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Magnus Carlsen Still Favored in World Chess Championships

Magnus Carlsen vs Fabiano Caruana
Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana have played together before, but never for the World Championship. Photo by Andreas Kontokanis (Flickr).
  • Magnus Carlsen is favored to defend his title at the 2018 FIDE World Chess Championship
  • Fabiano Caruana is proving tricky, and shouldn’t be counted out
  • Also: Chess betting is awesome

The first four games of the 2018 FIDE World Chess Championship, played between defending champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Fabiano Caruana are in the books. All games went to draws, but were by no means boring. You can bet on the outcome of the rest of the match, if you dare.

World Chess Championship Odds

Who Will Win the World Chess Championship? Odds
Magnus Carlsen -175
Fabiano Caruana +155

It’s not hugely surprising to see Carlsen as the favorite, since he’s the defending champion, the world #1, the highest-rated player in the history of chess, etc. etc.

Caruana won an absolutely stacked Candidates Tournament to get here, and no one should count him out.

But Caruana isn’t without his own accolades. His performance at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup is the stuff of legend, and the highest rated single performance in chess history. He also won an absolutely stacked Candidates Tournament to get here, and no one should count him out.

First Four Games Very Even

This might surprise you, but four games that all ended in draws were all very even. Both players have scored some zingers and made some blunders, and each game is interesting for its own reasons.

In game one, Caruana made a weird error on the 26th move of the game, which almost gave Carlsen a chance to win with black in the first game. Caruana managed to evade Carlsen’s suffocating attack long enough to avoid losing on time, and Carlsen failed to close the game out. Instead, the two reached the endgame in broadly equal position, and the result was a draw.

In the second game, Caruana knocked Carlsen off his balance. The game was proceeding very normally into a variation of Queen’s Gambit Declined, until Caruana pulled something weird on move 10. It launched the game down a path that Carlsen had clearly not prepared for, and all of a sudden the world champion was worrying about losing a point with white. Here’s a very funny GIF of Carlsen having a minor crisis:

I won’t go through games three and four, other than to say that Caruana is very much still in this match. His underdog odds might present great value for a chess fan bettor, as he’s visibly giving Carlsen trouble. If the match goes to tiebreaks, which it very well could, Carlsen will enjoy a sizeable advantage: there is simply no better player in rapid or blitz formats anywhere.

Chess Betting is Great

Chess is a very old and slow game, but it’s not stodgy. The game has adapted well to the new age, and if you want to watch Carlsen on Twitch, you can do that.

Integrating betting into this game would be extremely cool, and not that hard. An enterprising developer could build a pretty simple engine to come up with win probabilities after each move and offer betting lines. It wouldn’t even be that expensive to build!

As a matter of fact, disregard all of this, I’m going to go do that.

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