Chess World Rattled As Someone Nearly Wins Game – FiveThirtyEight

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the world’s No. 1 chess player, fended off a vicious siege at the hands of U.S. grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, the world No. 2, in London Friday. It was the sixth frame of the World Chess Championship, and one that for hours appeared likely to give the American a critical lead. But Carlsen escaped, and the match remains level, 3-3. Each of the six games so far have been a draw.

“It’s a miracle save,” said Robert Hess, an American grandmaster commentating on the match for

To catch you up: Carlsen is seeking his fourth world title while his challenger Caruana is trying for the first American world championship since Bobby Fischer in 1972. Their horns are locked in the middle of a best-of-12-game match for the game’s most important title.

The two began Friday’s Game 6 in one of Caruana’s favorite openings: the Petroff. (Specific lines of this opening were featured in the deleted video that scandalized the match days ago.) Game 6’s first three moves appear in 12,289 other games in the ChessBase database. In 11,802 — or 96 percent — of those, white moves its knight to f3 on its fourth move. In 17 of those — or 0.1 percent — white moves its knight to d3.

Carlsen moved his knight to d3.

Chess players are second only to maybe biological taxonomists in their proclivity to elaborately name things, and sure enough even this rare position has its own proper name: the Karklins-Martinovsky Variation. But neither player was troubled by Karklins-Martinovsky, they said after the game. Its theory is well known to these elite players.

And so they played on. The powerful queens came off the board by move 8, but this loss took no edge off the fight. For a while, the game looked less like a battle and more like a dressage competition, as 66 percent or more of each player’s first 12 moves were knight moves.

Many moves later, as the game cantered through its middlegame, winning chances emerged and swelled for Caruana’s black pieces, according to both the computer engine and human grandmaster commentators. (Surprisingly, black, which is usually at a disadvantage, has often had an advantage over white in this match.) While there was no single blunder for Carlsen, there was an accumulation of … what to call them? “Mistakes” seems too serious. “Slip-ups” make them sound like pratfalls. Let’s go with “inaccuracies.” Carlen admitted after the game that he’d made a number of imperfect moves. By move 34, knights and bishops were the only firepower left on the board, and they threatened salvo after salvo in a crucial struggle over the pawns.

By the 47th move, Carlsen was down a knight but up three pawns, which gave him a few slim hopes. Two had open routes to the end of the board, where they could become queens. Much delicate, asymmetrical and impossibly complex maneuvering commenced, as Caruana tried to prevent the pawns’ promotion.

A dozen moves later, Caruana had captured three of Carlsen’s pawns, including those aspiring to become queens, and still had one of his own. That left him in a victorious position — if only he could see it. On the 68th move, a supercomputer analyzing the game found a guaranteed checkmate a distant 30 moves down the road — down a lengthy bridle path, say.

Caruana is an unbelievably strong player — though not that strong. As play continued, the silicon’s guarantee quickly went away. If only Carlsen could eliminate the pawns, he’d survive: a bishop and a knight versus a bishop is a theoretically guaranteed draw.

Finally, through many feats, Carlsen was able to spirit away his king to a fortress on black’s side of the board.

Despite black’s apparent material advantage, there was no progress to be made. The players agreed to a draw on the 80th move.

Carlsen had walked a slippery bridge and survived. His escape act drew attention. As the tension built toward the end of the game, the match became the most-viewed stream on the popular game-streaming site Twitch. Books could be written about this endgame. (Though not by me.)

So, another draw, huh? Yawn, am I right? Not so fast. Today’s Game 6 was an instant classic. Journalist David Hill, who’s been in London reporting on the match, tweeted that there can be beauty in draws. Not all of them are created equal.

And while the six consecutive draws we’ve seen thus far is a lot, it’s certainly not a record. Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin began their 2016 world championship match with seven draws. Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand fought to eight in a row to open their 1995 match. And at one point in Kasparov’s 1984 championship match against Anatoly Karpov, there were 17 straight draws. “There was a 20-second burst of applause” after a decisive game broke the grueling streak, the New York Times reported. That match, which began in September, was finally halted in February of the following year — 40 of its 48 games were draws.

The data scientist Randal Olson analyzed hundreds of thousands of chess games in an article a few years ago. The closer players are in rating, he found, the longer games tend to go. And as the players get better, draws become far more common. Carlsen and Caruana are as good — and about as close in rating — as you can get. Indeed, they are even beyond the scope of Olson’s chart below, with Elo ratings (which measure the strength of players given the opponents they’ve played) north of 2800.

We’ll keep the draw-filled chart below updated throughout the match. And perhaps we’ll be able to add a decisive result to it at some point. Or perhaps not. And that could be exciting, too.

The match rests tomorrow. Game 7 — in which Caruana will once again have the black pieces — begins Sunday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time. That’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.

Munoz-Ripley excels in football & chess –

Junior Aidan Munoz-Ripley is not only a key piece on the Sterling football team as a two-way starting lineman, but he’s also a force on the chess board as the school’s No. 1 chess player.

Junior Aidan Munoz-Ripley is not only a key piece on the Sterling football team as a two-way starting lineman, but he’s also a force on the chess board as the school’s No. 1 chess player.

If a rumble breaks out during one of the Sterling chess team’s matches, smart money is on the Golden Warriors.

That’s because Aidan Munoz-Ripley is on the scene.

Munoz-Ripley is a 6-foot-2, 260-pound junior who is a two-way starter in the trenches for a Sterling football team that is on
the doorstep of its first-
ever championship game appearance. He’s a road grader at right guard, and on the defensive side, he floats between end and tackle, depending on that week’s opponent.

He’s also currently the top chess player at SHS, as he occupies the “first board.” In matches, he takes on the Golden Warriors’ top opposing player, and relishes the challenge.

“You really have to out-think your opponent and make sure you fulfill your strategy,” Munoz-Ripley said. “You’ve got to think a few moves ahead and be aware of everything. Matches can go from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours. It definitely takes patience.”

Munoz-Ripley began playing chess when he was in second grade, and was taught the game by his grandfather, Marvin Ripley.
It was a slow process, learning the moves and strategies involved, but he soon was hooked.

“When the chess team would come to the elementary school, I’d play there,” Munoz-Ripley said. “That moved to me showing up to a few high school practices, and eventually joining the high school team.”

Munoz-Ripley is the only SHS football player who is also on the chess team, and he noted it’s a mixed bag of reaction to the sport he’ll resume once the football season is done.

“Some of them think it’s funny and will laugh about it with me,” Munoz-Ripley said. “Some of them think it’s cool that I do that.”

Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer drew a bit of a parallel between the cerebral side of being a good chess player and the intelligence needed to play football.

“He’s a smart cat,” Schlemmer said. “He’s got his stuff together, and he understands the little intricacies of both sides of the ball. Chess, I don’t know how to play chess, so I won’t be having any conversations about that with him. I just know Aiden is an intelligent kid who has turned himself into a really good football player.”

Munoz-Ripley saw an opportunity to become a crucial part of the Golden Warriors this year and seized it. The graduation of several linemen from the 2017 Sterling club meant spots were up for grabs. He was a regular at offseason workouts, hit the weights, and was ready to rock by the time the season started.

His improvement caught the eyes of his coaches, and he’s been a fixture in the lineup all season.

“I just saw all of the seniors that were going to be leaving, and I was really going to have to work hard this summer to get a spot,” Munoz-Ripley said. “So that’s what I did, and I ended up with two positions.”

Schlemmer mentioned good mobility, the ability to fight with his hands, and playing with an edge as Munoz-Ripley’s biggest strengths.

“For being as quiet of a kid that we have, between the lines, he’s got a little nasty to him,” Schlemmer said. “He likes to finish blocks. He likes to play football, and we think he’s playing it the right way. He’s been a great player for us as a junior. He came a long way from last year, and to be doing the things he’s doing this year, it’s helped bring us a lot of success.”

Munoz-Ripley file

School: Sterling

Class: Junior

FYI: Two-way starting lineman for Sterling football team. … Also top chess player for Golden Warriors. … Took up chess in second grade.

On Chess: In world championship chess, winning comes down to the smartest guy – St. Louis Public Radio

What does smart look like? The World Chess Championship has always been about who is the smartest. And if you look back on our champions, there’s a history of what smart has looked like.

In the 1700s, the aristocrats were considered the smartest, the power of their fathers flowed from their soft hands into the pieces. And the low-born simply could not resist the patriarchal wisdom with which the well-dressed were endowed. Until the guillotine was invented.

Then the proles started crushing it. They often looked like ragamuffins, unkempt and literally bent out of shape. And they were poor. We called them savants and geniuses and we imagined that they had a romantic connection to the sublime. Like priests, they offered us a way of thinking about knowledge and its acquisition as a spiritual pursuit.

The warriors

If you’ve driven past the commemorative banner at 18th and Olive streets, you’ll know that the first official World Chess Championship was in St. Louis in 1886. The smartest guy in that bout ended up being Wilhelm Steinitz, whose father was a tailor and who started to play chess at age 12.

Then the warriors came: the Soviets and Bobby Fischer. These men were about pain; both the taking and giving of it. Chess started looking like a sport. It started looking professional. But still, these guys had an aura about them of something deeper, as if they were in touch with truth and beauty.

Players who remember that time – and I am one of them – wax heavy about the hierarchy of the game. You had to give players above you respect. After all, they were stretching themselves up into rarified air, a place where they became clean. Studying chess was a way to commune with them, a ladder to get closer. Like a theocracy, like Hogwarts, your ranking indicated how close you were to that higher something.

Still a guy

The computer crushed all those delusions. The zeros and ones showed not only that we didn’t know the truth, but also that the computer didn’t either (not yet anyway).

What does the smartest human look like today? He’s still a guy, even if we can see a woman taking the crown in the foreseeable future. He’s incredibly fit. If he can’t run at least a six-minute mile, he isn’t going to be able to focus for five hours. His head coach is the computer. He’s been playing since he was about 5. He never went to a “normal” school. He’s on the extreme end of the IQ bell curve.

The further we push our intelligence, the more it starts looking like an athletic event. But still, the champion will not only have to show precision, a memory of tens of thousands of games, and an incredible calmness under fire, the champ will also have to play moves of such sublime beauty and intuition that we will have to bow down to him. Those moves will give us solace and a perspective into what the human mind can be.

To watch two very smart dudes play in the World Chess Championship happening now, visit

Born in the Chess Desert of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Jesse Kraai taught himself the game with the help of books, an antiquated information system. He also has a Ph.D in philosophy and is the author of Lisa, a chess novel.

DawgmanRadio: Jimmy Lake Talks About the 'Chess Match' – 247Sports

Jimmy Lake (Photo: M. Samek, 247Sports)


On Tuesday, Washington Defensive Coordinator Jimmy Lake took questions from the media ahead of this weekend’s game against Oregon State, and the obvious questions were about UW’s connection to first-year OSU Head Coach Jonathan Smith, and vise-versa.

Lake was one of the defensive coaches Smith banged heads with during spring and fall camps the past four seasons before taking over in Corvallis, so he well knows what the former UW Offensive Coordinator is liable to do. Add to the mix former Colorado Offensive Coordinator Brian Lindgren, and now you have two Pac-12 coordinators that are very well-versed on Washington’s defensive scheme and how they want to try and attack it.

But it works both ways, and Lake talked Tuesday about what they have on Smith, how he likes to run things, how Lindgren has added to the mix, and what has shown up on tape so far for the Beavers. Oregon State went to Lindgren’s old stomping grounds and were able to pull the upset over Colorado, so could Smith and company do the same this weekend in Seattle?

To listen to Lake talk about what he’s seen from OSU so far and a lot more – including what positions he thinks the true freshmen defensive backs will ultimately play – click on the audio link below.

Computers Are Haunting The World Chess Championship (Which, Yes, Is Still Tied) – FiveThirtyEight

Game 3 of the World Chess Championship in London, like the two games that came before it, ended in a draw — 49 moves and a touch more than four hours. The best-of-12 championship is currently level at 1.5 points apiece in a race to 6.5 points and the game’s most important prize.

Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the three-time defending world champ and world No. 1, is looking for a fourth crown. Fabiano Caruana, the U.S. challenger and world No. 2, is trying to become the first American to claim the world title since Bobby Fischer in 1972. It’s the first time since 1990 that the world’s two top-rated grandmasters have met in this match — but it’s been a bloodless battle thus far.

On Monday, Caruana controlled the white pieces and Carlsen the black. The pair began Game 3 with an opening called the Sicilian Defence, specifically its Rossolimo Variation. It was the same opening they played in Game 1 — which ended in an epic seven-hour draw — and the first five moves exactly matched those from that earlier game. But they deviated dramatically from this familiar ground on move 6, when Carlsen moved his queen to the c7 square. Caruana glanced around the soundproof glass room in which they played, looking slightly befuddled.

But Caruana responded quickly, and after his move (rook to e1), the position on the world championship board had cropped up only once before in a high-level game, according to ChessBase — an otherwise forgotten game played in Hanoi in 1995. That rare position looked like this:

A quick word on this opening’s eponymous Rossolimo himself seems warranted, given that Monday’s game was lacking in fireworks and Rossolimo’s name has figured more prominently thus far in this world championship than any but Caruana and Carlsen. He was Nicolas Rossolimo, Renaissance man: one of the U.S.’s 12 grandmasters at the time, fluent in Russian, Greek, French and English, and the “proprietor of a chess studio,” which became a second home to some players. He was also a judo master and a New York City cab driver and recorded an album of Russian folk songs, according to The New York Times. He died in 1975 after a fall near the storied Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan.

Magnus Carlsen ponders his next move against Fabiano Caruana during Game 3 of the 2018 World Chess Championship.

World Chess

Back to Monday’s chess: On his 13th move, Carlsen pushed his black pawn forward to a5. Pieces were exchanged on that square over the next few moves, and the queenside became wide open — a vast Wild West of squares marauded by rooks and queens.

But by this point in the game, only 17 moves deep and with plenty of firepower remaining on the board, the chesserati was assessing the game as headed straight for a draw. (Pro tip: If you want to sound smart about a championship chess game, just say it “looks drawish.”) In this case, they were right. The powerful pieces on the board’s western side were liquidated, and Caruana and Carlsen agreed to a draw after the 49th move and four hours of play.

There is another figure, aside from the colorful Rossolimo, casting its shadow over this championship: The Computer. Most livestreams of the match feature instant computer engine analyses, whose cold numbers instantly assess the humans’ tiniest inaccuracies down to hundredths of a pawn. Those judgments ripple through the commentary. Full disclosure, I rely heavily on a chess engine running on my laptop to aid my understanding as I watch the games. One popular site during recent world championships features live analysis showing arrows pointing out a supercomputer’s favored moves.

The principals in the match have also commented on The Computer’s somewhat spooky influence.

“I’m facing not only Fabiano and his helpers, but also his computer help,” Carlsen said in a press conference after Game 2. (He was referring to Caruana’s deep preparation for the game, although Carlsen surely uses a computer to prep, too.)

“It’s like you’re playing against a phantom,” Judit Polgar, a grandmaster providing official commentary on the match, said today.

The Computer can often seem like a phantom, a specter haunting the games. It can seem like an overlord that has rendered the human game obsolete and small. But it’s important to remember that man made the machines. Garry Kasparov lost to the supercomputer Deep Blue, but a team of humans sweated and bled to built it. In these technological gaming battles, man plays two roles: builder and performer.

At the world championship in London, we are witnessing the performance of two of the best players in the history of the game. That stronger computers exist, and have helped Caruana and Carlsen get to London, does not detract from their feat.

Here is how — ahem — a computer has seen the championship so far, move by move, cold computation by cold computation. We’ll keep the chart below updated throughout the match.

Game 4 begins Tuesday at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time — that’s 10 a.m. Eastern. I’ll be covering it here and on Twitter.