After 12 games, the World Chess Championship between title holder Magnus Carlsen and challenger Sergej Karjakin is tied 6-6. The title will now be decided in a tiebreaker that could go as far as Armageddon.
"I'm looking forward to the rapid games!" Carlsen thought this message was important enough to mention twice in the press conference that followed the 12th game. The Norwegian title-holder won both the 2014 and 2015 World Championships in tiebreakers, and sees himself as the favorite going into this Wednesday's rapid games.
However, his Russian opponent, Sergej Karjakin, is also a skilled player of the faster-paced game having won the 2012 World Championship in this discipline. Should Carlsen manage to defend his title, he will have two reasons to celebrate as this Wednesday also happens to be his 26th birthday.
Strong nerves needed
The tiebreaker is to start with a series of four rapid games, with 25 minutes per player per game and with 10 seconds added on after each move. When it comes to these rapid games, it is vital that the players select good moves without taking time to ponder. The players have no choice but to rely on their gut feelings and their nerves. While Carlsen may be the favorite, his Russian opponent can again be expected to try to entice him into making risky maneuvers so that he can counterattack. The four rapid games are bound to server up some dramatic moments for the audience.
This will not be the first time that a World Chess Championship will be decided in this way. In 2012, the then-defending champion, Viswanathan Anand of India, faced Israeli Boris Gelfand to decide the title. The Indian won by a score of 2.5 to 1.5 (one point is awarded for a win, half a point goes to each player in a draw) and retained his title.
'Armageddon' favors black
If no winner has been determined by the end of the rapid games, the players will move on to play two blitz games where each gets just five minutes on the clock and three seconds per turn. Carlsen would still like his chances here. However, luck also becomes more of a factor because the rate of error is relatively high, even among the best players in the world.
If the blitz games fail to produce a winner, Carlsen and Karjakin will play an Armageddon game in which the player using the white figures has five minutes and the player using black has four. In the event of a tie here, the player using the black figures is declared the winner.