moment you lose many, including your fans will suddenly rejoice ... sometimes you even get some "kicks while on the ground."

About the Grischuk and Kasparov quote, it turns out I did misrepresent ... Grischuk said that Carlsen's URS score gap for rapid and blitz "should" be negative in a live stream on chess24 and Kasparov tweeted a similar thing ... where I misrepresented is that Kasparov didn't say a word "improve" but see "his ratio is smallest ever"

https://twitter.com/Kasparov63/status/1067826806823297029 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBvQ36SqgqM

To quote Carlsen himself "Some people think that if their opponent plays a beautiful game, it’s OK to lose. I don’t. You have to be merciless."

It's just the way he is and I not only don't blame him for it I personally respect it.

A good example is boxing. You have someone like Mayweather who is 50:0 a historical record. Yet he's often hated by fans because his boxing isn't exciting. It's also true that most fans would rejoice if he lost ... so why take risks? Many purists enjoy his style including myself.

In the end prize-fighting is about winning. It's their living. If Carlsen loses but plays a beautiful game none of the fans will pay for his livelihood - I am confident in stating this.

I can't argue with your logic here. We do live in a world where people say winning isn't everything. But actually, it is. It's not just happening in chess. This is the same "win at all costs" mentality that gave us the wonders of "growth hacking" i.e. unethical behavior that becomes glorified in Silicon Valley, because it works.

I don't mean to get all Ghandi-like on you, but I do want to ask you sincerely - what kind of world do you want to create? Do you want to help turn Silicon Valley into a culture that values class and heart, not just winning? I certainly do. Nothing wrong with winning, but I gotta believe that winning and sportsmanship/heart aren't mutually exclusive, even in the age of Facebook.

If you feel the same way, then ask yourself what kind of culture you are promoting in your comments. The change doesn't start with the powers that be all of a sudden deciding to pay people for integrity. The guys at the top are all too rich and powerful to advocate such blasphemy. The only way this changes is when the masses start telling each other that things should be different and can be different.

Which starts with holding people accountable when they let us down. Including the legends like Magnus Carlsen, who I consider to be a hero, along with the other chess players who could be worthy of the GOAT moniker. (Including, now, Fabiano. Even more so Fabi if he can get himself into shape playing blitz.)

Not at all, I don't argue for "winning at all costs" not in sports. But I do argue for winning in a fair game. And Carlsen won a fair game.

Chess is a harmless game so boxing would be a better example. Imagine a boxer that uses dirty tactics or uses PEDs ... that's "winning at all costs." But a boxer that has an elusive style that's considered boring by fans because fans like a lot of action ... I applaud this person if the style is superior in getting results.

You can see my point is different fans appreciate different aspects of the game. I loved the way Carlsen took it to rapid. You didn't and I can understand why.

In boxing I see the beauty in elusive tactical style of Mayweather, other want to see a slugfest. Because boxing places your health at risk I look down on that to be honest and I value a victory with minimum risk.

I sympathise with your good intentions but you misrepresented my words.

I never argued for "winning at all cost." I believe ability to win, regardless of how unimpressive (as long as it is ethical) is a virtue.

I do not live in Bay Area nor the US, I wish you all well though :)

If you want to encourage more exciting games then you need to reward those who play them. E.g. have judges subjectively award points like it's done in sports like gymnastics.

> If you want to encourage more exciting games then you need to reward those who play them

And that seems to be exactly what is happening by respecting those who do / looking down on those who don't. Not every reward has to be expressed by the in-game scoring system.

Don't worry, you're not being as Gandhi-like as you might think: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/10/23/be-change/

I don't see any moral failings in trying to win a game at all costs.

> ... at all costs.

Within the rules.

Not arguing with you, just refining the point for the audience :-)

I wouldn't think he plays for the money, just recognition and from being fiercely competitive, having to prove oneself.

Kasparov had said that all players are worse in blitz, but that Carlsen gets least worst https://twitter.com/Kasparov63/status/1067826806823297029

Thank you! With that nuance added, I believe it now. Kasparov generally isn't the kind of person to make sweeping statements that I know are false.

Well, at least not about chess.

Doesn't he subscribe to the conspiracy theory that popular in Russia about how the years AD 614–911 never occurred?

"The legendary former champion Garry Kasparov suggested the draw offer was a sign that Carlsen was losing his nerve, and on Twitter he proclaimed Caruana the favorite in the tiebreakers. “They’re entitled to their stupid opinions,” Carlsen said with a smile of his critics after his victory."

-- from NYT

Game 12 was disappointing from a fan perspective, but I think it's important to recognize the difficulty for anyone to change their mindset from "a draw is a win" to "I will win" without putting themselves at great risk.

I'm sure if Magnus had the benefit of the computer valuation he would have made more striking moves, but his reasons for taking safer approach (a4, e4) makes sense especially considering how evenly Caruana fought back in previous winning positions, and his objective going in.

At the point he offered the draw, even the computer suggested it was fairly even. The shocking part for me was that he also had a huge advantage in time, but I suppose he did not have the right mindset to switch gears.

I think if you want the championship to be more about "heart/courage" (and less about cold calculation) they just need shorter time controls. That was my one takeaway. Maybe something in-between rapid and classical. If you want to see robots push marginal advantages in drawish positions, just set up an AI tournament. Leave the humans to demonstrate heart, courage, and intuition!

Calling the series "marred" feels a little dramatic.

The fact is that all of the major coverage of this event is going to inevitably mention game 12 as much as the final result.

Perhaps "marred" is a bit too strong. Could we at least agree on "besmirched"?

Here's the first paragraph from LiChess coverage:

'It is not often that the chess world unites to criticise Magnus Carlsen, but on Monday evening in London the World Champion had few supporters after his decision to squander a highly favourable position and offer a draw to his challenger Fabiano Caruana as soon as legally permissible in the final classical game of the world title match in London.

“Cowardly” said Carlsen’s compatriot and former coach Simen Agdestein. “Lazy” was Kramnik’s description of Carlsen’s play leading up to the draw offer. “I think he knows he is not playing the best moves,” the former World Champion added. “Shocking” said Kasparov, declaring that because he seemed to be losing his nerve, Carlsen was no longer his favourite to win the tiebreakers.'


People who make their livelihood on the back of a sport don't really have any incentive to not be overly dramatic during the big game. Any promoter will want people's eyes on the game. Controversy does that. Carlson's draw offer did that, and so did all the criticism of it.

Not that I'm being cynical about it... nobody wants to be a champion that nobody remembers. Especially not in an age where computers consistently outplay humans.

A lot of people's ideas of what purism is in sport depend on whether the act in question helps them to win, or to lose, and whether they are just spectating, and whether they are fans of the person committing the act.

This is a general truth in sport, not just Chess. See also bike racing, baseball, PUBG.

People will tend towards doing what it takes to win. If you don't like those tactics, change the rules.

Can you explain this more to someone not knowledgeable about these tournaments? What did he do that was unconventional?

Carlsen was in a better position in both time and pieces on the board (he had a higher chance of winning). However, he offered a draw to cause all 12 games of classical as a draw.

The point that others here are making is that Carlsen is objectively better at blitz chess, which is what the tiebreakers are formatted in.

Re. the financial calculus. His sponsorship and modelling income is not known precisely but I've seen it estimated at $2 million per year. Losing the title puts all that at risk. A 50k penalty to prizemoney is peanuts.

It's very easy to be always right if you say a thing and the opposite. Kasparov said after the 12th game: "I reconsider my evaluation of him[Carlsen] being the favorite in rapids. Tiebreaks require tremendous nerves and he seems to be losing his."


> So he exchanged a potential loss of €200k at a favourable odds for a sure loss of €50k with potential loss of €150k at a much better odds. Now here's where we could question his decision speculating what the actual odds were, but who knows if he cares about the money.

You’re ignoring the fact that winning also guarantees him a spot in next year’s final, so that would heavily tip this analysis towards playing it safe.

Although I don’t believe Magnus is trying to win this for the money, but that’s besides the point.

Also, the draw guaranteed he held his #1 ranking until the early part of next year at least. And Carlsen has stated in the past that he values the #1 ranking more than the world chess champion title.

> He played the 12th game safe knowing he's a huge favourite in rapid and blitz.

I would argue he played ALL the games safe knowing he's a huge favorite in rapid and blitz.

I would much rather they have to keep playing "classical" chess until somebody wins/loses.

That means that the players would be far more motivated to drive home an advantageous situation when it arises.

Carlsen's dominance in blitz is probably why he doesn't seem to be squeezing endgames into victories anymore.

I agree he played all the games safe, I believe he said (or implied it) himself in one of the press conferences. I also agree that they should play the classical until somebody wins. As Carlsen said in the post final press conference Caruana has the same right to claim he's the best in the world in classical format.

>>I would argue the problem is that most of the fans have become conditioned to expect entertainment, drama and bold moves in sports like we see in overly dramatic movies.

Sports is entertainment, social interaction, emotions etc. Other wise there is no point in wasting hours and hours of one's life other people's career.

Also likability of a person in sport decreases when you take away these things.

Kasparov did not say Carlsen improves w shorter time formats. He said that the degredation of his play at faster times was smaller than everyone else. This is still impressive, but definitely not an improvement.

I think they only pointed out that he improves relative to his opponent.

Grischuk pointed out that according to universal rating system that measures the gap for each category like rapid or blitz and apparently Carlsen is the only one who sometimes gets a negative number on blitz/rapid. Which is most interesting.•

But I agree even so relative to Caruana, whose gaps are much higher. He must have been aware of this.


He made a >joke< that maybe Carlsen should have a negative gap.

oh, it's hard to tell when Grischuk is joking. It's true, he never had a negative rating: http://universalrating.com/player.php?PlayerID=16626

This is quite funny thread. I often marvel at folks dissecting sport game outcome for hours retrospectively as if everything was perfectly explainable only after outcome was seen. We don't see this in HN threads much - well, except for chess games :).

In reality, pro games have such strong contenders that each have very thin edge, if at all, and the outcome is usually just same as throwing dice.

That does not really hold up.

Serral for example is the current best StarCraft 2 player in the world. They operate in tournaments where X players face off usually starting with 16+ players doing single elimination. He won 4 regional, and 2 international tournaments in a row. The odds of him pulling that off if the odds of each win where close to 50/50 would be ~1/(2^30) aka 1 billion to 1. Instead, he was heavily favored in most of these match ups.

I think the previous poster was referring to sportsball/handegg type physical team sports, where there are a lot more changing variables (team composition, physical condition, stadium, weather, ...) than in chess or StarCraft.

In the US, the major team sports are not at all "very thin edge". In fact, lack of parity is a real issue facing several leagues.

Between "tanking" (teams that are deliberately bad in order to get better draft picks), massive budget differences (it's not unusual to see large-market teams with payrolls more than double those of small-market teams), and structural issues in the games themselves, parity can be very very difficult to achieve. 538 attempts to use chess-style Elo ratings to track the major sports, and currently they have:

* ~200-point difference between best and worst major-league baseball team

* ~400-point difference between best and worst NFL football team

* ~400-point difference between best and worst NBA basketball team

I was talking about teams in final games in pro sport. In these scenarios, competitors are very well matched. If outcome was predictable with very high degree of confidence in these games then people wouldn’t care much and all the reasoning chains and justifications would be offered before the games.

The top contenders in many sports got there, at least in part, by studying the tactics and strategies and outcomes of the past. Even a casual participant can learn and improve from unpacking classic games from history. This is true of every contest of ability, from chess to soccer. It is not a fruitless exercise.

However I agree that HN is not the most efficient venue for chess strategy analysis

We expect people to play to win.

In other sports we have rules against playing to draw/stall (e.g. see delay of game in hockey). Likewise in chess (or this and a number of other tournaments anyways), we have rules against agreeing to draw within the first 30 moves to attempt to discourage this sort of behavior.

Not only did Carlsen not play to win the game, he didn't even play to win the championship. Instead he chose to draw, explicitly deciding to split the prize with his opponent.

I, for one, am highly unimpressed.

He made a sacrifice and "conceded" one game to a draw in order to increase his chances of winning the championship via his superior rapid play. He lost the battle to win the war. That is complely playing to win.

I dispute this on two points.

He did not fully "win" the championship. Sure, they had to give the title to somebody, so it's him, but splitting half of the prize is not a complete win.

Even if he had fully won, I don't view it as a sportsmanlike strategy to give up a game to put yourself in an advantageous position. That's why we have a rule against agreeing to a draw to early. That's why in hockey stopping trying to score and just passing the puck in circles at center is against the rules (delay of game) - even when it's the best way to win.

> He did not fully "win" the championship

The goal of most title holders is to increase their odds at retaining the title, in whatever way match rules allow. This goal made for some horrible championships generations ago under Soviet rules.

I agree the rules should be "biased" toward rewarding maximum skill, not just maximizing winning odds. But as Caruana said “We work with the match that we have... If the powers that be want to change it, then we’ll work with something else.”

Are you also against sacrificing a piece in a game to gain an advantage? How is this different? He played a sacrifice in the meta game to gain an advantage.

The difference is that:

- This was part of the metagame.

- This was agreeing to a "semi-draw" in the metagame when he did not need to.

I think you misunderstand how the prize money is allocated. They both got 400k for competing, and the winner would take 200k. Since they went to tiebreaks the winner only got 150k while the loser gets 50k. So in this sense Magnus didn’t really split much of the prize with Caruana.

They both get paid 400k for competing. That's payment, and maybe a prize for reaching the championship, but not a prize for the winner of the championship, so I ignore it.

The winner gets 200k in prize money. In the case of a tie the winner gets 150k, the loser gets 50k. That is to say the winner gets 100k, and they split 100k, which is half the prize, which is what I said.

My apologies, I misread your original comment.

In any case, Carlsen said he wasn't aware of the prize money difference after reaching tie breakers, so it probably didn't factor into his decision making.

> In the case of a tie the winner gets 150k, the loser gets 50k.

this literally makes no sense. In a tie, there is no winner and no loser. There was a winner and loser in this case, so there was no tie. I don't know why you keep insisting there was.

Huh, that's why that comment is attracting downvotes...

That has to be the least charitable reading ever. Do you seriously need me to spell out "In the case of a tie after the 12 games under the regular time constraints" while defending my math?

Perhaps Carlson was just being generous to his opponent then. Surely a nefarious deed.

Caring about prize money more than the title is not sportsmanlike, in my view.

Chess is a game that can be played perfectly. There is no perfect Hockey game. If you get two super computers to play chess against one another they will draw a majority of the time, I think it is a testament to the skill of both players that they drew 12 games in a row.

Yep. In chess, you have to make mistakes to lose. Top players don't make very many mistakes, so often nobody loses.

> In chess, you have to make mistakes to lose.

That's a conjecture. Nothing more. Nobody knows whether it is true! It is possible that a perfect player playing White may make you lose every time. It's even possible (though highly doubtful) that this holds for Black instead.

You're right that in theory nobody has proven whether chess is won, lost, or drawn with perfect play. But all available evidence, as well as my personal intuition (and that of almost all top players), screams that it's drawn.

I just want to give a mention to ChessNetwork on Twitch[1].

I watched many of the games of this series live via this channel, and it was great how the commentator had his own board to demonstrate the next few moves and explain the players' thinking. It was really interesting and relaxing.


Jerry is a phenomenal chess instructor. His latest video on tactical awareness[1] explains more in 2 hours than you might learn in a thousand games at the board.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzGKPxJ5NYI

Wow, you’re not kidding. He’s basically ticking off many of my lingering questions one by one.

This guy's voice has a real Sam Harris vibe.

Jerry's great... if a little anonymous. ;)

I've watched most of his videos on his YouTube channel. He's not the most experienced player but his style of communication is very accessible, even to casual chess players. I'd especially check out his videos on Leela Chess Zero and Google Alpha Zero; they are a blast!

I preferred chess.com's Twitch stream[0]. They do the same but have various GMs and other's come on to discuss.

0: https://www.twitch.tv/chess

I watched them regularly during the championship, they had Yifan[0] on several times and she was fantastic.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hou_Yifan

Exactly! I think they did a great job of creating some discussion that wasn't purely about the game at hand, while still having some great analysis.

Jerry at ChessNetwork is so wonderful! He's almost single-handedly responsible for my growing interest in Chess. He is such a clear communicator, and his passion for the game is infectious.

I "randomly" discovered (if that is such a thing in today's world of machine learning) ChessNetwork, and it's become my primary resource for improving my chess beyond the beginner level. Their beginner to master series describes so many little things that would have taken me ages to learn or many books read.

I agree, I saw a few of the games via his LiChess slot and I thought he did a phenomenal job in terms of making advanced chess concepts accessible to a very wide range of skill levels.

I also loved elements of the chess.com stream, especially when guys like Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura come on, but there's something to be said for just a very high quality stream with somebody who both knows what he's talking about and is super humble and interesting.

You may recognize RebeccaHarris from Lichess, but for those who don't: I'm GM Daniel Naroditsky, senior at Stanford and - like all of us - still wrapping my head around the massacre we just witnessed in Rapid.

I had a feeling this would happen, though I have gotten the better of Magnus in bullet on Lichess with a mix of wild play and lucky tactics.

Speaking of which, I've been involved in beta-testing the killer online bullet chess interface which is being developed by mindgam3, mentioned here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18554909

This software is going to crush it. As someone with little programming experience myself, I dare to say that we need to bring online chess to the next level, and I think this guy has what it takes. We are looking for ambitious and open-minded developers to participate in this chess revolution. Please respond to this comment, or e-mail me at daniel@stanforchess.org if you are interested. With enough fire under us, I think we can bring Magnus on board too!

I saw your twitch channel and also your lessons on youtube, really quality stuff and very instructive. I´m a Software engineer and amateur chess player. I'm intrigued about your project. Is there any website or twitter to follow the development?

I think we need to support this kind of project so our hobby can grow. I like to contribute to the online chess world with some open sources projects http://chesswindmill.com/ it will be awesome if you can check them.


Thank you for the kind words! We are currently in stealth mode, but I would love to bring you on board via e-mail. Please shoot an e-mail at the address that is in my profile. My e-mail is currently a bit swamped because I'm organizing a few events this weekend, but I can get back to you early next week. We are a big fan of open source, and in the meantime I will definitely take a look at your open source projects on chesswindmill.

Correction: daniel@stanfordchess.org. Thanks for letting me know... too much going on today!

The weird thing is that stanforchess.org is a thing!

Well, registered.

I think you might have dropped a 'd' from your email address, eh?

No no, Stan is a big proponent of chess! He even created an organization about how pro-chess he is.

Thank you for the spellcheck

I was disappointed in Carlsen's 12th game draw. He might have etched something out of the game, as computers were clearly saying he had some slight advantage. After seeing the first games from today, I eased down on my disappointment.

Today's first few games changed my mind. Carlsen remains the better player, because he does better where it matters; time pressure. Caruana seemed to battle with time a lot, I observed a few instances where he'd spend a lot of time on "forced" moves, perhaps an element of self-doubt against his counterpart.

It's been an interesting time watching the games, but maybe it's time the classical format is spiced up with something else inbetween. You can't beat a record 12/12 draws, so I hope that doesn't become the norm, as we might as well be watching a blitz championship in the end.

> Carlsen remains the better player, because he does better where it matters; time pressure.

I disagree. Carlsen is the better player under time pressure, but they appear evenly matched in what I'd consider "actual" chess. One of the things I love about the game is that it's a slow, pensive game.

Classical chess still includes the clock in induce time pressures so speed of decision making is already a factor in the main tournament. Rapid and blitz just take that and increase it's importance given the main matches have already determined the players are largely evenly matched.

I look at it this way. The main 12 games have already told us who is good given lots of time to deliberate now who has a good enough understanding to make those decisions quickly.

> I disagree. Carlsen is the better player under time pressure, but they appear evenly matched in what I'd consider "actual" chess.

Did they? The primary complaint about Carlsen's game 12 is that he had Caruana dead to rights, but chose not to press the advantage.

Which isn't to say that Caruana didn't do a fantastic job of playing Carlsen to a standstill throughout the tournament, but Carlsen seemed to have more of a clear edge several times (blundering it a bit in games 1, and slightly misplaying similar edges in games 9 and 10) before gaining an absolutely vicious one in game 12.

Caruana never seemed to quite work himself into those kind of serious edges, even if he did an admirable job of defending against them.

Has anybody in the world said that Caruana was "dead to rights" in game 12?

That's not what the controversy was about. It was the fact that white had "winning chances" in a completely unclear position with most pieces were still on the board. "Winning chances" isn't winning.

Magnus's reputation is he's a guy who will usually press on in a (seemingly) flat endgame where a lot of GMs will agree to draw and occasionally will squeeze out a win in those circumstances. It's antithetical to that image for him to offer a draw in a position _no_ GM would offer in typical circumstances. He did it for strategic reasons, and given his performance in the tiebreaker today, it looks all the more justifiable for the purposes of winning, but some people don't like that attitude from a champion.

You’re dramatically overstating the advantage Carlsen had in Game 12. It was not decisive or obvious in any way and afterwards various engines played out the position to a draw. It might have been possible to win, but it might also have been possible to blunder and miss the chance to go to rapid tie breaks (a format where Carlsen had the advantage).

You’re also not doing Caruana justice. He worked Carlsen into badly losing positions in two games, but just blundered away the winning continuations allowing Carlsen to save a draw each time.

I think the better player won the match, but that Caruana played toe to toe with Carlsen, including attacking chess that caught Carlsen off guard and caused him to respond poorly. Meanwhile, Carlsen made absolutely the correct choice (best strategic choice) to draw in Game 12.

Very nice championship match, probably my favorite one of Carlsen’s era.

I agree with your view on the overstatement. It wasn't a win, but a slight advantage.

Chess championships sometimes draw the same criticism as boxing, players strategise to win on technicalities and small margins, instead of taking risks and landing hard blows.

As fans, that is boring, but I agree; Carlsen made the correct choice in drawing.

One of the lines popular in "4D space chess" (ie Starcraft), is: "when you're ahead, get more ahead". That is to say, don't just press your advantage to end the game (high risk, error prone), press your advantage to make your advantage overwhelming...

From the analysis Carlsen used his advantage well: to secure continued advantage.

Two elements of Starcraft makes this "get more ahead" approach relevant there while it really isn't in Chess.

Firstly Starcraft has economics in the form of the resource gathering mechanics. This means if you pursue attack as your only priority the enemy may get ahead economically and, if they survive long enough, just out-build you. No mechanic like that exists in Chess, you can't have more pawns if you invest in a pawn-making machine for one turn rather than moving.

Secondly, Starcraft is a game of deliberately hidden knowledge. You don't know whether those two wounded Marines ran up that ramp hoping your forces won't follow, or if they're just bait to draw your attacking force into range of two waiting Siege Tanks who will do enormous damage. In Chess the game state is entirely open.

> You’re dramatically overstating the advantage Carlsen had in Game 12. It was not decisive or obvious in any way and afterwards various engines played out the position to a draw.

You're misstating the results of the Game 12 replays (see: https://www.chess.com/computer-chess-championship, which is pitting numerous engines against each other in the position at Game 12's resignation).

It's currently +3-18=14. That's 3 wins for Caruana's position, 18 wins for Carlsen's, and 14 draws. That's about as decisive a position as you can get in high-level chess. Yes, with perfect play, Caruana might have reached a draw, but Carlsen was in an overwhelmingly strong position. And this isn't even truly accounting for the time pressure Caruana put himself in at that point. He would have been defending from an incredible time deficit.

> Meanwhile, Carlsen made absolutely the correct choice (best strategic choice) to draw in Game 12.

Numerous grandmasters disagree with you, including at least Anand, Nakamura, Hess, Kasparov, and Kramnik. The computer results also suggest he should have at least played on several moves before offering, because he was in a position where his likely worst case result was a draw and his best case was a decisive win.

> It's currently +3-18=14. That's 3 wins for Caruana's position, 18 wins for Carlsen's, and 14 draws. That's about as decisive a position as you can get in high-level chess.

Except that +3 would mean three chess engines, supposedly stronger than Carlsen, have managed to lose Carlsen's position. That's eye-opening, and perhaps justifies Carlsen offering a draw than risking being in that +3 column.

Caruana was supposedly without counter-play. +3 is far too high a score to support that claim.

There's one important nuance here. Those machines are playing against super human defense. In human chess there are countless positions that computers can easily defend whereas even the best players in the world would lose nearly every time. Finding only moves in very complex positions is not really that hard for most modern programs. Doing this over and over for humans, let alone with limited time and with mental fatigue a very real issue, is just not possible to consistently do.

This position hadn't reached that critical of a juncture yet, but that's largely because Magnus just started winging it long before the final position. His position was much stronger earlier on. But even in the final position he was very much the attacker and Fabiano's clock was starting to run low. In practical chess, Fabiano definitely faced an uphill battle to try to draw that position.

”It's currently +3-18=14. That's 3 wins for Caruana's position, 18 wins for Carlsen's, and 14 draws. That's about as decisive a position as you can get in high-level chess.”

Today’s games stand at +3-0=0 or, taking the last game as the draw it would have been if Caruana didn’t have to win, at +2-0=1.

I haven’t done the math, but I’m sure taking a “best of four” sample from the distribution that was taken from gives you better odds than taking a n=1 sample from the distribution that gave you +3-18=14 (about 9% chance of losing, about 50% of winning’, followed by (if that draw is a tied game) that n=4 sample.

And that’s ignoring the fact that that +3-18=14 is from machines that are way different from humans. When given a chess position that’s like a minefield, with a single winning sequence of 40 moves, and all other moves a loss, a computer will happily declare the position a certain win, but chances are no human will find that winning sequence.

> It's currently +3-18=14. That's 3 wins for Caruana's position, 18 wins for Carlsen's, and 14 draws. That's about as decisive a position as you can get in high-level chess. Yes, with perfect play, Caruana might have reached a draw, but Carlsen was in an overwhelmingly strong position. And this isn't even truly accounting for the time pressure Caruana put himself in.

If this was not the game 12, they would have had a point. However it was the game 12 and upon a draw Carlsen would have enormous advantage in a tie breaker -- he is much stronger in rapid games.

Humans are not computers. And the fact that computers won some of those games is further evidence that, while Carlsen had winning chances, the position was complicated enough that one or two suboptimal moves might be enough for Fabi to capitalize and win.

A slight advantage in a complicated position with lots of tension and many ways for the game to continue is wildly different from a slight advantage in a quieter position with many of the pieces traded down. In the latter, a mistake might cause you to draw rather than win. In the former, a mistake might cause you to lose outright.

Agree. The last 50+ years of 1-1 contests (chess, boxing, tennis, mma, ..) have tended towards the defensive(1), for good reason.

In the old days a bit of flair and risk might have taken you a long way.

1. or at least the minimisation of mistakes.

Sure, but we're kind of wandering off the point here.

Carlsen is widely recognized to have been in a great, likely winning position in game 12, and arguably got himself into several other, if not cleanly decisive positions, very strong ones in several other games, where Caruana never quite seemed to.

OP suggested they were dead even in play in "what he considers" chess (classical time controls). I'm suggesting that the results may have been even, but that Carlsen seemed to be stronger all along, based on the chances he got himself into, even though it never quite converted until rapid.

> Carlsen is widely recognized to have been in a great, likely winning position in game 12, and arguably got himself into several other, if not cleanly decisive positions, very strong ones in several other games, where Caruana never quite seemed to.

Long time ago in a galaxy far away I played at a very high level.

Sometimes when I'm bored or lonely or cranky I play hustlers in the Union Sq in NYC. There's probably one guy (old cranky Russian) that can actually give me a run for my money and he is still going to be a several hundred points below me. Regardless, sometimes I wander into situations that I dont quite like -- no decisive advantage where I have to play carefully. Instead I quickly take it to a draw because the odds of me getting into a bad position multiple times in a row are smaller than the odds of me not tripping in a position that I do not like and since no money changes hands on a draw, drawing is nothing other than kicking a ball down the road.

For Carlsen kicking a ball into a tie breaker comes with a multiple hundred point advantage. It is the advantage that he does not have with classic time controls.

Precisely. After eleven games, these guys are mentally exhausted. Having an edge in a complex position isn’t yet a win, and Carlsen obviously decided that the odds that he would make a mistake that loses were higher than the odds that he would lose to Fabi in rapid after two days of mental recovery.

> but Carlsen seemed to have more of a clear edge several times (blundering it a bit in games 1, and slightly misplaying similar edges in games 9 and 10) before gaining an absolutely vicious one in game 12.

This doesn't show every game, but fivethirtyeight.com shows the games being pretty split up to game 9:


With Carlsen having a strong advantage in game 1, and Caruana in game 6. Caruana having a small advantage in game 2, and Carlsen having a small advantage in game 9. It seems about as split as it could be.

Well, their ELOs are just about the same, so I agree with the spirit of your viewpoint.

I'd argue that he's better because he has mastered more than just one format. If we have a tie in one category, and one of the players has a strong advantage in another category; then they'll come out as "better".

To someone (like the person you replied to) who considers slow chess to be "actual chess" and quicker formats to be a different game, this argument doesn't make sense.

Imagine two people of equal ability at ice hockey. You wouldn't say that one is better than the other at ice hockey because he's better than the other at field hockey.

Adding my edit to a below comment here:

Probably the best analogy here is association football -- the normal, standard game can end in a draw. During the World Cup and other elimination tournaments, a completely new rule, not part of the normal game, is introduced allowing games to be decided by penalty kicks. Is the fact that Italy beat France in the 2006 World Cup final on penalty kicks evidence that Italy's team was "better at association football" than France's? Many people would argue that it's not.

Would you consider an ice hockey player's skill in 3-on-3 overtime or shootouts to be a factor in their overall ice hockey skill?

Sure -- overtime is part of the rules of hockey. Rapid and blitz chess aren't part of the rules of standard chess.

Rapid and blitz (and armageddon) were part of the meta-rules of this match, but then your argument only works if you say Magnus is better at the meta-sport called "winning the 2018 World Chess Championship" -- which I'd agree with, but it isn't the same thing as being better at chess.

Probably the best analogy here is association football -- the normal, standard game can end in a draw. During the World Cup and other elimination tournaments, a completely new rule, not part of the normal game, is introduced allowing games to be decided by penalty kicks. Is the fact that Italy beat France in the 2006 World Cup final on penalty kicks evidence that Italy's team was "better at association football" than France's? Many people would argue that it's not.

Overtime is basically meta-rules as well in ice hockey. It can change depending on the game. ex. it differs depending on if its a playoff game or not. And just like the chess championships, it can change from year to year.

I've competed at a high level in a hobby of mine, and it was well known that the winner of a competition was never "the person who is best", it was "the person who is best in the competition environment that day". No matter what rules you have, that will always be true. And that's okay.

albeit, if there were shorter time constraints for each period, I would say the team that wins in that smaller time constraint is better even though the meta changes, it becomes less a game of endurance and more a game of holding peak performance as long as possible. imagine 4 minute periods. it definitely changes the game but it is still all in all the game, goals are still scored the same way. (please note, I know extremely little about hockey... but I think the analogy works, if it doesn't please let me know.)

Quick reminder that it's "Elo", not "ELO". It's not an acronym or initialism. It's named after its inventor:


Always important to avoid ambiguity with Electric Light Orchestra. ;)

Their ELOs are currently about the same but Carlsen is on that level(and higher) for a long time whereas Caruana and a few others have just come close.

I wouldn't be surprised if Carlsen would soon again have a comfortable lead on the ELO ladder. He was once at 2882.

I am however happy that he had such a worthy opponent in this tournament!

Interestingly, he has a wider gap on rapid and blitz, again showing the magnitude of his strength

Carlsen was a better player within the rules of this tournament. His strategy clearly shows he was playing to win the tournament, not beat the player.

Yes, as a non chess player I think of the game as two people each taking about 15 minutes per move. Blitz chess isn’t what the cultural concept of “chess” is.

> Yes, as a non chess player I think of the game as two people each taking about 15 minutes per move.

Not even classical time controls play that way -- 15 minutes per move would rapidly lose you the match. Prepared openings come quite quickly, obviously, but most moves even beyond that are played within a very few minutes of each other, with time being saved to spend on a "deep-think" of 15-30 minutes on only one or two key moves.

Which makes sense. Classical time controls in this tournament were, counting the per move increments, 120 minutes per player for the first 40 moves. That means you need to average a move every 3 minutes over your first 40 (and in reality, they spend less than that most games, preferring to maintain a healthy cushion).

Rapid (not Blitz, they did not play any Blitz games) only drops that down to 45 seconds per move over the first 40. Since they tend to live closer to the margin in Rapid anyways vs Classical, this is even less of a drop than it might appear.

It's unquestionably less time to think, but not nearly as much as you're suggesting.

I know, I’m not talking about real chess, but the Hollywood concept of chess. I also realize that Hollywood chess has the player representing Amerifreedom(TM) squared against a thickly accented Slav who kicks his dog.

The tie-break didn't get to blitz. Rapid is roughly an hour of playing which is well within the cultural concept of chess. Probably closer for most people actually.

Even for classic time control, 15 minutes per move is too much; they get about 3 minutes per move on average: 120 minutes for the first 40 moves is quite common. In this championship, they each had 100 minutes + 30 seconds bonus/move for the first 40 moves, which adds up to 120 minutes if they reach move 40 anyway. Of course, some moves are played very fast and the players do take 15 minutes, or more, in some tricky situations where they have to make a key decision.

What is the "cultural concept of 'chess'" then, and according to whose culture?

had they continued the same game instead of drawn, caruana would have had 15min to make 10 moves


Here is some reasoning on why chess with humans should move to rapid chess: https://chess.stackexchange.com/questions/2662/how-popular-i...

Thanks for sharing, this is really smart

> Today's first few games changed my mind. Carlsen remains the better player, because he does better where it matters; time pressure.

This is completely wrong. Top players (Carlsen included) acknowledge that chess on rapid time controls is very different from longer time controls, to the point that it feels almost like a different sport.

You may or may not agree that rapid (and blitz, if needed) are used as tie breaker, but they are not what matters the most in the World Chess Championship.

Traditionally, it has been about long time controls.

What you said it’s like saying that penalties are what matters the most in soccer.

> What you said it’s like saying that penalties are what matters the most in soccer.

Not really. I'm not disregarding the classical form of the game, but I'm saying that rapid and blitz show an extra quality which the long form doesn't; the ability to keep calm under pressure.

Penalties are an interesting one, because they're partly about speed and deception. They don't matter most, but a good team spends some time preparing for them (in addition to the game) because in the end, if they count 3 out of 100, and both teams have 97, the one that doesn't prepare to get those 3 points will be the weaker.

> the ability to keep calm under pressure.

Sure, but by playing on rapid time controls you are not giving the players the opportunity to evaluate lines as deep as those on longer time controls.

You add something, but you lose something. And what you lose is the very essence of chess.

Agreed. That's why there's a separate championship title for blitz (which is Carlen's)

They are wrong. World championship is not a battle, it is a campaign. At the present time Carlsen's best bet for winning is to play tie breaker games because he is much better at rapid fire games than his opponent, which is exactly why he took it there.

It is, in essence, a standard chess taken to extreme - the difference between a 1900 player and an IM is that IM would play to win while 1900 player would play to attack.

> because he does better where it matters; time pressure.

Not at all. Both of these guys would handily beat me and pretty much any other player quite easily in standard time controls. Time pressure was only a factor here because there's public pressure to name someone as the champion. In the vast majority of all tournaments, ties are left as ties. In the event there is a prize that can't be split (e.g. a title or a trophy) there are a series of tiebreak rules that don't involve playing any more games. The USCF rulebook lists the methods and priority that they are to be used, the FIDE rulebook gives several options which are to be announced in advance [1].

[1] https://www.fide.com/fide/handbook.html?id=187&view=article

He does better relative to his peer(s)

That isn't the point up for debate, the question is whether or not "time pressure is what matters".

Strength in faster time controls strongly fits overall strength.

Caruana knew he was the underdog in Tie-breaks, he had 12 chances to avoid that and he was unable to.

Carlsen could have pressed in game 12 but he knew he was much stronger in faster controls, why risk anything?

Using computer evals through the match, I felt that Carlsen was slightly stronger, and their head to head record suggests as much.

The other way of looking at this is that twice in a row Carlsen has been unable to defend the title in classical controls and has relied on rapid time controls to win. In both cases, it's unclear if Carlsen could have retained the title had more classical games been played.

Does that say more about Carlsen or the modern classical game?

Classical these days is heavily reliant on technology for preparation. The world championship match gives both players a huge amount of time to research strong lines using an engine. When players finally do get out of prep, they have plenty of time on the clock to make a draw if they're not in a winning position. In shorter time controls it becomes a lot more difficult to avoid mistakes out of book. Then it becomes more about vision and calculation and less about preparation.

Could you explain what this prep entails? I understand that athletes or gamers will watch opponents’ past plays to see how they should adapt, but I’m having trouble translating this to chess.

They have a team helping them prepare called seconds, they also keep aware of opening updates by following games around the world. They have large opening databases, and will use computers to find new moves (originally just a team of GMs) known as "novelties" (a surprise). The novelties take the opponent "out of book" or the prep (preparation) he has developed. This means the opponent will have to use more time, and find his way out of a tricky situation you are more familiar with, through computer analysis.

Often old sidelines will come back into fashion in order to avoid prep, or to lead someone into unfamiliar territory.

If you watch on a video feed, announcers will sometimes say "this position was played in city (x) in year (n) between player(1) and player(2)" this is to show that there are few games left in the database, we are entering deep prep.

Hope I helped.

Or you could say that he's been undefeated in classical controls and therefore retained his title.

I'd wager 20% of Norway or more has been actively following these games. Everyone has been talking about it, the last few weeks the lunch at work has been mostly discussing the game the night before. All over the media. Biggest tv channel (NRK) showed the 15 games live, same for the biggest news page (VG) .

And this is nothing new, ever since the first time Carlsen was in a WC match Norway has been obsessed with chess. Some joke it's because we're so fond of slow-tv here. Both NRK and VG has made it like a panel/talk-show with a mix of chess experts and entertainers. The format works well.

I expected it to be the same in America, unfortunately this was not the case. I don't know what it is but nobody in my social circles seemed to even know that this was going on.

I suspect it would have gotten more press coverage if caruana hadn't switched from playing for Italy just a couple years ago and if he'd been favored. Without an "all American boy" or "next Bobby Fischer" in the lede, I imagine it's harder to sell the story to general audiences.

Wow, that's shocking. How could you expect it to be that way in America? Have you looked around at actual Americans and what they watch??

Just sort of baseless optimism on my part I guess.

Chess is just not that popular outside of a few niches here. I used to be really into it when I was a kid, but it's a struggle to find anyone to play against; I don't think I've played more than a couple games in the past five years.

It's making a real comeback as the online options and apps have gotten better. Check out LiChess or chess.com. You can find a live match in seconds for shorter time controls or play 1 day per move if you don't want blitz. It makes it easy to play a quick game while waiting for a bus, or similar.

There is nothing else happening in Norway (except that naval frigate that sank), that's why. It's literally been glued to the front-page of the top online newspapers for weeks now. We have no history or culture of chess and we will not see another Carlsen for another millennium, dessverre.

From yesterday, before this outcome: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18545508

It's funny how both of their last names start with "Car". On chessgames.com there's a massive dropdown of famous players in the search, and those are the only two whose names start with "Car". Chess.com did a contest on it, where they asked what type of car each of them would be.

I was rooting for Caruana but I'm not at all annoyed that Carlsen won. I really like how each of them rose to greatness with the different styles of playing chess they have.

Echoing the epic Kasparov v Karpov rivalry from 30 years ago perhaps. Pity that 's' and 'r' in the third letter had an off by one error in that case though.

Shoutout to ChessExplained: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd9RHivv7ryAQSS7Q8p1zgA

ChessExplained is high rated German IM working towards becoming a GM and has tons (literally many thousands of videos) of great content, including self-commentated blitz, top games, openings, etc.

Just to throw it out there in case people are looking for good chess commentators, my favorite is agadmator: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL5YbN5WLFD8dLIegT5QAbA

For anyone looking for a simpler recap of the event, there's been a 4-part series running at Deadspin that has been an awesome read for me. The last part covering the last 4 matches is here https://deadspin.com/armageddon-looms-over-the-world-chess-c... and there are links to earlier parts in the article. I'm sure there will be a final part covering this victory as well.

I've been skipping through Deadspin in my RSS feed for years now, but I was really pleasantly surprised at how readable and in depth the chess articles were when they popped up (speaking as someone who hasn't played a competitive game of chess in 25+ years). It definitely hit the sweet spot for me in terms of being both understandable and enlightening.

I’d like to offer a few thoughts on this match as a former internationally competitive player/US Cadet U16 champion, current ~2400 bullet chess addict, and someone who has played bughouse with Fabiano as my partner at the Sinquefield Cup in 2017.

First, hats off to both players for a hard fought match. To Magnus for successfully defending his title, and to Fabiano for pushing Magnus right to the brink. This was an exciting matchup that was good for chess, especially American chess thanks to Fabi.

I give Magnus enormous respect for his classy remark in the closing ceremony, when he stated that Fabiano has as much right to claim the throne of classical chess as he does. This is 100% true given their drawn match, be didn’t have to say it, but the fact that he offered that recognition to Fabiano is such a gentleman’s move. It’s enough to make me forget the disappointment I felt due to his draw offer in game 12. Magnus not only is the champ, he deserves to be the champ.

Fabiano talked about taking lessons from this experience. I hope his big takeaway is to begin incorporating online blitz and bullet into his training routine. From playing bughouse with him, I know that he is very unsure of himself when it comes to these faster time controls. I don’t blame him for this. Most likely it is a result of his coach(es) instructing him not to “waste his time” or “ruin his chess” with blitz and bullet.

The truth is, blitz chess is not only insanely fun but extremely good training to develop intuition for slow chess. In case anyone has doubts about whether it is valuable, we just saw a world championship title awarded based on rapid.

tl;dr: Play more bullet and blitz! It’s good for you.

* Shameless plug: I have been developing an online interface to help people become insanely good at bullet and blitz in a short amount of time. Essentially I reverse engineered the process of how I became a chess prodigy and prototyped a web interface to do it faster and at scale. I currently have an almost-MVP integrated with LiChess API and I’m looking for both beta testers and full stack devs (web and mobile) to help me launch this thing. With a little luck we will have Fabi, Magnus, Hikaru and others testing this in a month or two. I could really use some help on the dev side so anyone interested, please leave a comment! Can offer some combination of equity/cash/world-class private chess instruction to the right person or people :-)

> The truth is, blitz chess is not only insanely fun but extremely good training to develop intuition for slow chess.

I find that actually quite controversial - correlation does not imply causation. The general sentiment within the community is that the causation works from the other side i.e being good at slow leads to being good at blitz.

Here are some quotes you might find interesting:

"Playing rapid chess, one can lose the habit of concentrating for several hours in serious chess. That is why, if a player has big aims, he should limit his rapidplay in favour of serious chess." – Vladimir Kramnik

"He who analyses blitz is stupid." – Rashid Nezhmetdinov

"Blitz chess kills your ideas." – Bobby Fischer

"To be honest, I consider [bullet chess] a bit moronic, and therefore I never play it." – Vladimir Kramnik

"I play way too much blitz chess. It rots the brain just as surely as alcohol." – Nigel Short

"Blitz is simply a waste of time." – Vladimir Malakhov

Bobby Fischer played a lot of Blitz, notably:

* 1958 trip to Moscow chess club he took on all comers, including Petrosian in blitz: https://nezhmet.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/the-fabulous-50s-fi...

* 1962 Stockholm, Geller pulls a trick on Fischer suggesting he play his "unknown" compatriot when Fischer challenged him to blitz. The unknown was Leonid Stein, a legendary blitz player, but largely unknown outside of the USSR: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2012/03/16/bobbys-blitz-che...

* 1970 Herceg Novi Blitz tournament, held very soon after The World vs USSR match. Winner was a certain Bobby Fischer: https://www.365chess.com/tournaments/Herceg_Novi_blitz_1970

“The best blitz players are the best slow players.” — Dan Heisman

I will refute your list of quotes by (again) pointing to the results of the world championships, just concluded.

The world crown was lost because Fabiano cracked under time pressure and lost a position in Game 1 of tiebreaks that he easily could have drawn in classical chess.

Skill in blitz chess does translate to classical, people.

It's not just about developing intuition. It's training your mind to see clearly under non-optimal situations, like when you are exhausted or, say, drunk. Not that you would ever play a serious game of chess while drunk, but still.

Being good at slow 100% does NOT lead to being good at blitz. I mean, yes, a grandmaster will beat a noob at blitz, but that's obvious.

I know what I'm talking about. I am a lowly national master who "punches above my weight" by regularly beating strong IMs and GMs at blitz and bullet.

@whatismindgam3 on LiChess, feel free to add me there or challenge me if you want to put my theories to the test.

I know nothing about chess, but part of your argument in both this post and the one before seems to be "I'm right because my ranking is higher than average". That's a bad way to convince people in general (it relies on appeal to authority, a type of logical fallacy), but since you're insistent on using it, the people quoted above are much stronger authorities and appear to hold the opposite view.

Is there a reason why you’re not calling out the parent comment on appeal to authority? Because that was the thrust of his entire argument.

It’s not just me who feels that way about blitz though. Look at guys like Hikaru Nakamura or Daniel Naroditsky. For every grandmaster who thinks blitz is useless, I can find one who thinks the opposite.

Ultimately the only real way to test theories is to get in and try it on yourself. Would you like to learn how to improve your chess? Are you open to a new way of doing it accelerated by technology? If so, I might be able to help. If not, no worries. There are plenty of other coaches or software tools out there.

This is definitely legit, and I think there is great potential in developing an online chess server/interface that is leagues and leagues above what we currently have. Not to mention the potential of having top GM's involved, and harnessing the addictive potential of bullet/blitz :)

I'm involved in early beta-testing for mindgam3's interface, and can vouch for its legitimacy and potential. See my comment to the main post for more explanation.

-GM Daniel Naroditsky

Thanks for your insights!

As someone who enjoys blitz much more than classical chess and would like to get better at it, your interface sounds interesting. I'm only ~1,800 in blitz on Lichess, but I'd be curious to beta test it or take lessons.

Would love to get you involved! Please feel free to reach out for lessons or beta testing, my contact info is in my profile.

Emailed, thanks!

I'm a competitive Scrabble player, and to a lot of extent I agree with the development of intuition from blitz games. I probably played tens of thousands of 3-minute and fewer games online and although I am normally a very slow player in person, normally using up almost all of my time, playing blitz did and does help with play-finding, getting an intuition for when to play defense/offense, rapid anagramming, etc.

I disagree so strongly. At some point in my life, I had distorted my thought process heavily by fast chess. I in particular played it like Tal would. The element of surprise plays a major factor.

I was never as good as you in chess. My best game ever with normal time constraints was a tie against a 2400, and my regular games are around 2000. But it was only a hobby.

What is troubling about chess in general is that it cannot be truly learnt. As computers have shown. With that in mind, let's also assume that intution plays a role. The classical offers the second best way of determining who has got it right. Fast chess kills your intuition as it offers incentives to play the more wrong game that your opponent might blunder to. When I play normal chess, I play in a way that is safe up to somewhere between 5 to 7 moves depth, at my best days. Magnus has more depth obviously. So if his opponents play for the win, they will lose. And under time control, he has a better full view of the board, so plays faster and that's all as much I can tell. But if his opponent has an different, perhaps intuitive, style, which I have no understanding of, he will lose. The key point being, that the move that is the best up to depth 7, can be the move that you could see how it loses you the game if you had more depth.

To my main concern about your comment, playing fast, particular bullet and blitz, indeed damages your right intuition if there is any. And if the person is anything like me, it might bleed into other aspects of their life, with consequences.

My advice to anyone who plays fast games and has a sharp and computing mind, is to spend time at a creative activity, such as writing, some sciences, and put chess aside for a year. Develop your creative skills, and then you'll notice the negative impact of bullet and blitz (With all due respect to your skills, the terms bullet and blitz makes me feel a turmoil now), which I consider to be quite serious.

The shortest time control I play is 10+0 and I feel that at my very average level, I don't learn anything from it (especially if I get on a discouraging losing streak). These days, 15+15 is what I try to stick to on Lichess so that's my preferred control (still considered fast by OTB standards).

With that out of the way, I suspect that the difference between bullet and classical people is probably like the difference between a sprinter and a marathon runner.

In my other spare time, I like to ride bicycles. Everyone who doesn't do it thinks it's a dangerous thing - but the way I ride isn't the way that most people think I ride. I prefer the slow, cautious, zen and analytical approach compared to the "intuitive" fast, mad rush that most people will be familiar with when they think "cyclist". I can go fast when required as I have developed and applied my own theory for it, but most of the time I prefer to just take it easy. So I see some parallels there - horses for courses.

I don't really buy the idea that there's such a thing as intuition. Intuition to me merely means that someone who apparently demonstrates it cannot understand how to explain their intuition (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/intuition). Many seem to be equating it to a higher form of intelligence but I don't buy that that is the case.

I daresay that Fabiano Caruana is probably pretty good at classical now and can perhaps afford to practise shorter controls a lot more. He's actually not bad at it, but has had inconsistent results in the past. But who knows - in 2020 we might be seeing a lot less Rossolimo and Petrov.

My aspirations for Chess are pretty low these days (my estimated ELO max was around a mere 1500 over a decade ago when I played regularly..) but I'm curious how your web interface actually works to improve play and whether it would translate to other games. I've heard conflicting advice about the value of blitz games for Go as well, though the strongest person I've played in person (5dan amateur chinese) thought that I should think carefully about each move and take the time to do it, rather than bust out a bunch of games playing by intuition. Do you think your scheme for improving at rapid Chess would apply to Go's full 19x19 game?

I barely know the rules of Go, but I have great respect for the game and I believe it would apply there as well. The interface is based on the fact that chess is primarily a game of visual pattern recognition. Tactics like forks and pins, positional concepts like isolated pawns and weak squares, these are captured and processed visually. Getting good at chess is as much about learning how to literally see the patterns as it is about calculating ability.

To your other point, intuition is never going to replace deep calculation for slower games. But the ability to process visual patterns still aids with the deep thinking aspect. You can perceive more subtle patterns and add them visually while thinking carefully about each move.

Ah, so is the interface mainly to help point out the common patterns (especially if you missed them) during review? Or during play itself? Go has its patterns too, so you might be right that it would apply well there.

Both afterwards (training mode) and during (training wheels mode). Heck, this software might even allow me to attempt learning go, which feels like a herculean task for my no-longer-youthful synapses.

I've actually seen this too and will be helping with the tech side a little -- it's a great way to find my problem areas. I'm an amateur myself trying to improve ag blitz -- Lichess handle @tchang1997

> The truth is, blitz chess is not only insanely fun but extremely good training to develop intuition for slow chess. In case anyone has doubts about whether it is valuable, we just saw a world championship title awarded based on rapid

My opinion doesn't carry much as I haven't played competitively long enough, but I strongly agree with you here.

Just like in many things in life, constant time pressure helps build intuition; and in chess it helps us to trust our lines.

I felt like Fabiano was battling time in addition to Magnus.

Hey, I'm an FM and a full-stack web dev (though mostly frontend over the past few years). I'd love to be a beta tester. Any way I can contact you?

Sweet! I just added my contact info to my HN profile.

I am nowhere near you score, but I have heard many strong players stating that blitz is bad for you, and actually creates bad habits for classical.

I will agree that it can be a double-edged sword. Like anything medicinal, it can turn into a poison if used incorrectly.

Ultimately, though, what this world championship proves is that we need to get rid of the distinction between "classical" and "blitz". The "classical" world championship was just decided by a few games of rapid.

Fundamentally, the question is how to get good at "chess" - thinking fast and slow. Over-training at any one time control will weaken you in the others. But will increase your overall strength.

Some players (myself included, 2400 bullet and 2250 classical) probably need to spend more time training and playing classical than bullet. The vast majority of players I encounter are much weaker in blitz than in classical, including many IMs and GMs. For these people I would prescribe a few thousand games of bullet chess, fix 'em up right quick.

Even today in the first rapid, there was a comment (from Svidler/Giri) that early on Caruana played a move too fast, as if he was already in blitz mode, when he should have thought a bit more and found a better move.

I suspect this effect depends on who you are. Within the sphere of casual chess players, playing a lot of blitz or rapid chess will make you a better chess player across the board, and any specialisation towards the format will likely be offset by the increase in general skill. For International Grandmaster quality chess players, they're already very good, so specialisation might be unhelpful. Cf. a similar effect in Google employees with programming competitions - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9324209

> Cf. a similar effect in Google employees with programming competitions - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9324209

Interesting point. Competitive coding has virtually nothing to do with real world software engineering. But, since it's still coding, you could learn a lot of bad habits from doing it that might carry over into the real world. Better to get into <competitive hobby> instead.

I think these IM/GMs are forgetting what it was like to play chess when they first started out. Nowadays, they see the board as, well, IM/GMs, and it's a different experience from someone who's just starting out.

I'm terrible, terrible at chess, but at least I don't hang my queen or do other truly stupid shit in longer time controls. You can't even really start to play chess for real until you stop just giving up pieces and I think as long as you're throwing games that hard, I dunno if rapid/blitz is the best place for you.

Or at least, that's what I think you might have heard when you say you've heard "blitz is bad for you". Once you stop doing the truly stupid shit, then you can start learning chess for real, and maybe then it's better to do rapid/blitz.

I know in Starcraft2 there was a component of grinding that pros would recommend, but you can't really grind if you don't know how to do screen hotkeys, for example.

I especially recommend blitz for beginners. It will mercilessly expose the gaping hole weaknesses in your game (i.e. hanging pieces). The way to improve at chess quickly is to find your blind spots quickly and train them.

Most people struggle to get good at chess because they are too afraid to lose, and too afraid to actually do the "practice" part of playing which is to analyze your losses to identify which areas you need to train.

Grinding is not how you get better. Grinding can be fun, and can be a great way to blow off steam. Both of those are awesome reasons to play chess. But if you are serious about improving quickly, do what the pros do. Don't grind aimlessly. Play a lot, don't be afraid to lose, and do legit post-mortems to give you feedback on where you need to pay more attention.

I'm reasonably comfortable (though on a much lower level than you) playing blitz, because at least time management is in my control. bughouse was much more problematic, because much of the time one has is often spent sitting for developments on the other board, so one is forced to play much of the game at super bullet speeds.

I sent you a mail three days ago about this with the subject line 'Testing chess website?'. I am hoping you will get back to me.

So sorry for the delay. I have been completely buried putting together some chess events. I will respond today with next steps. Thank you for your interest!

I understand. No hurries. Your tool does seem very intriguing though :)

Thanks for your patience... I got over 30 emails from HN folks, which is awesome but it's taking me slightly longer than expected to handle the volume. Will reach out to everyone before signing off the weekend, for real this time :-)

@mindgam3: I'll gladly beta test it, and if I find some time I might help you out on some code as well :) https://github.com/fractalf/contact_me

I'm an iOS dev and I would potentially be interested in contributing. I can email you later if you'd like (I see your email is in your profile).

Please do email me! We have a killer mobile app designed and a bunch of other tech pieces including ML/CV in good shape, but iOS is the one area where we are weakest at the moment.

I play 95% my online bullet on my phone and even rely on mobile for ChessBase and training prep, so nailing the mobile UX is critical to this thing being habit-forming enough to become a viable daily training tool.

Also curious about the this tool you're working on -- dev and chess player -- ping me.

How do I contact you? I added my contact info to my profile, feel free to reach out.

Sent you an email.

I’d be interested in beta testing this. Sounds great

Interested in testing, mailed you

I'm happy to help beta test.

Why don’t start with Armageddon next time, to spice things up for the classic format games?

I've heard similar proposals for soccer games, start with penalty kicks as a tiebreaker. Now, whomever lost the tiebreaker will have to play extra hard as they know a draw will be a loss.

I think it’s an awful idea, because it encourages the team that won the tie to play safely and defensively and aim for acdraw. That makes for a tedious game to watch.

Completely agree. Drawish behavior would likely increase with this policy, not decrease. Because it's incredibly hard at this level to beat a player that's explicitly playing for a draw.

It is kind of what happened here since Carlsen had sort of won the tie-breaker already.

Soccer just needs to remove players as time increases. It'll create odd exciting scrappy scenarios, but goal scoring will certainly be more likely.

I actually agree with this. Defensive soccer/football is incredibly boring to watch. 0-0. So fun. When the number of players in any sport is changed, it puts everyone on their heels because they don't know exactly how to react, and so you know what you get? Sport!

I kinda like 0-0 when there are many attacks/saves/opportunities. I'm recalling that Iceland vs Argentina match for instance, really a nail-biter. I definitely dislike the defensive passing game that comes in/out of popularity.

A yeah, ok, that's an amazing game, but it's David Goliath with massive tension. ManU v. Arsenal mid season passive defence is more normative.


Carlsen didn't play the games, he played the tournament, and won.

Anyone know where one can find a vod of the entire match? All I can find are cut little bits with the most cut out.

The entire tiebreak, which was played today, is this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBvQ36SqgqM

The entire match, played over the past weeks, is this playlist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJlVjicymKI&list=PLAwlxGCJB4...

Thanks, but I was looking for a video of them actually playing, not just people reviewing the moves.

FIDE actually owns the rights to the content. As far as I know there is no way other than to pay $20 for the video on the their main website. https://worldchess.com

this channel has the streams. they are pirated so they might not be there when you check


If only Othello had a community of a similar size to Chess'. At least there are good video live feeds from the world championship now for a couple of years.

The strategy of Fabiano was better, but the tactics of Carlsen was the real reason for his victory.

Can you elaborate?

I would say it was Carlsen's overall strategy that got him a win. Taking it to the tie-break where he's a huge favourite. Seems like playing it safe was his strategy.

I can't evaluate who chose better tactics.

caruana shouldn't have agreed to draw 12th game.

And a computer would have beaten either of them.

as an american i'm a bit disappointed that Caruana didn't win, that being said i think Carlsen is definitely a better player.

There are so many better links than a nytimes spam. But all we seem to get is nytimes spam lately.

How about link the a website dedicated to chess?


NYT spam?

I'll bite. What makes a (generally considered) reputable news outlet such as the NYT reporting on relatively major news spam?

NYT has a paywall.

Looked drawish.

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