London - Norwegian
chess superstar Magnus Carlsen on Wednesday cemented his reputation as
the game's greatest player after demolishing US hopeful Fabiano Caruana
in a winner-take-all world championship decider.
The 27-year-old won three successive rapid-chess tiebreakers in a
display of intuition and guile that overwhelmed the 26-year-old American
Carlsen was gracious after his thumping win put an exclamation point
on a defensively-minded series that saw the original series of 12
matches played since November 9 end in a dozen draws.
"Fabiano was the strongest opponent I've played so far in the world
championships," Carlsen said after his triumph.
"It was hard."
Caruana's loss will crush American fans who had hoped to see the
coveted crown come home for the first time since Bobby Fischer defeated
the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in a 1972 Cold War-era thriller.
"I had a bad day," a dejected Caruana said.
"I didn't even put up a fight."
The fearless performance will
go a long way to cementing Carlson's claim to be the best the "King's
Game" has ever seen - a title some still bestow on Soviet-Russian
legend Garry Kasparov.
Kasparov himself appeared in awe of Carlsen's performance in a
rapid-chess format that has seen many grandmasters before him wilt under
the mental strain.
"Carlsen's consistent level of play in rapid chess is phenomenal," Kasparov tweeted.
"We all play worse as we play faster and faster, but his ratio may be
the smallest ever, perhaps only a 15 percent drop off. Huge advantage
in this format."
The games marked a complete departure from the string of
regular-series draws that saw both players too fearful of the others'
prowess to mount any risky attacks.
Those tense tugs of war were a testament to the prodigious talent of the up-and-coming American-Italian.
Caruana entered the series as the game's second-ranked player and
just three points in the rankings behind Carlsen's massive 2 835.
Chess experts said Carlsen appeared to be rattled by the Miami-born yoga lover in a memorable game 10.
Carlsen was only too happy to agree to draws in the final two matches
-- the last one from a winning position that saw Kasparov shake his
head in disbelief.
"In light of this shocking draw offer from Magnus in a superior
position with more time, I reconsider my evaluation of him being the
favourite in rapids," Kasparov tweeted after Monday's match.
"Tiebreaks require tremendous nerves and he seems to be losing his."
Russian chess master Vladimir Kramnik said he thought Carlsen "might
be tired of tension, fighting; maybe even of chess itself to a certain
But the Norwegian seemed
set on deciding things in Wednesday's speedier round - a format that
saw him beat Sergey Karjakin in the 2016 title match in New York.
"It feels good after all the criticism that I got on Monday," Carlsen admitted after his victory.
"I think I made the right decision ... As for the opinions of Garry
and Vlad, I mean, they are entitled to their stupid opinions."
The man once dubbed the "Mozart of chess" by The Washington Post will not have to defend his title again until 2020.
His first came when he toppled Viswanathan Anand on the former champion's home turf in India in 2013.
Carlsen defended his crown in a rematch played the subsequent year in Russia.
But he really began making a name for himself when he managed to draw
against Kasparov - then regarded as the best of all time - at the tender age
Carlsen actually beat Kasparov's compatriot and nemesis Anatoly Karpov at the same event.
Yet even Carlsen himself admitted only a few days ago that he felt nostalgic for a time when he played every game without fear.
"My favourite player from the past is probably myself like three-four years ago," Carlsen said.
"Frankly speaking, the last couple of years my game hasn't been great."
The title will see Carlsen's grab 55 percent of the $1.14 million cash prize. Caruana takes home the rest.